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Men's Gymnastics Year in Review
May 17, 2005

Year in Review
Under head coach Mark Williams, the University of Oklahoma men's gymnastics team has built a tradition of excellence.  One of the main points in that tradition is winning national championships and in 2005, the Sooners got back into the habit of bringing home the title of the nation's best men's collegiate gymnastics team.

The Sooners started off the 2005 title campaign by opening the season at the Rocky Mountain Open, where the No. 1 Sooners took first for the sixth straight year with a score of 215.425.  The next day in the RMO event finals, OU had 16 individual placers.  Despite the win, OU dropped to No. 7 in the GymInfo rankings.

Year in Review (PDF) | Photo Gallery by Jacob Messina

From there, the Sooners traveled to Ann Arbor, Mich., where they suffered their only loss of the season to then-No. 3 Michigan 222.275-219.05.  The loss broke the Sooners' streak of 28 straight regular season wins.  OU didn't exactly rebound like it wanted by posting its second-lowest score of the season, 218.7, but still picked up a win in its home-opener over Air Force.

The next weekend the Sooner team was off, but individual OU gymnasts Taqiy Abdullah-Simmons, Jamie Henderson and Jonathan Horton traveled to Las Vegas, Nev., to compete in the prestigious Winter Cup.  On the line were six spots on the 2005 Men’s U.S. National Team.  Horton tied for first on the floor and fourth on the vault to earn his spot for the second consecutive year as one of the nation’s top gymnasts.

Given an extra week to prepare for a "home" meet in Oklahoma City, the No. 4 Sooners posted a then-season high score 224.05 to top No. 12 Nebraska's 212.65.  OU swept every event except the vault.  After moving up in the rankings one spot to No. 3, the Sooners traveled to Lincoln, Neb., for a rematch from the previous week's meeting.  The score was different, but the result was the same as OU topped its MPSF rival for the second straight week 219.35-216.1.

Following the two wins over Nebraska, OU began its trio of Big 10 Conference meets by heading to then-No. 11 Minnesota and won the floor, still rings, parallel bars and high bar en route to a 220.175-216.625 win.  After the Minnesota trip, the Sooners returned home for what would be the biggest regular-season matchup of the year for them, a showdown with No. 1 Ohio State.

For the second straight year, the Sooners knocked off the No. 1 team in the nation at home.  In 2004, the Sooners topped then-No. 1 Illinois and in 2005, the Buckeyes were the victim, falling 222.825-222.675.  The Sooners went into the final event down by two points but rallied on the high bar with a score of 37.950 while Ohio State faltered on the parallel bars.
The next week, OU wrapped up its regular season schedule with the final home meet for seven OU seniors who had never lost at home in their careers at OU.                                                        

The Sooners were riding a five-meet win streak and were set to take on the then-No. 7 Iowa Hawkeyes.  For the third straight week the Sooners took down another Big 10 opponent, defeating Iowa 223.575-219.025.  OU set then-season highs on the floor exercise, pommel horse and still rings.

The beginning of post-season action saw the Sooners at home in Norman as they hosted the 2005 Moutain Pacific Sports Federation Conference Championships.  After moving up in the rankings to No. 2, OU was ready to take on conference foes Air Force, California, Nebraska and Stanford.  For the sixth time in school history, the Sooners took the MPSF crown after finishing second in 2004.  The Sooners posted a then-school record of 225.65, outdistancing themselves from the field including Cal's second-place 219.725. 

Horton continued his impressive season, capturing the championship in the all-around with a score of 56.475, the top score in school history.  The next day, the Sooners took three more individual titles as Horton along with the Henderson brothers, David and Jamie, took center stage.  Jamie Henderson won the pommel horse competition with a score of 9.625, then David followed with the same score (9.625), to take first on the vault.  Horton finished out the championship trio with a score of 9.825 on the still rings.

