No. 3 Men's Gymnastics to Minnesota

Athletics Communications
By Athletics Communications
University of Oklahoma
FEBRUARY 24, 2005

Minnesota Preview
The University of Oklahoma men's gymnastics team will travel to Minneapolis, Minn. to face No. 11 Minnesota this Saturday, Feb. 26, at the Minnesota Sports Pavilion at 2 p.m. CST. 

In last week's action in Lincoln, Neb., the Sooners took down the Nebraska Cornhuskers for the second straight week 219.350-216.100.  The Sooners won every team event except for the vault.

Weekly Release (PDF)

Individually, the Sooners spread ou the lineup, giving different athletes extra-action including freshman Taqiy Abdullah-Simmons’s first action of the season in the all-around (51.775).  Senior Josh Gore continued his impressive streak on the parallel bars, by winning the event with a 9.45.  He also finished second on the pommel horse (9.45).

Minnesota is led by Guillermo Alvarez, a senior from Denver, Colo.  Alvarez is the No. 4 all-arounder in the nation and is the top ranked competitor on the floor exercise.  Alvarez, along with Oklahoma freshman Jonathan Horton, was named to the U.S. National Team following the Winter Cup.

Minnesota got off to a tough start to begin the season, finishing fifth in the Windy City Invitational ahead of Illinois-Chicago and behind highly-ranked conference foes Illinois, Ohio State, Michigan and Iowa.  The Golden Gophers then dropped two straight home meets to the top two teams in the nation, Illinois and Ohio State. 

Minnesota has rebounded nicely since then, picking up wins against Illinois-Chicago and most recently, avenging its loss to Michigan with its highest score of the season (216.050) on Feb. 12.

The Golden Gophers are coached by Mike Burns, who is in his first season at the helm of Minnesota.  Burns had previously been an assistant coach for the University of Michigan for seven years.  During his stint at Michigan, Burns received the 1999 national assistant coach of the year award while helping lead the Wolverines to the 1999 NCAA Championship.

After the Minnesota meet, the Sooners return home to the Lloyd Noble Center for a much anticipated meet with the current No. 2 team in the nation, Ohio State, on March 5 at 7 p.m.

Nebraska Recap
The No. 3 University of Oklahoma men’s gymnastics topped No. 11 Nebraska, 219.350-216.100, Sunday in Lincoln, Neb.  It was the second win in two weeks and third this season over the Huskers for the Sooners, as OU defeated Nebraska 224.050-212.650, last Sunday at Oklahoma City. 
The Sooners had also previously defeated the Huskers at the Rocky Mountain Open on Jan. 14, in Colorado Springs, Colo.  Just like the week before, the Sooners swept every event except for the vault.

“We tried to do some new things today,” said OU head coach Mark Williams.  “We increased our risk by increasing our difficulty on our routines.  I thought our effort at the end of meet was pretty good, for Nebraska to be that close and our guys to step up and distance themselves is pretty impressive. 
“We have to be better prepared for the road if we want to win a national championship.  We were not very consistent at all today, but despite not having a great day, we came away with a reasonable score.”

The win also gave the Sooners the lead in the all-time series, with 29 wins to Nebraska's 28.  Going into the meet, the Sooners and the Huskers were tied after last week’s Sooner victory in Oklahoma City.

Taqiy Abdullah-Simmons saw his first action of the season in the all-around (51.775) and senior Josh Gore won the parallel bars (9.45) and finished second on the pommel horse (9.45).

The Sooners had a first place finisher in every event except for the all-around and vault  On the pommel horse, the Sooners took the top three honors, with junior Jamie Henderson leading the way with a 9.5 tally.  Freshman Jonathan Horton picked up two first-place finishes, one on the still rings (9.625) and the other on the high bar (9.55). 
Horton also picked up a second-place finish on the parallel bars (9.25), in addition, for the second straight week versus Nebraska, senior David Iammatteo won the floor exercise (9.325).  Freshman Jacob Messina picked up a third-place finish in the all-around with a career high 52.875.

Moving On Up
After the Feb. 14 GymInfo poll, the Sooners moved up from four to their current No. 3 ranking, switching places with Michigan.  The Sooners also managed to move up in several event rankings.  On the pommel horse, OU jumped three spots to No. 3.  The still rings has the Sooners moving from seven to five.  On the vault, OU stepped up one spot to No. 9 and on the high bar, the Sooners currently own the nation's best team, up two spot's from the week before.

Individually, Jonathan Horton made the biggest jump in the rankings on the still rings, jumping ten spots to his current No. 4 rankings, following his season high score of 9.825 in the event against Nebraska.

Earning High Marks
Since starting the season as the fourth best team in the high bar, the Sooners found themselves at No. 1 in the Feb. 14 rankings, the week after recording a season high 38.100 versus Nebraska on Feb. 13.  The Sooners only loss on the high bar came in their only team loss this season versus then No. 3 Michigan on Jan. 22.

Individually, the Sooners have seven different competitors in the GymInfo top 25 polls led by the Henderson brothers, senior David at four and junior Jamie five .  Henderson has the Sooners highest mark on the high bar this year with a 9.600 against Air Force on Jan. 28.

The Sooners score of 38.100 versus Nebraska was the best high bar team mark this season and just .175 off the OU all-time high bar record of 38.275 set on March 6, 2004 versus then No. 1 Illinois.

