Boise State gymnasts, wrestlers team up for home meet

ccripe@idahostatesman.com © 2014 Idaho StatesmanJanuary 17, 2014 

The Boise State gymnastics team’s rebuilt beam lineup has an unlikely leader.

Krystine Jacobsen, whose best score on any event last year was 9.8, has emerged as the beam anchor in 2014.

And she showed why last week, scoring a 9.875 on the last beam routine of a four-team meet at national power Utah — the best score among the 24 competitors.

Jacobsen and the Broncos, who are ranked 11th in the nation after the best season-opening meet in school history, will take on No. 14 Denver and No. 23 BYU on Friday night at Taco Bell Arena as part of the annual Beauty and the Beast event.

“(Jacobsen) is definitely going to be one of our key players on beam,” Boise State co-coach Tina Bird said. “She was last (to go) in the whole meet. She got up there and just nailed her routine.”

Jacobsen was joined in the beam lineup by three freshmen and a sophomore who was making her beam debut. Junior Kelsey Morris was the only veteran.

Jacobsen, who is from Virginia Beach, Va., didn’t consider the beam a strength when she arrived at Boise State. But her mental approach to the nerve-racking, 4-inch-wide platform has changed that.

“I feel like so many people are scared of it,” she said. “To me, it’s the least-impact event. It’s the cleanest and the most beautiful. So it comes more natural. … You just have to trust it.”

Jacobsen competed in seven meets last season, the last four only on beam. She posted a season-best 9.8 in her first beam routine and finished the season with a 9.725 at the NCAA regional meet in Corvallis, Ore.

She started this season as a bars-and-beam specialist with hopes of adding vault and floor later. She tied for fourth on bars last week with a 9.85 — also a career high.

“From last year, I learned so much,” Jacobsen said. “Going in, I felt like I knew what to expect and how to handle the pressure.”

When she got to the beam, she knew the score she needed to win. The team’s fate was sealed — second place, behind Utah — but she got a hint of what she’ll feel as the beam anchor as the pressure increases later in the season.

“I just stuck to what I’ve done in practice and tried to keep my breath, my mind, under control,” she said. “It felt amazing. I felt that all my hard work and everything I’ve worked for finally paid off.”

Jacobsen’s hot start was the product of a larger effort by the Broncos, whose 195.85 was almost a point better than last year’s opening score and would have ranked as their fifth-best score all of last season.

The team spent the summer working on bars handstands, beam wobbles and landings — the details that often cost gymnasts points.

They were more committed to offseason training, Bird said, and began performing full routines without spotters earlier than usual.

“This is the earliest we’ve ever been prepared,” Bird said.

The Utah performance, and the training that contributed to it, have Jacobsen optimistic for this season.

“I expect extraordinary things,” she said of her team.

As for herself …

“My dream would be to get a 10.0 on beam,” she said, “just because I know I can do it.”

WRESTLER TRIES TO FIGHT THROUGH UPS AND DOWNS

The “midseason grind” derailed Boise State sophomore Chris Castillo’s previously fantastic season.

Beginning Friday night against North Dakota State, he’ll try to pick himself up for the march toward the Pac-12 and NCAA tournaments.

Castillo, a first-year starter at 149 pounds, once was 7-0 with a win over the nation’s No. 3 wrestler in his weight class.

Since then, he’s gone 3-5. He was 1-2 on last week’s three-dual road trip while wearing a brace to protect a knee he injured Dec. 22 in a tournament in Reno, Nev.

“This is an important week,” Castillo said. “I’d like to get a win this week. The kid is pretty tough.”

Castillo learned how demanding the winter break can be for Boise State wrestlers. The team intensifies its training, including two-a-day practices, and a road trip like the one the team embarked on last week is grueling because of the travel, the matches and the constant weight monitoring.

This is the time that prepares the wrestlers for the challenges ahead — six duals in the next 22 days, the Pac-12 meet March 2 and the NCAA meet March 20-22.

The Broncos, like Castillo, lost two of three duals last week.

“A lot of our guys didn’t know what to expect,” coach Greg Randall said. “It’s probably tougher on the guys who go through it (the first time).”

Castillo didn’t blame his knee for his struggles — four of the losses have come by one or two points — but Randall said the sophomore has lost some of his explosiveness and confidence.

“A lot of the confidence is just not there because you protect the knee a little bit, you don’t want to re-injure it,” Randall said. “It’s kind of slowed down his offense.”

As the knee improves, Castillo should become more consistent, Randall said.

“When it comes right down to it,” Randall said, “you’ve got to know you’re going to win.”

Castillo has little experience with losing.

He followed his two older brothers into wrestling when he was 4, the youngest of five children in the Castillo family of Zillah, Wash.

His hometown, located between Yakima and Prosser, is known for its collection of wineries and churches, he said. His dad is a foreman working on local farms and Castillo still helps him in the summers.

The whole family plans to attend Friday’s match.

“I have to work a little extra (for them),” Castillo said.

Castillo won four state championships and posted a 167-2 record at Zillah High. He became the seventh wrestler to win four state titles in Washington history.

He wrestled in the small-school 1A division but entered enough national competitions to convince Randall he could thrive at the college level.

The coach also likes Castillo’s style.

“He’s just exciting and explosive,” Randall said. “He stays on his opponents and kind of wears them out a little bit. That’s always fun to watch. … Plus, he just hustles.”

Castillo, who was 13-3 in tournaments last season and 0-1 as a fill-in at 165 pounds, underwent a physical transformation to prepare for this season.

He dropped from the 157-pound class to 149 — a class that better suits his 5-foot-5 frame and provides him a strength advantage.

“The guys are a little quicker at 49, but I feel I’m a little stronger than most of them,” Castillo said. “I just need to get my technique caught up with my strength.”

Said Randall: “He hardly has any fat on him. … He did the right things over the summer to get his weight down. He looks good. He looks like a male model — a short male model.”

IF YOU GO

What: Boise State gymnastics vs. Denver and BYU; Boise State wrestling vs. North Dakota State

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Where: Taco Bell Arena

Tickets: $6 adults, $4 juniors/seniors at Taco Bell Arena box office or boisestatetickets.com.

Notable: The gymnasts are 11-1 and the wrestlers are 12-1 in Beauty and the Beast competitions, dating to 2003.

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