Following the conference championship, the Sooners headed off to West Point, N.Y. for the 2005 NCAA National Championships.  OU was placed in the second session of the first day's qualifying round.  It was there that the Sooners posted a team score of 223.55, finishing second to Illinois, but putting the MPSF champions into the next day's finals.

Looking to return to the level of excellence that the OU men's gymnastics program demands, the Sooners posted a school record 225.675 to outdistance No. 1 Ohio State who posted a score of 225.45.  It was the third National Championship in four years for the Sooners and sixth overall for the program. 

The competition between Oklahoma and Ohio State came down to the very last rotation, with OU on the vault and the Buckeyes on the still rings. OU nailed a score of 37.275 to outdistance Ohio State. It came down to the very last attempt on the vault, where freshman Jonathan Horton stuck a title-clinching 9.5, tying his career high from the night before.

“Tonight’s competition was unbelievably close,” said OU head coach Mark Williams. “The vault has been one of our weaker events. We had a couple of mistakes early on (on the vault) and it ended up coming down to the very end. The parity is unbelievable and I feel very fortunate to win this. Ohio State is a formidable opponent and they pushed us to the end.”

13 All-Americans
For the second straight year, the University of Oklahoma led all schools in total All-America honors.  After OU received eight AA honors in 2004, six Sooners were responsible for upping the ante to 13 in 2005.  Leading the way was freshman sensation Jonathon Horton who singlehandly accumlated five honors.  Senior David Henderson also gave OU its 18th individual champion, taking the 2005 NCAA title on the still rings.

Josh Gore Pommel Horse & Parallel Bars
Coming into the 2005 NCAA championships, the senior was ranked No. 2 on the pommel horse and No. 8 on the parallel bars and already had an All-America honor on the parallel bars under his belt from the 2004 season.  Gore did not disappoint this year, finishing third on the pommel horse (9.625) and eighth on the parallel bars (9.2).

David Henderson Still Rings & Vault
After collecting All-America honors on the rings in 2002 and 2004 and in the all-around in 2004, Henderson was hoping to top that in his senior season.  With a 9.7 on the apparatus, Henderson took the 2005 NCAA Still Rings Championship.  Henderson also added a third place finish on the vault (9.375) to his extensive resume.

Jamie Henderson Still Rings
Like his older brother David, the junior Henderson had two still rings All-America honors behind him (2003 & 2004) and in 2005 picked up this third honor by tying Ohio State's DJ Bucher for fifth on the event with a score of 9.562.

Taqiy Abdullah-Simmons All-Around & Parallel Bars
After head coach Mark Williams decided to add Abdullah-Simmons to the all-around just two hours before the NCAA Championship, the freshman did not let his team down.  Having only competed in the all-around twice this season, Abdullah-Simmons posted a career high 54.975, good enough for seventh place.  The next day, Abdullah-Simmons added another AA honor on the parallel bars, finishing fourth with a score of 9.45.

Jonathan Horton All-Around, Floor Exercise, Vault, Still Rings & High Bar
Based on his performance as a freshman, Jonathan Horton could be the best gymnast to ever put on a Sooner uniform.  With five All-America honors, Horton set the OU mark of the most AA honors in a single season, topping former Sooner greats such as Bart Conner and Daniel Furney.  In one season he is more than halfway to reaching the OU career AA honor of nine, held by Conner and Furney.

Jacob Messina Floor Exercise
Perhaps overshadowed by his two classmates, Abdullah-Simmons and Horton, Jacob Messina has quietly been a valuable contributor to the OU gymnastics program.  Thanks to a 9.287 on the floor exercise, Messina was able to stand out by picking up an eighth AA honor for the phenomenal 2005 freshman class.

Williams Honored as Nation's Best Coach, Again
For the third time in his six years as a head coach, Mark Williams was named the National Coach of the Year after guiding his team to the 2005 NCAA team title in West Point, N.Y.  Prior to this year's award, Williams added the honor to his resume in 2002 and 2003.  In both years, the Sooners brought home the national title. 

