Gymnastics has No. 1 Oklahoma on schedule, but are ‘competing against themselves’

Iowa State junior Haylee Young performs her uneven bars routine, scoring a 9.8. The Cyclones hosted Arizona State at Hilton Coliseum for simultaneous gymnastics and wrestling meets, dubbed ‘Beauty and the Beast.’ The gymnastics team defeated the Sun Devils 193.850-191.8, while the wrestling team lost 25-14. 

Austin Anderson

The Iowa State gymnastics team is facing the No. 1 team in the country this week — Oklahoma — but you wouldn’t know it by spending time at practice in Beyer Hall this week.

The fact that the Cyclones are welcoming the No. 1 Sooners into Hilton Coliseum for the annual Beauty and the Beast competition on Friday was mentioned once. That’s it.

“That’s not the approach we’re taking,” assistant coach Katie Minasola said.

Throughout the team, the message was consistent. The Cyclones are competing against the Sooners on the schedule, but according to the Cyclones, they are competing against themselves.

“The biggest thing is to not worry about Oklahoma,” junior Briana Ledesma said. “Obviously they are really good, they are No. 1, but they are not the focus. For us, our mentality going into this meet is to focus on us and do what we need to do to get to where we want to be.

“Thinking about Oklahoma and trying to beat Oklahoma is just too much to worry about and it’s not even worth it.”

Minsola said they can’t control anything else other than themselves so the Cyclones have been focusing on the details, like handstands and sticking their landings, in practice and putting a meet all together.

“[Iowa State] can be this top-12, top-15 team,” Minasola said. “I’m waiting for that to happen and I feel like that will happen this weekend. That will give their confidence a big boost so that when we go into the rest of the season, ‘We’re that good so we’re going to compete like that.’”

Oklahoma remained the No. 1 team in the country after posting a 197.925 on the road against West Virginia. The Sooners also hold the highest average score in bars, floor and beam.

They are led by freshman Maggie Nichols, who is the reigning Big 12 Gymnast of the Week after becoming the second true freshman in program history to earn a 10.0, a perfect score, on the vault.

“They are No. 1 for a reason,” Ledesma said.

The meet is also the second Beauty and the Beast event of the season, which features half of Hilton Coliseum set up for gymnastics and the other half for the wrestling team.

Last season, the Cyclones went to Oklahoma for a Beauty and the Beast event, but it was a slightly different atmosphere.

“It’s not as rowdy as it gets [at Iowa State],” Ledesma said. “I don’t think wrestling is as popular at [Oklahoma] as it is at [Iowa State]. It was really quiet on the wrestling side, a lot of the fans were more on the gymnastics side. Here we have a huge wrestling crowd and they get super rowdy at random moments and you don’t know what’s happening.

“I think a good advantage that we have is we know what to expect and we know how loud it can get. We know when we have to focus in.”

Iowa State suffered its first loss of the season last weekend on the road against Arizona despite a season high score of 194.125. To put it in perspective, Oklahoma’s high score this season was 198.025. Coach Jay Ronayne said earlier this season a two-point loss in gymnastics was equivalent to a 46-point loss in football.

This is certainly the toughest battle of the season for Iowa State, and the Cyclones are focusing on a lot of things, but a win isn’t necessarily at the top of the list. Heading into Arizona, the biggest focus for the team was hitting on all 24 routines and the team is still focusing on that.

“For us a big outcome would be if a mistake does happen, we bounce back strong,” Ledesma said. “A lot of the time when something happens, we get rattled and thrown off. So I think the best outcome for the meet is to hit 24 of 24 or bounce back when we get knocked down.”

At the end of the day, Iowa State is going against the No. 1 team, but the Cyclones aren’t going to just roll over.

“It’s our house,” Minasola said. “It’s Hilton Coliseum. We have a job to do and we’re going to go do our job.”