The No. 9 Iowa men’s gymnastics team tied at 403.050 with the No. 6 Illinois Fighting Illini Sunday afternoon at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The equal draw brought the Hawkeyes’ record to 1-2-1, with a steady .500 mark in the Big Ten Conference.
“I don’t think it has even happened in the history of Iowa Gymnastics,” Iowa head coach JD Reive said. “It’s been about 10 years since I’ve seen it [a draw] anywhere. It was down to two of our start values on our last event [high bar]. It was very basic and nothing obscure.”
Reive was not the only Hawkeye who was surprised with Sunday’s final outcome.
“It’s definitely pretty uncommon to have a tie here [in gymnastics]” junior all-around Bennet Huang said. “The margins are so small here, and to get it exactly down to the decimal, it’s pretty crazy.”
With a tight race on floor, sophomore Stewart Brown completed his career-best on floor in the afternoon. The North Carolina native accomplished a 13.700 on the mat in just his third performance in the event. Junior Kulani Taylor took the crown for Iowa in the event, leading with his individual 14.400 — another career-best.
In a potent performance for the Hawkeyes, senior Brandon Wong drove the lead for the for the team on rings with a 13.750 — his second season-best of the year to his 13.800 against Nebraska on the event. Senior Nick Merryman also completed a career-best, an individual 13.400.
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The Hawkeyes took their highest team score of the night on vault, tallying 70.250. Senior Mitch Mandozzi contributed for Iowa with an individual 14.400 – tied the highest individual score of the afternoon.
The struggle for the all-around came from sophomore Evan Davis. He took a hit for the Hawkeyes on the parallel bars in the fifth rotation, tallying for an unaccounted 11.850 for the team and third in Iowa’s all-around.
“Individually, we had some really good performances,” Reive said. “But that wasn’t enough. Across the board, we had about four falls and some other things. These are things we easily could have fixed to not worry about tying today. Overall, the individual performances are what held us tight with them. I’m proud of the guys.”
Junior Bennet Huang took the all-around (81.300) for the Hawkeyes, completing a career-best on the high bar (13.850). The Palo Alto native was the lone Hawkeye competing in last week’s Winter Cup in Las Vegas (finishing 27th overall), a meet designed to determine the team USA roster for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
“Physically, I might have been a little bit tired, but I was in my normal, sharp rhythm mentally today,” said Huang. “I was already in that competition mode, and it was great that I went out and competed last week and kept up that work ethic in the gym.”
The Hawkeyes’ next meet is in Columbus, Ohio, where Iowa will take on No. 5 Ohio State.