"Winning this award is just icing on the cake and caps off an amazing season for this program," said Williams.  "To win this award and a third national title in four years is a great feeling.  I can't say how proud I am to be the coach of this team.

"My hat goes off to my coaching staff and all the hard work they put in to go along with all the kids' efforts that helped make this program a contender for a national title each and every year."

By ending the 2005 season with a record of 21-2, Williams' career record totals 138-13, a winning percentage of .914

Williams Takes Yet Another Award
For the fifth time in his six years as head coach at Oklahoma, Mark Williams was named the MPSF Coach of the Year at the 2005 MPSF Championships, March 25-26, in Norman, Okla.  The award, voted on by fellow MPSF coaches, was announced on March 26, prior to the start of the MPSF Event Finals.  California's Graham Ackerman was named the 2005 MPSF Gymnast of the Year.

Triple H
The Sooner trio of David Henderson, Jamie Henderson and Jonathan Horton gave OU its three individual conference titles at the MPSF Event Finals championships on March 26 in Norman, Okla. 

David Henderson recorded a season-high 9.625 en route to taking the vault championship.  Henderson's younger brother Jamie also posted a 9.625 on the pommel horse to take first in the event.  The Henderson brothers also picked up respective third place finishes as well, David on the high bar (9.45) and Jamie on the rings (9.7).  It was a nice change of pace for the brother duo who did not fare well at last year's conference meet.

Phenom Jonathan Horton took first on the still rings by tying his school record 9.825.  It was the third time this season that Horton had posted the top score on the apparatus.

“Jamie put together a solid performance on the pommel horse, David had his best vault of the season and Horton was awesome again,” said Oklahoma head coach Mark Williams.  “I think Jonathan’s performance on the rings was the best individual routine of the day."

NCAA Team Recap
The University of Oklahoma men’s gymnastics team won the 2005 NCAA title with a school record 225.675 at the NCAA National Championships in West Point, N.Y. Ohio State was a close second at 225.450.
 
“Tonight’s competition was unbelievably close,” said OU head coach Mark Williams. “The vault has been one of our weaker events. We had a couple of mistakes early on (on the vault) and it ended up coming down to the very end. The parity is unbelievable and I feel very fortunate to win this. Ohio State is a formidable opponent and they pushed us to the end.”

The title marks the third National Championship for the Sooners in the past four years (2003, 2002) and the sixth overall for the OU Men’s Gymnastics program (2005, 2003, 2002, 1991, 1978, 1977). It also marks the 24th team national title all-time for University of Oklahoma Athletics.
 
The competition between Oklahoma and Ohio State came down to the very last rotation, with OU on the vault and the Buckeyes on the still rings. OU nailed a score of 37.275 to outdistance Ohio State. It came down to the very last attempt on the vault, where freshman Jonathan Horton stuck a title-clinching 9.5, tying his career high from the night before.

“I don’t know what was going through my mind,” said Horton. “I was thinking about the team and about our fans in the stands cheering us on. I wanted to do it for all of them, I wanted to win it for this team and have fun, which I did and I stuck my landing.”

“This is something I dreamed of,” said OU senior Josh Gore. “It is such a great time being a member of this team. We are the true definition of what a team is. Our foundation is having fun and it makes the competition so much easier.”

The Sooners began the team finals on the parallel bars and posted a score of 37.25, their second-highest score of the season on the apparatus, behind the school record 37.4, posted on Jan. 28 against Air Force. Taqiy Abdullah-Simmons broke his own OU school record for the third straight meet with a score of 9.6. Horton then followed Abdullah-Simmons with a 9.325.

From there, OU moved on to the high bar and put up a mark of 37.825. The Sooners were led by the 9.5 of Jamie Henderson and Horton’s career high 9.65. The Sooners went into their bye rotation in second place behind California.

