Iowa gymnastics teams pick up wins away from home

The men’s team won at Minnesota, while the women’s team won at Illinois.


Hannah Kinson

Iowa’s Clair Kaji performs a bars routine during a gymnastics meet against Ohio State on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021 at Carver Hawkeye arena. The Hawkeyes defeated the Buckeyes with a score, 196.550-193.800. Kaji earned a score of 9.850.

Hunter Moeller, Sports Reporter

The Iowa men’s and women’s gymnastics teams fired on all cylinders this past weekend, picking up two victories away from home.

The men’s squad traveled to Minneapolis and took down Minnesota, 393.650-387.050, at Maturi Pavilion Saturday night. The meet against Minnesota marked the beginning of the season for the men.

The Hawkeyes — ranked No. 9 in 2020 — continued their success from last season, which ended prematurely because of COVID-19.

Senior Bennet Huang has seen his fair share of success as a Hawkeye. At the end of the 2020 season, the senior was ranked fourth in the nation in all-around. He has competed in each of the six events during his first three years in Iowa City.

Huang did not disappoint on Saturday. He won the all-around and put up a 14.100 win on the floor. He shared the victory with fellow Big Ten gymnasts to watch junior Stewart Brown, who also posted a 14.100, a career best.

James Friedman, a freshman from Oregon, participated in his first college meet and scored a 13.000. The Hawkeyes finished with a total of 66.950 on the rotation.

On pommel horse, junior Evan Davis led the Hawkeyes with a score of 12.600, good for fourth overall. Drew Helberg competed in pommel horse for the first time, finishing with a score of 11.750. The team finished with an overall score of 59.300, and it was the only event the Hawkeyes fell short in.

Davis had a career night competing on the rings, finishing with a score of 13.850 and taking first overall in the event. Brown and Peyton Hobson also finished with their career-best in the event.

Friedman and Zac Tiderman shined in their first collegiate rings competition. Friedman finished with a score of 13.500, good enough for a second-place tie. Tiderman finished with a 13.400, giving him fourth overall and a total of 66.900.

On parallel bars, another Hawkeye posted a career-best. Sophomore Carter Tope placed first overall, with a score of 13.900. Brown and Huang performed well on bars, finishing tied for second and fourth, respectively. Tiderman added to the event win, scoring a 12.500, for a team total of 65.300.

To no one’s surprise, Brown and Huang also performed well on the horizontal bar. Huang finished second overall with a 13.300, while Brown followed with a 13.100, giving him a third-place finish. It was his first time competing on bar. The team posted a 63.850 in the event.

Huang was named Big Ten Gymnast of the Week on Monday.

“Tonight was a solid win for the guys and we left a great deal of points on the table, so there is ample motivation to make the necessary improvements,” men’s gymnastics head coach JD Reive said in a release. “All things considered, I’m impressed with our start.

“They are showing a lot of heart and I’m proud of them.”

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In addition to the men, the No. 9 ranked GymHawks also picked up a win on the road as they traveled to Champaign, Illinois, and defeated the No. 18 ranked Fighting Illini — 196.325-195.600 — inside Huff Hall on Sunday afternoon.

Iowa won three out of its four events on the day and secured the all-around title to end Illinois’s undefeated record.

The GymHawks saw individual wins from freshman Adeline Kenlin on beam, senior Clair Kaji shared a win on floor, and sophomore JerQuavia Henderson won all-around.

While the Hawkeyes came in mentally prepared, this competition took a physical toll. However, there were still bright spots.

“This competition was a tougher one because there were so many factors added in,” Kaji said. “For one, it was a longer week of practice, and it was our first week of school, which added more to our days, compared to winter break where our only focus was gymnastics. As a whole, we didn’t feel as good as when we faced Minnesota and Ohio State. At the end of the day, coming in and hitting that 196 is so pleasing. There were so many pockets of greatness. We saw individuals rising, and as I always say, when one of us rises, we all rise.”

Henderson, who had a very successful competition, performed well in vault, sharing first overall with a score of 9.850 and trying her career-best. The GymHawks also saw three Hawkeyes tie for third. Kenlin and juniors Lauren Guerin and Bridget Killian all scored a 9.825. It was a career-high for Kenlin. The GymHawks posted a season-high score of 49.025 in the event.

On bars, the Hawkeyes posted a 49.025 score. Junior Alex Greenwald finished in a three-way tie for first place with a 9.850, tying her season-best. Henderson and Kenlin both posted a 9.825, good enough for a three-way tie for fourth place. Senior Erin Castle rounded out the rotation with a 9.800.

The GymHawks posted a season-best 49.125 on beam. Kenlin set a career-high, finishing with a 9.900, to take first overall. Kaji finished runner-up with a season-best 9.875. Henderson, who made her season début, posted a 9.825, while junior Mackenzie Vance finished with a 9.800.

When it comes to floor, the GymHawks rank as the No. 5 team in the nation. They posted a 49.150 against the Fighting Illini. Kaji finished as the top scorer for the second consecutive competition with a 9.900. Greenwald finished fourth place with a 9.850, with Henderson closely behind, finishing with a 9.825.

Kaji was named the Big Ten Specialist of the Week on Monday.

Henderson is the first Hawkeye this season to post an all-around score. The Peoria, Illinois, native finished with a 39.325 in her all-around collegiate debut.

In a season where the GymHawks have performed great so far, head coach Larissa Libby knows the high level of success won’t be sustained forever.

“This could all go away tomorrow, whether that be by somebody taking it away or by the fact we start to mess up,” Libby said. “Honestly, that’s inevitable. You can’t ride a high the whole season. At some point, we’re going to take a dip. Even though the score reflects a great competition, we were not at our very best, and that was obvious to us. I’m very impressed with them. They were still able to maintain great routines throughout the lineup. It sent the message that they were good and getting great.”

The men will return to action in two weeks on Feb. 13 when they play host to Illinois inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena at 6 p.m. The GymHawks return to Carver-Hawkeye Arena at 3 p.m. on Feb. 6 to face off against Minnesota, which will be televised on ESPNU.