A Persistent Competitor

Feb. 5, 2008

by Jeff Smith
Contributor, BigTen.org

Family has always influenced Iowa junior Geoff Reins. When he was bouncing around the house and knocking into things at the age of 5, his parents decided to enroll him in gymnastics classes. Nearly 15 years later and now an accomplished gymnast, Reins says his brother was ultimately the reason why he chose to attended Iowa for college.

Reins often made trips to Iowa City to visit his older brother, who also played one year of football for the Hawkeyes. Almost immediately he fell in love with the campus and the college atmosphere. A native of Buffalo Grove, Ill., located 45 minutes northwest of Chicago, Reins always knew he was going to be a Hawkeye. He repeatedly sent Iowa head men's gymnastics coach Tom Dunn e-mails and performance videos expressing his interest.

At the time, Dunn and the Hawkeyes weren't exactly buying what Reins was selling.

"To be honest, he was a little more interested in us then we were with him at first," Dunn said. "I was aware of him, but I guess I was a little partial to gymnasts with a little more finesse, and he was a little rough around the edges."

That's not much of a surprise seeing that Reins was also an accomplished football standout at Adlai E Stevenson High School. There he earned both All-Conference and All-American honors as a quarterback and wide receiver. In order to excel at those positions, Reins had to hit the weights, which aren't exactly the ideal training exercise for gymnasts. Weight training will get you strength, speed and power, but it also makes your tighter and won't necessarily tone the core muscles needed for a gymnast.

So one can see how Reins may have been a little rough around the edges as Dunn said, but he was also quite motivated to become a Hawkeye.

"He was persistent and we made him an offer," said Dunn. "Shortly after he signed, he won the vault at the Junior National Championships, so that made us look real good."

Or real lucky.

 

 

Since arriving on campus, Reins has turned in All-America performances in both the vault and the floor exercise. As a freshman he placed seventh in the floor exercise with a season best score of 9.3. Last year, he was one of two Hawkeyes to compete at the NCAA individual event finals and finished fourth on vault with a 9.275.

For Reins, he feels the early success has stemmed from the fact that he is such a competitor.

"The best thing about gymnastics is the competition part. I love competing," Reins said. "I have never really been much of a practice guy, but when it comes down to competition, I always feel I am physically and mentally prepared. I think that is part of the reason I have had so much success early on."

Dunn agrees.

"His biggest contribution has been that he is a tremendous competitor," he said. "In that respect, he is a good model for the other guys. So when they raise their hands to the judges, they get their job done on the competition floor."

Dunn admits that he was surprised when Reins earned All-America status in the floor exercise as a freshman. Noting that Reins had been a junior national champion in vault, Dunn felt that if his freshman was going to earn All-America status in any event, it would be the vault.

Perhaps Dunn's biggest surprise was the fact that Reins did so well on the floor - an event that calls for polished gymnasts with good flexibility, something Dunn had questioned Reins had.

"That surprised me," Dunn said. "Geoff has a lot of power, but with that comes a lack of flexibility. He is quick and strong, but not very flexible."

Given his limits, Reins now focused primarily on the vault and the floor exercise when competing. Dunn says that after doing all six events as a junior gymnast, college competitors often eliminate their worst events and focused primarily on their strongest.

He said it comes down to natural abilities.

"Take a top quarterback like Tom Brady, who has all the skills," Dunn said. "He watches film and makes the necessarily improvements."

It is an analogy that fits in the gymnastics world.

"Doing two events is a lot easier than doing the all-around," said Reins, who admits he does not necessarily allot equal practice time for his two events. "It's week-to-week during the season. We'll go back and look at tape on Monday and then figure out what we need to do for the upcoming week."

But that's where the comparisons to gymnastics and football stop. Reins says that despite being a two-sport standout on the football field in high school, gymnastics is much more physically demanding.

"There is no offseason," he said. "We have our competing season and then we might take a few weeks off here and there, but gymnastics is a 12-month sport and you have to do it 6 to 7 days a week. You can go hard in football and then take the rest of the year off. This is very demanding."

Halfway through his Hawkeye career, Reins has undoubtedly left his mark in Iowa City. In addition to his All-American freshman season, he also set the school record with a 9.55 on the vault. Last year he placed fourth nationally in the event, while also recording three first-place finishes on floor. In 2008, Reins is not only focused on earning All-America honors in both the vault and floor in the same season, but he is also hoping the team can provide some surprises at the end of the campaign.

"I just want to see our team keep improving throughout the year," he said. "Maybe we can surprise some people with a top-3 finish at Big Tens and a top-6 at nationals."

And while gymnastics calls for year-round training, Reins is also determined to land in the sports communication profession. He said he would love to stay in the sports world and hopes to pursue broadcasting or writing for a magazine.

Dunn thinks that field would be perfect for Reins and that his persistence will be sure to pay off.

He should know too.

He has seen his fair share of Reins' writing and on-screen abilities from all those e-mails and videos he received three years ago.