Iowa men’s gymnastics prep for final meet in program history

The 2021 NCAA Championships will serve as the last the NCAA Division I meet the Hawkeyes ever compete in.


Ayrton Breckenridge

Iowa all around Bennet Huang performs on the rings on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2022 during the Iowa vs. Penn State men’s gymnastics meet at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Iowa defeated Penn State 398.850-393.550. Huang placed seventh overall on the rings with a final score of 12.700.

Hunter Moeller, Sports Reporter

This weekend’s NCAA Division I Men’s Gymnastics Championships in Minneapolis, Minnesota, will serve as the last NCAA Division I event Iowa men’s gymnastics will ever compete in.

The Hawkeyes have known this season would be their last since the University of Iowa announced that it would discontinue four of its varsity sports programs — including men’s gymnastics — at the end of the 2020-21 academic year on Aug. 21, so they’re prepared for the moment.

“There’s a huge elephant in the room with this being the last NCAA Championships we’re going to,” Iowa head coach JD Reive said. “We’ve been talking about that. I said, ‘Look, you guys are great, and do exactly what we’ve been doing into NCAAs. At that point, whatever happens, so long as you left no stone unturned in the process to prepare, you’ll have no regret looking back on it like you left something out.’”

This weekend’s NCAA Championships— to be held at the University of Minnesota’s Maturi Pavilion in Minneapolis — will be broken into two sessions. The top three teams from session one and the top three teams from session two earn spots in the championship finals on Saturday. Iowa will compete against Michigan, Stanford, Penn State, Minnesota, and California in session two.

The top three all-around competitors who are not on a qualifying team — along with the top three individuals in each event who have not already qualified on a team or as an all-arounder —also advance to the finals.

The Hawkeyes’ rotation will be floor, pommel horse, rings, vault, parallel bars, and high bar.

Iowa has had over a week to prepare for the competition, and the Hawkeyes enter the 2021 NCAA Championships fresh off a third-place finish at the Big Ten Championships.

RELATED: Iowa men’s gymnastics finishes third at Big Ten Championships

At the Big Ten Championships, the Hawkeyes posted their best team score since 2006, but competing for a national championship will ramp up the pressure Iowa feels this week, according to senior Bennet Huang.

“There’s always added pressure,” Huang said. “We try to approach it like any other meet. We try to replicate that meet atmosphere in our practices, but in the postseason, there is a difference. Everything is a little more fast-paced. We don’t get that luxury like in our dual meets. We were able to put up exhibition routines, so it made the meet a little bit longer, and it gave guys extra time to breathe.”

This season, the Hawkeyes have been nationally prominent in a number of events. Iowa is currently ranked fourth in the nation on both floor and vault, fifth on rings, sixth on high bar, and eighth on pommel horse and parallel bars.

Three Hawkeye gymnasts also rank inside the country’s top six in all-around. Huang is ranked third with a national qualifying average of 81.53. Juniors Evan Davis and Stewart Brown narrowly trail Huang, sitting at fourth and sixth in the nation, respectively.

While the 2021 NCAA Championships may be the last meet in Iowa men’s gymnastics history, the Hawkeyes won’t let that sour the end of a season that saw them accomplish a lot.

“Obviously, it’s a little bit bitter-sweet,” Huang said. “We wish it wouldn’t be the last time, and I hoped that for some of the guys on the team, they would have the opportunity to go do another meet. For us, we just want to go out there, perform, and then once we put it out there, it will be just a really proud moment for us. For all the adversity we’ve faced with being cut and COVID. With all that stuff, we should be proud of our work.”