The freshmen of the Iowa men’s gymnastics no longer stand out.
They don’t isolate themselves from the rest of the team, and they don’t wait for permission to practice their routines.
Instead, they fit in and have become a reason for optimism with the NCAA championships in the immediate future.
Freshman Matt McGrath, Broderick Shemansky, and Anton Gryshayev have come a long way from the beginning of the season in practice, school, and competition. Their maturation from unseasoned collegiate gymnasts to important veterans has catapulted the Hawkeyes to a No. 9 national ranking.
“We rely on them now,” head coach Tom Dunn said. “I think they have a real good feel for college meets now that we’ve had  of them. They know what collegiate gymnastics is all about, what their role is, and how to prepare.”
Shemansky concurred that the difference in preparation has been the main change from the beginning of the season.
“The way that I work out with the team is different now,” he said. “I was new at first, so I didn’t know the guys as well, and they didn’t know who I was. I’ve become more comfortable with the team and now they help me out all the time.”
“What’s different now is that I know how much the whole team contributes in meets and practices. It’s not just about you, it’s about the whole team,” he said. “At my club sport, it was more individual, but here, we cheer other teammates on for a win.”
The change in attitude has not gone unnoticed. Senior captain Reid Urbain will end his collegiate career after the NCAA championships on April 15, but said he knows the team will continue to improve with the efforts of the young trio.
Their improvements have put them among the nation’s elite.
McGrath leads the way, with a No. 20 ranking on floor exercise, No. 26 on vault, and No. 33 on still rings.
Shemansky is No. 51 on rings and is ranked statistically among the top 100 collegiate gymnasts on vault and floor exercise.
Gryshayev had planned on performing in the all-around, but a dislocated ankle at the beginning of the season forced him to specialize on rings, where he ranks 30th.
The three are accustomed to individual success, and they attracted interest from schools such as Oklahoma, California-Berkley, and Michigan.
But the gymnasts on the Hawkeye team attracted them to Iowa.
“I didn’t fit personality-wise well with other gymnastics teams,” Shemansky said. “Gymnastics is more exciting than I thought it’d be [in Iowa]. We have all these guys on a team with a common goal, and we enjoy doing it together.
“I chose Iowa because of the team spirit,” McGrath said. “I think it is unique how we all bond and get along really well every single day. A lot of teams get to practice, and it’s like, ‘Oh man, I got to work.’ But we come here to have fun. It’s a good time all the time.”
With midterms past them and finals in their future, gymnastics is an escape for the freshmen.
McGrath said if there’s one thing they will learn from being Hawkeyes, it’s how to manage their time while staying encouraged as a team.
“Keeping yourself motivated and pushing yourself toward the right level that the coaches and teammates want is tough.” he said. “But it’s what we got to do to peak at the right time for the NCAAs.”