After the brief rest, OU resumed the night’s competition on the floor exercise and the Sooners did not disappoint, hitting their second highest score of the season, a 37.475. Two Sooners managed to post career highs, Jacob Messina with a 9.525 and David Iammatteo with a 9.425, while Horton added on a score of 9.475.

On the next rotation, OU posted a score of 37.15 on the pommel horse. Taqiy Abdullah-Simmons continued his streak of breaking personal bests as the freshman hit a 9.4. Brian Carr stuck a 9.3 and Josh Gore hit a 9.5 to finish out the rotation for the Sooners.

After the pommel horse, OU was looking for a strong performance on the rings and got exactly what it wanted, tying the school record with a 38.7. Mubarak Abdullah-Simmons came through with another strong performance for the Sooners. One night after setting a career high with a 9.525, Mubarak scored a 9.5. David Henderson added his second highest season score on the event with a 9.75 and then Jonathan Horton followed that up with a 9.775

The Sooners moved into the final event on the vault and in first place, leading Ohio State by 1.325. Messina hit a 9.225, David Henderson hit a 9.425 and Horton hit his vault to clinch the National Championship for Oklahoma.

The X-Factor
Since arriving this season, freshman Jonathan Horton has consistently been at the top of the standings for the Sooners.  In his first meet as a Sooner, the Rocky Mountain Open, Horton started out strong by winning the floor exercise (9.400) and the parallel bars (9.050). 

Since then Horton has not looked back, picking up 16 first-place finishes, along with beating former OU gymnast Jock Steven's school record on the floor exercise with a 9.825 in the win over Iowa.  He then followed up that performance by breaking former OU gymnast Daniel Furney's all-around record with a 56.475 in the MPSF Championship.  The next day, Horton finished first on the still rings by tying his career high of 9.825. 

Horton Named to U.S. National Team
On Saturday, Feb. 5, OU freshman gymnast Jonathan Horton was one of nine individuals selected to the 2005 U.S. Men’s Senior National Team.  The freshman competed on the floor exercise and the vault, a day after qualifying for the two events in Friday’s all-around competitions.  He tied for first on the floor (8.95) and fourth on the vault (8.975) to earn his spot for the second-consecutive year as one of the nation’s top gymnasts.

“His performance in the event finals secured his position on the team after Friday night’s all-around,” said OU head coach Mark Williams after the meet.  “Jonathan is a young up-and-comer.  He is very aggressive in his routines and he could be the future of USA Gymnastics.”

During the all-around competition, Horton finished eighth with a score of 51.181 and qualified for the finals on the floor exercise and the vault by finishing in the top eight.  The next national competition for Horton will be the 2005 Visa Championships, August 10-13 in Indianapolis, Ind.  The event will determine national champions in respective events and who will represent the U.S. in international competitions.

This level of competition is not new to Horton, as he was a member of the U.S. Senior National Team with current OU teammate Taqiy Abdullah-Simmons and assistant coach Guard Young a year ago.

Horton competed in last year’s U.S. Olympic Team Trials and Visa U.S. Championships.  Prior to that experience, Horton was a member of the U.S. Junior National Team, winning the junior all-around at the U.S. Championships in 2002 and 2003.

"The Winter Cup is a great competition and it was very well contested,” added Williams.  “There has recently been a change in the scoring and some athletes have adjusted and the scores reflect that.  This competition was a good indication for the championships in August.”

Rewriting the Record Book
On Friday, Jan. 28, the Sooners went back to their old ways of rewriting the school record books.  With a score of 37.400, the 2005 Sooners broke the previous team record on the parallel bars of 37.000 set on April 12, 2003.

At the MPSF Championships on March 25, the Sooners then snapped previous school records on the floor exercise and high bar with scores of 37.575 and 38.325, respectively.

The Sooners weren't done yet with breaking records, as the NCAA championships still provided an opportunity to change the records books.  They did just that by tying the school record on the still rings with a 38.700 and then breaking the record for the team total with a score of 225.675.

