Mark Williams has become a household name in the world of gymnastics. The Sooner head coach has had success at every level of the sport and was recently inducted as one of the members of the 2015 class into the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame, just another testament to the outstanding coaching he has done with the national team and the OU men’s gymnastics squad.
With three NCAA Championships already in the books, the University of Oklahoma men’s gymnastics program was no stranger to success prior to Williams’ arrival. However, Williams has established OU as the nation’s elite program with nine national titles in the past 16 years, claiming crowns in 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2015, 2016, 2017 and most recently in 2018.
Williams was named the head coach at Oklahoma in 2000 and has positioned the program as a national contender every year with an overall mark of 470-36 (.928) in 19 seasons at the helm.
In addition to the nine national titles, the Sooners have recorded seven national runner-up finishes under Williams and other gaudy numbers that include 39 individual national champions, 217 All-America honors, 16 conference team championships, 68 individual conference titles and three Nissen Emery Award winners (Steven Legendre in 2011, Jonathan Horton in 2008 and Daniel Furney in 2003), presented annually to the nation’s top senior gymnast.
Williams has also made an impact on the international level, most recently serving as the head coach for Team USA at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Williams guided Team USA to a fifth place finish while two members of the team brought home three individual medals.
He also served as the U.S. Men’s National Team head coach at the 2014 World Championships in Nanning, China. Williams guided a squad that included former Sooners Jake Dalton and Alex Naddour to a bronze medal, marking the first world team medal as the head coach of the USA national team.
Williams is in the midst of one of his best stretches at Oklahoma. In 2018, OU won a historic fourth consecutive national title and 12th championship overall. The team became the third program in NCAA history to win at least four national championships in a row and tied Penn State for most titles all time. Williams also tied Gene Wettstone for most NCAA titles by a head coach with nine. Yul Moldauer won four individual national championships including the all-around title, tying an NCAA record for most individual national crowns at an NCAA championship. Five OU gymnasts totaled 11 All-America honors
The Sooners finshed with a third consecutive unbeaten season in 2017, their sixth MPSF title in a row and their third straight NCAA Championship. Sophomore Yul Moldauer shined in individual competition. He claimed national titles in floor and still rings, his second and third career national titles. Seven Sooners collected 22 All-America honors at the conclusion of their historic season.
In 2016 the Sooners completed a second straight unbeaten season and capped it with a fifth straight MPSF Conference title and the program's 10th NCAA national title. Colin Van Wicklen won the national title on floor and freshman Yul Moldauer became just the second freshman in NCAA history to win the national title in the all-around. Oklahoma posted four of the nine highest team totals in NCAA history during the regular season and in total, seven Sooners finished the year with 16 All-America honors.
The 2015 Sooners may have been Williams' best squad yet. The Sooners' remarkable run started in the regular season when, in back-to-back meets, they broke the NCAA single-meet team scoring record. Williams would then lead Oklahoma to its fourth consecutive MPSF title, with five Sooners claiming individual conference titles. OU would roll that momentum in the NCAA finals, claiming the ninth national championship in program history. Michael Squires would make it three consecutive national titles on still rings and Michael Reid claimed his first national championship on pommel horse. In total, the Sooners took home 11 All-America honors and Williams was named the 2015 National Coach of the Year.
During OU's unbeated run in 2015 and 2016, the Sooners have recorded eight of the 10 highest team total in NCAA history, including the record of 457.300. OU is the only team in history to top the 450-point mark, having done so five times, all in the last two years.
At the collegiate level in 2014 the Sooners won their 21st conference title, and have now captured the title in 12 of the 15 years during Williams’ tenure, including each of the last three seasons. Williams led the Sooners to a runner-up finish at the NCAA Championship, extending OU’s active streak of top three finishes at the championships to 14 seasons. The Sooners claimed three of the six event national champions with Michael Squires defending his title on the rings and Alec Robin winning both the floor exercise and vault national championships. Oklahoma picked up nine All-America accolades at the championships and Williams was named West Region Coach of the Year for the third time in as many seasons.
The Sooners collected their 20th conference title in 2013. In a year where many predicted OU’s incredible run of 12 straight top-three finishes to come to an end, Williams led the Sooners to a runner-up finish at the NCAA Championship. Oklahoma earned nine All-America honors and Michael Squires became the first Sooner to win a national title on rings since 2008. Five different OU gymnasts won conference titles, the most in one year in program history. Williams was named the MPSF Coach of the Year and the West Region Coach of the Year for the second straight season. On the national level, OU alums Dalton and Legendre each captured silver medals in event finals at the 2013 World Championships in Antwerp, Belgium. Dalton finished second on the floor exercise and Legendre placed second on the vault.
Oklahoma claimed its 10th conference title under Williams in 2012 along with its 10th top-two finish since 2001 by claiming second at the NCAA Championship. Jake Dalton became the first gymnast in OU history to earn All-America honors on six events in one season while claiming NCAA titles on all-around and parallel bars. Dalton also won conference titles on all-around, parallel bars, high bar and rings. Williams was named the MPSF Coach of the Year along with the Coach of the Year for the West Region. 2012 also marked the Olympics, with the Sooners making their presence known on the national squad. Five of the eight members of Team USA came from Oklahoma at the London Olympics.
Williams was named the assistant coach of Team USA at the 2011 World Championships in Tokyo, Japan. Of the six gymnasts in the American lineup, four were Sooners. Team USA featured current Sooner Jake Dalton along with letterwinners Jonathan Horton, Steven Legendre and Alex Naddour. The United States earned bronze at the international event and qualified as a country to compete in the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
The Sooners saw continued success in 2011 with senior Steven Legendre being the program’s seventh Nissen-Emery Award winner. OU also added three individual NCAA Champions (Jake Dalton; floor and vault, Alex Naddour; pommel horse) and 12 All-Americans to its extensive list of accomplishments. The team was runner-up in the team final, which marks the fourth time under Williams that the Sooners have finished in second.
