NOTES AND NUMBERS FOR MPSF CHAMPIONSHIPS
The No. 1-ranked Oklahoma men’s gymnastics team looks to capture its sixth straight Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) championship Saturday as it competes at the MPSF Championships. Competition will be held in “five-up, five-count” format, meaning all individual scores will count toward the team score. The meet will be streamed on FloGymnastics ($) with live scoring also available.
For the third consecutive year, the Sooner enter the postseason with a perfect regular season record. Additionally, OU ended the regular season ranked first as a team with a four-score average on 433.067. Stanford ranked second with a mark of 422.100. The Sooners ranked first as a team on every event and boast the top individual on all six events as well.
Sophomore Yul Moldauer ranks first on floor (14.850), rings (15.067) and parallel bars (15.383) while senior Allan Bower leads on pommel horse (15.200), freshman Tanner Justus sits atop the vault standings (15.000) and sophomore Levi Anderson ranks first on high bar (14.817). In addition to the individual events, Moldauer is the highest ranked Sooner in the all-around standings. He ranks second nationally with a four-score mark of 86.450. Bower and Moldauer own the country’s two highest all-around marks put up this season. Bower scored an 88.750 at the Rocky Mountain Open in January while Moldauer put up an 88.350 in the Sooners’ home opener against Michigan.
The Sooners have won the MPSF Championships in each of the last five seasons and in 14 of head coach Mark Williams’ 17 seasons at the helm. Last year Oklahoma entered the championship ranked No. 1 and held off No. 2 Stanford to take the conference title. OU scored a 448.050 to best the second-place Cardinal by nearly four points. Individually the Sooners took home three conference titles with Kanji Oyama winning vault, Yul Moldauer winning parallel bars and Allan Bower taking the all-around.
AMERICAN CUP CHAMPION
Sophomore Yul Moldauer became the ninth Sooner champion at the AT&T American Cup in 2017, 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.
Yul Moldauer after winning the 2017 American Cup in Newark, N.J.
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.
U.S. Senior National Team member Allan Bower also earned an international assignment with his performance at the 2017 Winter Cup. After finishing third at Winter Cup, Bower traveled to Stuttgart, Germany, to represent Team USA at the World Cup. Bower notched an all-around score of 81.699 and turned in third-place routines on floor (13.900), rings (13.833) and vault (14.333). Bower also finished fifth on pommel horse (13.333), eighth on parallel bars (14.000) and ninth on high bar (12.300).
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 63 victories, the most consecutive wins in program history and the most since piling up 52 wins from 2002 to 2004.
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 eight meets this season, including five times scoring better than 430, thrice in five-up-five-count format. Oklahoma’s eight team scores so far this year are all in the top nine nationally this season. Stanford is the only other team to reach the 430-point mark this season having done so once in its home meet vs. the Sooners. OU’s four-score average of 433.067 is more than ten points better than second place.
Allan Bower runs down the vault runway during the Sooners' win over Ohio State.
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.”
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 four-score average of 15.000. Wenske returned to action against Ohio State after missing nearly two months with a knee injury. He ranks tied for fourth on vault at 14.900.
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.