No. 3 Sooners Set to Host No. 1 Ohio State

Athletics Communications
By Athletics Communications
University of Oklahoma
MARCH 03, 2005

NORMAN, Okla. -- The No. 3 Sooners will host top-ranked Ohio State this Saturday, March 5, at the Lloyd Noble Center at 7 p.m. (CST).  The two teams have scored the nation's two highest team scores this season. 
The Sooners have the nation's best score and the second best in NCAA history under the current scoring system, 224.050, against Nebraska on Feb. 13.  Ohio State's high score, 223.975, also came at the expense of Nebraska, on Feb. 18 in Columbus, Ohio.

The Sooners come into this weekend's matchup riding a four-meet winning streak, including last week's win (220.175-216.625) over No. 8 Minnesota.

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Ohio State also comes into the meet with a four-meet win streak, including a Feb. 26 win over Penn State.

"Ohio State will be an exciting competition with two of the top three teams in the nation," said OU head coach Mark Williams.  "Ohio State has always been a formidable opponent and we are excited for the opportunity to face them.  We look forward to a great meet."

Both teams have seen time this season at the nation's top spot.  OU opened the season ranked No. 1 in the GymInfo pre-season poll before dropping to seven and eventually climbing back up to its current No. 3 ranking.  Ohio State began the season in the fourth spot and jumped to first in the third week of competition.  The Buckeyes held the top spot for three weeks before being overtaken by current No. 1 Illinois and then retaking the spot in the latest rankings.

The Buckeyes are led by senior Randy Monahan and freshman DJ Bucher.  Monahan, who finished first on the floor (9.55) and on the rings (9.725) against Penn State, is ranked first on the rings.  Bucher is the nation's top gymnast on the parallel bars and won the event against Penn State for the third consecutive time with a 9.725.

Ohio State is coached by Miles Avery, who is in his eighth year at the helm.  Under Avery’s guidance, Ohio State has produced one NCAA title, two Big Ten titles, three NCAA all-around champions and 12 All-Americans. 

Next Friday, the Sooners return home to the Lloyd Noble Center to take on the current No. 6 team in the nation, Iowa, on March 11 at 7 p.m.

Minnesota Recap
The University of Oklahoma men’s gymnastics team got exactly what it was looking for on Saturday, Feb. 26 at Minnesota, a solid score on the road.   The No. 3 Sooners won at No. 9 Minnesota, 220.175-216.625, led by individual event wins by senior Josh Gore, junior Jamie Henderson and freshman Jonathan Horton.

After winning big at home against Nebraska with the second highest score in NCAA history (224.05), under the current scoring system, OU head coach Mark Williams was looking for a high score on the road to possibly improve the team’s national ranking.

The Sooners were able to take four of the six team events, winning on the floor, still rings, parallel bars and high bar.

“It was our highest score away from home, but we are still looking for a better tally on the road where our ranking will improve,“ commented Williams.  “It will be tough for us to move up in next week’s national rankings.  I still think our performance is not quite where it needs to be, especially since we struggled on the pommel horse today. 

“On the bright side, we had some good things happen today with the improvements we made on the floor.  Jonathan (Horton) had a good meet.  He competed in the all-around and did great on five events.”

Horton led the Sooners by taking second place in the all-around with a career high 55.10 that placed him behind fellow U.S. Senior National Team member, Guillermo Alvarez (55.550).  The freshman also took first place honors on the still rings with an impressive 9.8.  Horton also tied a career high on the floor exercise and the vault with a 9.5 and 9.3, respectively, both good for second place.

Gore continued his recent dominance on the parallel bars with a 9.375 to win the event.  Joining him on the first place stand was Jamie Henderson who recorded a 9.425 on the high bar.  

“Overall, I am pretty satisfied with our effort, especially considering it was on the road,” added Williams. “I am proud of the guys and now we have to prepare for our next meet.  I hope we continue to improve as the season winds down and we enter the postseason, especially with Ohio State coming to town.  If we expect to compete with them, we must be consistent on all six events.  Having a potential No. 2 versus No. 3 meet should make for an exciting competition.”

Revisiting Ohio State 2004
The Sooners and the Buckeyes last met up with each other on Feb. 13, 2004 in a triangular with California at Columbus, Ohio.  The then-No. 4 Sooners defeated both Cal and then-No. 1 Ohio State with a score of 219.600.

It was the 100th win in Oklahoma head coach Mark Williams’ career.  Oklahoma went on to finish as national runners-up, while Ohio State finished fourth at the NCAA team championships.

Ohio State was runner-up to Oklahoma's national championships in 2002 and 2003.  Oklahoma was the runner-up when Ohio State won the championship in 2001.

Changes in the Rankings
Starting with the Feb. 28 GymInfo rankings, scores used to determine the rankings change from total season average to a three score average, thus the multiple changes in the rankings.  The three score average is the average of a team's three highest regular-season scores, regardless of competition location.

Beginning with the March 28 rankings, the score determination will change yet again, GymInfo will switch to the national qualifying average.  The national qualifiying average or the NAQ, is computed by selecting the four highest regular-season scores, counting no more than two home meets, will be determined and the highest of these scores will be dropped.  The conference meet score will be doubled and added to the three remaining regular-season scores.  The average of these five scores, which includes the doubled conference score, will be the national qualifying average.”  (The conference score will count 40% and the regular season scores will count 60%).  For an individual, his score in the conference event finals can replace a regular season score.

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.  The Sooners have dropped to No. 4 since the those rankings were released.

Individually, the Sooners have four different competitors in the GymInfo top 25 polls led by the junior Jamie at 10 and freshman Jonathan Horton at 12 .  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.

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 four other first place finishes last week (two each 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- Did not compete against Minnesota.
Taqiy Abdullah-Simmons- Set a career high in all-around (52.950) vs. Minnesota.
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- Returned to action against Minnesota on the rings (9.050) and vault (8.950).
Josh Gore- Took first place on parallel bars (9.375) vs. Minnesota.
David Henderson-  Took second on the high bar (9.350) and rings (9.575) vs. Minnesota.
Jamie Henderson-  Won the high bar (9.425) and took second on the pommel horse vs. Minnesota.
Jonathan Horton- Took first on the rings (9.8), second on floor  (9.5), parallel bars (9.2) and all-around (51.100) and third on the vault (9.3) in win over Minnesota.
David Iammatteo- Did not compete against Minnesota.
Jacob Messina- Took third on the floor exercise (9.3) vs. Minnesota.
James Myers- Set a career high on vault (9.25) vs. Minnesota.
Brian Trause- Finished third on the parallel bars (9.1) vs. Minnesota. 
Joseph Weaver- Tied his career high on floor exercise (8.85) vs. Minnesota.

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.  The following week against Minnesota, Henderson picked up two second place finishes, on the rings (9.575) and on the high bar (9.350).  He is currently ranked No. 14 on the rings.

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.

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.

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.”



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