Oklahoma finished the 2010 season as the MPSF champions and third place finishers at the NCAA National Championships. Legendre captured an individual national title on floor. Naddour claimed the pommel national title, while the Sooners earned 11 more All-American honors.
Half of Team USA at the 2010 World Championships was represented by the Sooner program. Legendre, Horton and Chris Brooks competed in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Horton won the bronze medal in the all-around, while Brooks and Legendre finish in the top eight in high bar and floor, respectively.
In 2009, Legendre won national titles in the all-around, floor exercise and vault. The Sooners finished third and for the second year in a row claimed 11 All-America honors. Oklahoma would also represent half of the USA men’s gymnastics team that would compete at the 2009 World Championships. Two of the three Sooners would make the event finals on floor (Legendre) and high bar (Horton).
The 2008 Sooners won the eighth national title in the program’s history while Horton won an individual national title on still rings and Legendre won national titles on the floor exercise and vault. In addition to Horton and Legendre who combined for six All-America honors, OU posted the second highest total All-America honors in the nation with 11.
In 2008, Horton won the silver medal in the men’s high bar finals at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. It was the second medal for Horton, as he help guide the U.S. Gymnastics Team to a bronze medal.
After a second place finish at the NCAA Championships in 2004, Oklahoma won two-straight team titles in 2005 and 2006, marking the second time during Williams’ tenure that the team claimed the top spot two seasons in a row.
In 2004, Williams was again on the world scene, where he helped guide Guard Young, then an OU assistant coach, to the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece. Young had been coached by Williams since he was 11 years old and, at the age of 27, Young achieved his goal of competing for the U.S. at the Olympics with Williams at his side. Not only did Young compete in the games, but his performance helped the team earn silver, the first team medal for the U.S. since 1984.
Upon arrival in Norman in 2000, Williams made an instant impact on the program. The Sooners placed second at the 2001 NCAA Championships before winning back-to-back titles in 2002 and 2003, going 54-1 in the two seasons. Daniel Furney became the first gymnast under Williams to win the coveted Nissen Emery Award in 2003.
"Mark is not only a good coach but a good friend," said Young. "He was able to take a young boy who could not even do the splits and make him into an Olympic silver medalist. One of Mark's strengths as a coach is his ability to unite a team. His dedication to the team is something I respect and aspire toward."
In his 30 years as a professional gymnastics coach, Williams has guided gymnasts to the Olympic, World Championship, Pan American Games and University Games teams. He has also coached numerous senior and junior U.S. national team members.
"As a college coach, NCAA competition will always be my first priority," Williams said, "but I also want to encourage those guys who come into the program with aspirations to make the U.S. national team. As a coach, I am committed to making USA Gymnastics training and competition opportunities available to every athlete on my team who wants to compete on a national and international level."
In addition to his coaching prowess, Williams is a nationally and internationally certified judge. He served as the vice president for the U.S. Men's Elite Coaches Association, as a member of the Men's Program Committee for USA Gymnastics (USAG) and on the USAG Board of Directors. Williams was a member of the 2000 Olympic Selection Committee. He also served as a personal coach on the U.S. team which competed at the 2001, 2002 World Championships and the Chinichi Cup.
Williams' success doesn't stop at the NCAA level. He has earned the respect of the gymnastics nation by coaching at every level of the sport, from beginners to Olympians.
Although Williams has returned gymnastics at OU to the top of the sport, another one of his primary goals as head coach was to revitalize OU's presence on the international gymnastics scene. With Horton at the 2008 Olympic Games and Young at the 2004 Athens Games, Williams has achieved just that.
Outside of coaching on the collegiate level, Williams was on the international scene at the 2008 Summer Beijing Olympics when Horton was selected to represent his country. Horton did his part in leading the underdog U.S. team to a bronze medal, while collecting a individual silver medal on the high bar.
Williams' vast experience has been recognized at the highest levels of the sport, one of the most notable was when he was asked to serve as the assistant coach for Team USA at the 1996 Olympic Games. In July of 1999, Williams was head coach of the USA's Pan American Games Team which claimed the silver medal. He coached at both the 1994 and 1995 World Championships, as well as the 1987 Junior International, 1991-92 DTB Cups, 1991 World University Games and 2000 International Team Cup. Williams was also named to the Lyons Township High School Hall of Fame in 2009.
As a gymnast, assistant coach or head coach, Williams has been a part of eight NCAA Championship teams. A high school standout from La Grange Park, Ill., he went on to compete at Nebraska (1977-1980). He received All-America honors on the high bar (1978) in addition to the two national championship titles he earned with his team (1979, 1980). He then helped the Cornhuskers to another title in 1981 as a graduate assistant coach. Ten years later, Williams was on the coaching staff that produced OU's third National Championship in 1991.
"My stint as a collegiate athlete was one of the best times in my life," Williams said. "The excitement of being part of a great team is indescribable. There are very few opportunities for gymnasts to feel that unity outside a university setting. I've coached hundreds of athletes in my career and not one has ever come to me with any regrets about choosing college gymnastics. I've been a coach at all levels and all have their benefits, but to me, the combination of athletics and education, plus the support and camaraderie of a team, make NCAA gymnastics something special."
Williams graduated from Nebraska with a bachelor's degree in secondary education/English and completed his master's degree in journalism at OU with a 4.0.
Williams was married to his wife, Susan, in May of 1998. The couple welcomed their first child, son Cooper, in 2007.
med their first child, son Cooper, in 2007.