No. 1/1 Oklahoma vs. No. 4/3 Illinois
March 14 | 6:50 p.m. CT | Norman, Okla. | McCasland Field House
NOTES AND NUMBERS FOR MEET EIGHT
The No. 1-ranked Oklahoma men’s gymnastics team hosts No. 3 Illinois Saturday night in its regular season finale inside McCasland Field House. The meet, which is slated for a 6:50 p.m. CT start, will also serve as senior night. Competition will be held in “five-up, five-count” format, meaning all individual scores will count toward the team score. The meet will be broadcast live on FOX Sports Oklahoma and FOX College Sports Central with Bill Doleman and Sooner legend Jake Dalton on the call.
Saturday will serve as senior night for five of Oklahoma's seniors. This year's class, which head coach Mark Williams considers among the best he's had, has won two NCAA national titles, three MPSF championships, 15 total All-America honors, one individual national title, two MPSF individual titles and a record of 85-3.
U.S. Senior National Team member Allan Bower will not be in attendance Saturday night, as he gets his chance to wear red, white and blue at the World Cup in Stuttgart, Germany. Bower earned his opportunity by virtue of his third-place finish at the 2017 Winter Cup. The event in Germany is the second of three events in the World Cup Series, the American Cup being the first. These events are the highest level of men’s gymnastics in non-Olympic years and participation and success in them helps athletes qualify for World Championship and Olympic teams in those cycles.
AMERICAN CUP CHAMPION
Sophomore Yul Moldauer became the ninth Sooner champion at the AT&T American Cup two weeks ago, joining a distinguished list that includes many Olympians. Moldauer scored 85.931 in the all-around to finish first, just ahead of 2016 Olympic silver medalist Oleg Vernlaiev of Ukraine. One of two American gymnasts in the nine-man field, Moldauer won the event title on floor with a 14.566 and then put up rock solid marks in the remaining five events to secure the title. The American Cup is the most prestigious meet in international gymnastics in 2017. Former winners have gone on to compete for Team USA in World Championships and Olympic Games.
Sophomore Genki Suzuki celebrates a career-high 15.050 on high bar in the Sooners' win over Ohio State last week.
NATIONAL TEAM DOMINANCE
Oklahoma made serious waves at the 2017 Winter Cup. Moldauer won the all-around competition with a two-day score of 171.750 to become the first Sooner to win the event since two-time Olympian Jake Dalton did so in 2011. Senior co-captain Allan Bower placed third while junior Hunter Justus placed eighth to join Moldauer on the U.S. Senior National Team. Moldauer and Bower each make their second national team while Justus makes his first. In addition to the three current Sooners, four alumni, Chris Brooks, Dalton, Alex Naddour and Kanji Oyama, were also chosen for the national team, giving OU seven of the 15 total national team members.
The Sooners have won or finished first in every meet they have competed in since placing second at the 2014 NCAA team finals. In that span they have racked up 62 victories, the most consecutive wins in program history and the most since piling up 52 wins from 2002 to 2004.
LAST TIME OUT
Last week against Ohio State the Sooners put up the best score in the nation so far this year. OU’s 434.550 team score came after it put up 70s on all six events and set season highs on three. Oklahoma came out of the gates on fire as it posted NCAA season highs on floor and pommel horse. The Sooners put up their monster score with top men Yul Moldauer and Allan Bower competing in only seven events combined. Williams’ bunch has now scored 430 or better in four of its seven meets and has topped 425 in all seven. Only one other team all year has reached the 425 mark (Stanford, once).
Even with scoring down under the new code of points, the Sooners are still racking up big numbers. Oklahoma is one of only two teams this season to top the 425-point mark, having done so in each of its seven meets this season, including four times scoring better than 430, twice in five-up-five-count. Oklahoma’s seven team scores so far this year are all in the top eight nationally this season. The Sooners also lead the nation in scoring average on every event apart from floor, where they rank second. With individual scores of 15 or better becoming scarce across the nation, the Sooners have put up 25 such marks in their seven meets, including eight from sophomore Yul Moldauer.
A big storyline in 2017 will be changes made to the code of points used to score routines.
“The code of points has changed so there are only four special requirements on each apparatus instead of five,” Williams said. “Each special requirement is half a point. Basically they have combined some element groups and reduced the overall requirement. Typically we have said that a really good score is a 14.500 to a 15.000. We’re going to see that same routine score between a 14.000 and a 14.500. A lot of good gymnasts are going to be doing routines that are in the high 13s. The team score is going to be affected and each individual score is going to be about a half a point lower.”
GYMNASTS OF THE WEEK
After his performance at Stanford, Allan Bower was named the NCAA Gymnast of the Week. The honor was Bower’s second of the year, having also won the award in week one after posting an impressive all-around score of 88.750 in OU’s season opener at the Rocky Mountain Open. Sooner gymnasts have now claimed NCAA Gymnast of the Week honors in six of the nine weeks it has been awarded, including after Winter Cup and all but two of their seven meets. Sophomore Yul Moldauer leads the team with three awards, Bower has been honored twice and senior Colin Van Wicklen has won once.
LET IT R3IGN
Oklahoma is chasing a third consecutive national championship in 2017 after completing back-to-back undefeated title runs in 2015 and 2016. The Sooners have repeated as national champions three times under Williams but have never won three in a row. The last program to accomplish that feat was Nebraska, which won five straight from 1979 to 1983. Williams was part of those Cornhusker teams as student-athlete and then as a graduate assistant. Three or more consecutive titles has only happened two other times in NCAA history (Penn State, 1959-1961; Illinois, 1939-1942).
OU welcomes a pair of talented freshmen for 2017 in Matt Wenske and Tanner Justus. At the 2016 U.S. Championships Wenske tied Sooner great and two-time Olympian Jake Dalton for the event title on vault as a senior in high school. Justus finished first in his age group on vault at the 2013 and 2014 Men’s Junior Olympic National Championships. He currently leads the nation on vault with a 3-score average of 15.050. Wenske returned to action against Ohio State after missing nearly two months with a knee injury.
With the regular season in the books, the Sooners turn their focus to championship season for the month of April. Following a week off, Oklahoma will travel to Berkeley, Calif., April 8 for the MPSF Championship hosted by California. The Sooners have won the conference meet in each of the last five seasons.