Conference Domination
When the Sooners posted their school record 225.650 on March 25 at the MPSF Team Finals, they secured their sixth MPSF title and 14th all-time conference crown, including Big 8 competition. 

The Sooners had won five straight MPSF team titles from 1999-2003.  The streak was broken in 2004 by the University of California.  Prior to that, OU earned eight Big 8 titles, the last coming in 1996.

Sooner Notes
Mubarak Abdullah-Simmons- Set career high on still rings (9.525) at NCAA prelims.
Taqiy Abdullah-Simmons-  Broke his own school record on parallel bars (9.6) at NCAA finals.
Brian Carr-  One of only three upper-classmen (J. Henderson and Myers) for 2006 season.
Kyle Fernandez-  Set season high on the still rings (9.425) during NCAA prelims.
Michael Gehart- Senior co-captain finishes OU career.
Josh Gore-  Finished third on the pommel horse (9.625) at NCAA event finals.
David Henderson-  Won 2005 NCAA title on the still rings (9.700) and third on the vault (9.375).
Jamie Henderson-  Tied for fifth on the still rings (9.562) at NCAA event finals.
Jonathan Horton-  Tied for third on the high bar (9.475) at NCAA event finals.
David Iammatteo-  Finished 10th on the floor exercise at NCAA event finals (8.475).
Jacob Messina-  Picked up All-America honor on the floor exercise (9.287).
James Myers-  One of two seniors for 2006 season.
Brian Trause-  Senior finishes OU career.
Joseph Weaver- Will play a major role in 2006 season.

Erasing Names
Since arriving in Norman last fall, a duo of Sooner freshmen has been responsible for erasing names in the OU record books.  Jonathan Horton has recorded all-time OU individual records on both the all-around (56.475) and floor exercise (9.825). 

The other half of the duo is Taqiy Abdullah-Simmons.  One week after breaking the school record on parallel bars against Iowa, Abduallah-Simmons broke his own score with a 9.55 in the MPSF team finals and topped that score two more times at the NCAA championships.  The freshman posted a 9.575 in the team prelims and then topped it with a 9.6 in the team finals.

Gore-ing the Competition
Since starting the season at the Rocky Mountain Open with a disappointing score on the pommel horse (8.5) in the team competition, senior Josh Gore has not looked back.  He finished second the next day in the individual events final on the pommel (9.2) and has dominated in every meet since.  Gore was also honored as the MPSF Gymnast of the Week for the week of Jan. 31. 

Following the RMO, Gore took first on the pommel in each of the next three meets including his 9.7 performance (then a season high) versus Nebraska on Feb. 13.  The pommel horse first place streak ended against Nebraska on Feb. 20, when Gore finished second on the pommel (9.45) behind teammate Jamie Henderson. 

The senior from Pflugerville, Texas, has also picked up eight first-place finishes to go along with six second-place finishes and three third-place finishes on the season. 

In the MPSF Championship, Gore tied Josh Landis' school record on the pommel horse with a 9.725.  Gore just missed out picking up his second straight MPSF parallel bar championship, finishing second behind Cal's Tyler Block.

Gore then went on the NCAA event finals, finishing third on the pommel horse (9.625) and eighth on the parallel bars (9.2) to pick up his second and third All-America honors.

2005 Sooners in a Familiar Spot -- At The Top
At the NCAA Championships on April 8, OU posted a score of 225.675, the second highest in the nation this season and in NCAA history (under the current scoring system). 

Since the new scoring system’s inception in 2001 in college gymnastics (Federation de Internationale Gymnastics Code Scoring System), OU has dominated the top team scores around the nation.  OU currently owns two of the three best tallies and four of the top 10 scores.  Penn State, Ohio State and Illinois are the only other members in the top 25. 

That trend could change soon as the FIG's scoring system is usually adjusted after an Olympic year.

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