Shouldering the Load
Since returning from shoulder injuries, seniors David Henderson and Kyle Fernandez have helped the Sooners to three straight wins. 

In his first action of the season versus Air Force, Henderson picked up two first place finishes, on the rings (9.55) and on the vault (9.15).  In the next week's match against Nebraska, Henderson managed to finish third on the rings with a score 9.625.  Henderson then picked up a second place finish on the high bar (9.4) in the third win over Nebraska.

Fernandez has contributed nicely as well, picking up a second place finish (9.0) against Air Force and bettered that score with a 9.35 versus Nebraska.

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 for the pommel (9.2) and has dominated in every meet since then.  Gore was also honored with a MPSF Gymnast of the Week award for the week of Jan. 31. 

Following the RMO, Gore took first on the pommel in every meet including his 9.7 performance versus Nebraska on Feb. 13.  The pommel horse first place streak ended this last week versus Nebraska though, when Gore finished second on the pommel (9.45), behind teammate Jamie Henderson.  The senior from Pflugerville, Texas has also picked up three other first place finishes last week (two on parallel bars and high bar) to go along with two second place finishes and one third place finish on the season.

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.  “Jonathan is a young, up-and-comer.  He is very aggressive in his routines and he could be the future of USA Gymnastics.”

In Friday night’s all-around, Horton finished eighth with a score of 51.181 and he 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.

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 2003 U.S. Championships and the 2002 Junior Nationals.

“At this point of the season, the Winter Cup is the best competition we’ve had, 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.”

Sooner Notes
Mubarak Abdullah-Simmons- Set career highs on rings (9.25), parallel bars (8.7) and high bar (9.3) vs. Nebraska on Feb. 13.
Taqiy Abdullah-Simmons- Competed in all-around (51.775) for the first time this season vs. Nebraska on Feb. 20.
Brian Carr- Set career high on vault (9.3) vs. Nebraska on Feb. 13.
Kyle Fernandez-  Set season high on rings (9.35) vs. Nebraska on Feb 20.
Michael Gehart- Did not see action vs. Nebraska.
Josh Gore- Took first place on parallel bars (9.45) and second on pommel (9.45) vs. Nebraska on Feb. 20.
David Henderson-  Took second on the high bar (9.4) vs. Nebraska on Feb. 20.
Jamie Henderson-  Won the pommel horse (9.5) vs. Nebraska on Feb. 20.
Jonathan Horton- Took first on the rings (9.825 and 9.625) the last two weeks vs. Nebraska.
David Iammatteo- Won the floor exercise (9.35 and 9.325) the last two weeks vs. Nebraska.
Jacob Messina- Took third in the all-around (52.875) vs. Nebraska on Feb. 20.
James Myers- Set a career high on the floor exercise (9.05) vs. Nebraska on Feb. 13.
Brian Trause- Set season high on the pommel horse (9.35) vs. Nebraska on Feb. 13. 
Joseph Weaver- Set career high on floor exercise (8.85) vs. Nebraska on Feb. 20.

Horton and Gore Named MPSF Gymnasts of The Week
Freshman Jonathan Horton and senior Josh Gore were named Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Gymnasts of the Week when the MPSF released all of its Gymnasts of the Week for the month of January and the first week of February.

Gore received his honor for the week of January 31 after the Air Force meet in which he won the pommel horse (9.5), finished second on the parallel bars (9.4) and placed fourth on the high bar (9.1).  All of the scores were season highs for the senior from Pflugerville, Texas.  It was the second tme in his career that Gore has been named MPSF Gymnast of the Week.

Horton was named the Gymnast of the Week for the week of February 7, following his performace at the Winter Cup in Las Vegas, Nev.  At the Cup, Horton tied for first on the floor (8.95) and finished fourth on the vault (8.975) and earned a spot on the 2005 U.S. Senior National Team.  It was the second time in two years for Horton to be named to the National Team.  Fellow freshman Taqiy Abdullah-Simmons and assistant coach Guard Young joined Horton on last year’s Senior National Team.

2005 Sooners in a Familiar Spot -- At The Top
In the Feb. 13 meet with Nebraska, OU posted a score of 224.050,  the highest in the nation this season and the second highest 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.  On March 6, 2004, OU shattered the previous record of 223.500 set by the 2003 Sooners with a 225.200 versus then No. 1 Illinois.  OU currently owns the two best tallies and six of the top 10 scores.  Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan and Illinois are the only other members in the top 25. 

“The scary thing is that despite the fact that we recorded the second highest score in NCAA history, we still are not where we need to be on the floor exercise and on the vault," said OU head coach Mark Williams.   "Because of some small but nagging injuries, we have not been able to put the best personnel at 100 percent into each competition.  We are still hopeful to get those guys back to true form and be a lot stronger and balanced in the upcoming weeks leading up to the postseason.”

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.

Individually on the parallel bars that night, Taqiy Abdullah-Simmons set a career high with a score of 9.4, while Josh Gore and Jonathan Horton tied their career highs with a 9.4 and a 9.45, respectively.

MPSF Championships
The University of Oklahoma will host this year's Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Championships from March 25-26 at the Lloyd Noble Center.  The team finals will take place on Friday, March 25, at 7 p.m., and will be followed on Saturday with the individual event finals at 2 p.m. 

The last time OU hosted the MPSF Championships was during the 1999 season.  The Sooners won their first of five straight conference titles in Norman that year and finished second in the MPSF last season.



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