NORMAN, Okla. -- In their regular season finale, the No. 2 University of Oklahoma men's gymnastics had plenty of reasons to celebrate Saturday night at the McCasland Field House. The highlight for the Sooners (15-1, 3-1 MPSF) was a 441.250-426.750 victory over No. 5 Ohio State (6-6-1, 4-4-1 Big Ten), their 22nd-straight win at the Field House.
It was a night to look back as seniors Troy Nitzky and Chris Stehl were honored before the meet and the 2003 national champions returned home for a 10th anniversary celebration of the program's fifth NCAA title.
The current Sooners tried to mimic the dominance that the 2003 squad displayed. The 2013 team won five of six event titles and
all but one individual event crown. OU's depth once again was on display, as each event was won by a different gymnast.
"We started out great on the floor and had maybe the best floor score we have had all year, and the way we finished on high bar - those two bookends made things a lot better," OU head coach Mark Williams said. "We struggled a little bit on pommel horse, but we are usually pretty good there. There were places here and there that we certainly want to make some improvements on as we get into the championship round of the postseason, but I was very happy with the day's events. I think we are really looking forward to the conference championships."
With the conference championships just two weeks away, eight season or career highs were set and the Sooners posted their third-highest point total of the season. Saturday's total of 441.250 was just 2.100 points off the highest mark of the season and the largest win for OU since the revised, more challenging scoring system was put into place at the beginning of the month.
"Today was a confidence builder and we definitely need that with this kind of format of five-up-five count," Williams said. "We really need some momentum and everybody really needs to be comfortable and confident as they're doing their performances. We had some ups and downs but I think we handled things pretty well in that none of them hurt us so badly that we gave away the meet. Ohio State has always been a formidable challenge."
The new "five up, five count" scoring system has resulted in lower scores across the country, but that didn't stop the Sooners, who posted two season high scores. A 73.200 on vault and 74.150 on high bar both eclipsed marks set earlier in the season when a sixth gymnast competed on each event and the lowest score was dropped.
On floor, the Sooners notched a 75.450 and were led by Raymond White's meet-high 15.350. Presten Ellsworth and Kanji Oyama followed close behind with a 15.200.
A 71.350 on pommel horse gave OU a 6.600 point lead after two rotations. Michael Reid's career high 15.400 earned him his third event title of the season.
The third rotation saw the Sooners compete on rings, where a 75.500 was the second highest total of the season for OU on the event. Michael Squires and Stehl shared the top score with a 15.600.
Nitzky's 15.100 and Stehl's 15.600 marked their final performance at the Field House as Sooners.
Vault has been OU's weakest event all season, and Ohio State claimed the top individual and team score on the event. Despite that, a career high 15.050 from Alec Robin closed out a 73.200, the highest score of the season on the apparatus.
The Sooners carried a 9.100 point lead into the final two rotations, where a 71.600 on parallel bars and a season high 74.150 on high bar sealed the victory. Danny Berardini posted the top score on parallel bars with a 15.200, while Stanton Rehkemper's career-high 15.200 was led the way on high bar. William Clement's 15.100 on high bar and Ethan Jose's 14.750 on high bar and 14.300 on parallel bars also were career highs.
The championship season begins for the Sooners on April 6 at the MPSF Conference Championship in Colorado Springs, Colo. OU will compete for its 20th conference title against Air Force, California and Stanford. After a weekend off, the hunt for the program's ninth national title commences in State College, Pa. on April 19-20.
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