March 24, 2012
MINNEAPOLIS – The No. 1 Oklahoma men’s gymnastics team capped another dominant regular season by taking down No. 5 Minnesota and No. 6 Ohio State on Saturday night in Minneapolis.
While Oklahoma improved to 15-1 overall, it wasn’t easy. After going back and forth all meet, the Sooners totaled a 353.100 to edge the Gophers’ season-best 350.600, while the Buckeyes (344.500) took third.
The meet came down to the wire with Oklahoma and Minnesota tied at 294.900 heading into the final rotation before the Sooners posted a 58.200 on high bar to seal the victory.
“We did a decent job,” said OU Head Coach Mark Williams. “Being on the road was an adjustment after having our last four meets at home. We definitely left the door open in terms of not having the best performance I thought we could’ve had. Our hit percentage was down, our sticking of landings was down. We just didn’t improve from the past two meets we’ve had.”
The Sooners claimed event titles on floor, pommel horse, rings and high bar with Jake Dalton taking event titles on parallel bars and high bar and Raymond White claiming the floor title. Dylan Akers took the all-around title with an 83.100.
With the nation-best 15-1 record, the Sooners finished the season with one or less loss for the 11th time in the past 12 years.
Oklahoma’s one loss of the season came to then-No. 2 Illinois on Jan. 28 in Champaign, Ill. Since the lone loss, OU has gone 9-0 over a stretch of six meets, defeating seven top-10 opponents, including three in the top five.
Oklahoma started the meet off strong with four Sooners posting career highs on floor exercise to total a 61.100, its third-highest score of the season. Dalton, the nation’s top gymnast on floor and gold medalist in the event at last week’s Pacific Rim Championships, did not compete in OU’s floor lineup.
The Sooners were led by White’s career-high-tying 15.500 along with career bests by Dylan Akers (15.300), Presten Ellsworth (15.000) and Chris Stehl (14.900). Senior Patrick Piscitelli scored a season-high 15.100.
Oklahoma, the nation’s top-ranked team on floor, won the event title in all nine of its regular-season meets, scoring over a 60 in seven meets. The Sooners have claimed the floor title in 27 straight regular-season meets, dating back to 2009.
After struggling to surpass a 57 on pommel horse for two consecutive meets, the Sooners scored a 57.300 in their weakest event. Rubin scored a 14.800 followed by Michael Reid’s 14.400 and Troy Nitzky’s 14.300.
After two rotations, the Golden Gophers narrowly led Oklahoma 118.700-118.400.
Oklahoma’s woes continued in third rotation with a 58.600 on rings, an event it normally scores over a 59 in. Nitzky posted a team-best 15.100 and Stehl scored a 14.600.
Minnesota posted a 58.700 on parallel bars to extend its lead to four-tenths of a point, 177.400-177.000.
The Sooners picked it up on vault with a 59.400 to retake the lead, 236.400-235.000. Piscitelli led Oklahoma with a season-best 15.200 followed by William Clement’s career-high 14.800.
Through four rotations, the Sooners hadn’t seen action from Dalton, the nation’s top all-around gymnast. The junior captain sat out on four events to help rest before the start of the postseason.
Dalton scored a 15.200 on parallel bars to help the Sooners score a 58.500 on the apparatus. Freshman Danny Berardini collected a 14.700 and Ellsworth totaled a 14.500.
Even with Dalton back in the lineup, the Gophers would not quit. Minnesota scored a 59.900 on floor and with one rotation remaining, the meet was tied at 294.900.
The Golden Gophers ended the meet on pommel horse, notching a 55.700 behind Ellis Mannon’s team-best 14.000.
With the meet on the line, Dalton pulled through for the Sooners in the clutch with a 15.100 to push Oklahoma to a 57.800 in the event, retaking the lead and clinching the win.
“Going into my high bar routine, I knew the meet was close but I had to put the scores of the meet out of it,” said Dalton. “The team has been working really hard and were behind me the whole way. I wanted to go out there and do the best I could for them and trying not to think about the score that much.
With the conclusion of the regular season, the Sooners now turn their eyes to the postseason, starting with the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) Championships on April 7 in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Oklahoma is chasing its eighth conference crown in the past 10 years and 10th under Williams.
“We get a good week of training prior to the conference championships,” said Williams. “Hopefully we can correct those errors we’ve been making and get back on track to a point where we can confident enough to win the conference title.”
The MPSF is a hybrid conference that features Oklahoma, Air Force, California and Stanford.