NORMAN – The two-time defending national champion Oklahoma men’s gymnastics team held its annual intrasquad Saturday afternoon inside the Sam Viersen Gymnastics Center. The meet marked the first time the 2016-17 Sooners performed their new routines in front of fans in preparation for the season.
“We didn’t have our full complement of athletes healthy so we had to kind of make some adjustments to the lineup,” head coach Mark Williams said. “The guys came out and put in a good effort and this is a good starting point for us. Some of the news guys got some experience out there competing, and as the meet progressed we built a little more confidence.”
"The guys came out and put in a good effort and this is a good starting point for us."
- Head Coach Mark Williams
Competing in front of live judges, Oklahoma sent up six gymnasts on all six events, following Olympic order.
The Sooners, historically dominant on floor, were a bit shaky to start the meet but settled in and got strong routines from several gymnasts. Freshman Matt Wenske led the way in scoring with a 14.750. A highly touted prospect, Wenske was the 2015 Junior Olympic National Champion on floor, parallel bars and in the all-around.
“We were ok on floor,” Williams said. “We had a couple mistakes. I think we are better on the event than we showed today. We had a few too many hops and little things. Generally that’s going to be a good event for us.”
Oklahoma was strong on both pommel horse and rings Saturday. Senior and team captain Allan Bower put together an impressive 14.25 on the horse while junior Hunter Justus led the way on rings with a 14.65. Bower and Justus were both All-Americans in 2016.
“Pommel horse for us today was not too bad,” Williams said. “We have struggled a bit in practice in staying on. I think we ended up with five of the six guys hitting and that’s not too bad. Rings was decent. Our positions and holds can be a little better but we should be ok there.”
Sophomore and 2016 All-American on high bar, Levi Anderson led off the Sooners’ rotation on vault with a strong 14.75 and Bower added a 14.95 of his own. The Sooners then moved to parallel bars, which proved to be OU’s strongest rotation of the day with several high scores, including a 15.100 from sophomore Yul Moldauer. Moldauer was the 2016 NCAA Champion in the all-around and placed second on p-bars at the 2016 NCAA Championships.
“Vaulting, I was really happy with Levi Anderson who did a big vault today and started things off really well there,” Williams said. “Parallel bars was probably our strongest event today. A lot of sticks and a lot of really good routines today. We finally got it all together there and went six for six.”
OU finished the day with six high-energy routines on high bar, with Bower leading the way with a 14.400, to cap the meet.
“On high bar we need to work on angles a little bit, but we did ok there,” Williams said. “We finished up okay in terms of everyone’s health I think so we’re looking forward to a little break time and then the start of the season.”
Williams was particularly proud of the effort of senior Alex Powarzynski.
“Alex put on a pretty good show today,” Williams said. “He went three for four. He just did a couple events last year, and he did four events for us today so I was happy to see that. He did a nice p-bars routine and high bar routine. I’m excited to see him as a senior starting to help out more.”
With just more than a month until the season opener, Williams is pleased with where his team is, but knows they still have work to do.
“We’re not the national champions anymore,” Williams said. “Guys have to understand there’s a lot of work to be done. We have some things to fix.”
Oklahoma kicks off its 2017 campaign with its annual trip to Colorado Springs for the 2017 Rocky Mountain Open on Jan. 14 to compete against Air Force and Nebraska. The Sooners’ home opener is set for Saturday, Jan. 28 against Michigan.
Season tickets for Sooners' home slate are on sale now. Fans can purchase tickets by calling the University of Oklahoma Ticket Office at (405) 325-2424 or toll free at (800) 456-GoOU. Tickets can also be ordered online by clicking here.