Sooners Narrowly Edge No. 2 Stanford
PALO ALTO, Calif. – The University of Oklahoma men’s gymnastics team took its No. 1 ranking on the road and posted a team score of 432.300 to defeat No. 2 Stanford by less than three tenths in collegiate gymnastics’ most highly anticipated regular season meet of the year Saturday night.
“A little bit too close for comfort,” head coach Mark Williams said. “When you make mistakes you allow teams to get back in. The guys actually did a pretty good job. We had five misses which only puts as at an 83 percent hit rate and it’s difficult to win championships when you makes those kinds of mistakes.”
The Sooners’ big win came just hours after sophomore Yul Moldauer won the 2017 AT&T American Cup in Newark, N.J., competing for the U.S. Senior Men’s National Team. Oklahoma took the Cardinal’s best punches all night as Stanford, which was without its top gymnast as well, topped its previous season high by more than eight points and scored 432.050 as a team. Both teams competed at a high level, as Oklahoma’s team total was just nine tenths off its season high.
In addition to the team win the Sooners took home five individual event titles, including the all-around, and posted the highest team score on four of the six events. Senior co-captain Allan Bower won the all-around crown with a mark of 86.950 and also won pommel horse with a 15.300. Senior Thao Hoang took the rings title with a 14.750, freshman Tanner Justus won vault with a 15.100 and freshman Peter Daggett claimed parallel bars with a 14.950.
The Sooners started the night on the always perilous pommel horse, but bucked their early-season trend of slow starts by posting a team mark of 71.850. That score was OU’s second highest all year and left it just .150 behind Stanford, which started on floor. Bower’s 15.300 anchored Oklahoma’s effort and was just one tenth off his career high, which he set under the old scoring rules. Sophomore Genki Suzuki also came within one tenth of career high (also set in the old system), scoring 14.800.
Oklahoma was good in the second rotation as well. The Sooners, historically dominant on floor, posted a 72.550 to best their previous season high by more than a point. All five competitors scored at least 14.350 with Bower again leading the way with a 14.850. Sophomore Levi Anderson scored 14.500, Hoang posted a 14.450, junior Hunter Justus notched a 14.400 and his younger brother Tanner hit for 14.350.
“Horse was very good. I was happy with the horse team,” Williams said. “We still had problems on floor and the scores didn’t reflect that completely, but those are things I see and know we have to get right.”
“These next two weekends will be important for us before conference. I feel like we have a really good team when we put it all together.”
- Head Coach Mark Williams
Entering rotation three with a lead of more than one full point, Oklahoma went five-for-five on vault. Tanner Justus led the way with a career-high 15.100, a mark just one tenth off the highest score in collegiate gymnastics this year. Senior Alex Powarzynski continued his hot streak, turning in another vault of 14.900 to tie the season high he set last week. OU also got a 14.600 from senior Todd Dowdy and a 14.500 from Bower. Hoang scored 14.250 in the leadoff position. At the halfway point, the Sooners led 217.750-214.900.
Oklahoma posted yet another team event score in excess of 72.000 on rings in the fourth period. Four of the Sooners’ five competitors stuck their dismounts and all five scored at least 14.200. Hoang led the way to a 72.350 with his meet-leading and season-high 14.750. Powarzynski continued his hot streak with a 14.550, Daggett tied his season high with a 14.450, Bower scored 14.400 and senior Reese Rickett anchored with a 14.200.
High bar saw the Sooners score 72.000, this time on the back of Anderson’s career-best 15.200. All five Sooners stuck their dismounts with Suzuki and senior co-captain Colin Van Wicklen posting matching scores of 14.700. Yee led off the rotation with a 14.300. With just one rotation remaining, the Sooners led by 3.7 points.
The Cardinal made its charge in the final rotation, posting a 73.650 on high bar, the best team score in the nation this season by more than a full point. Oklahoma scored its lowest team mark of the year on parallel bars, but its 70.200 was enough to fend off Stanford. Daggett’s 14.950 was the difference for Oklahoma. The sophomore blew past his previous career high by seven tenths to take the event crown. The Sooners also got a 14.800 from Bower and a 14.400 from Powarzynski.
“I don’t think we lost our composure by any means,” Williams said. “The guys still did good gymnastics and we fought through the end. There were places we could have given it away and we didn’t. I’m proud of the guys’ effort and this is a good learning experience for us.”
The Sooners narrow win preserved a winning streak of nearly three years. The last time Oklahoma did not emerge from a meet in first place was at the 2014 NCAA championships. In that span OU has claimed back-to-back national titles and racked up 61 victories, the most consecutive in program history.
Oklahoma’s schedule doesn’t get any easier down the stretch. The Sooners return to Norman to host No. 3 Ohio State at McCasland on March 11 and then host No. 4 Illinois on March 18 in a meet that will serve as senior night. Both remaining home meets are slated for a 6:50 p.m. CT start.
“These next two weekends will be important for us before conference,” Williams said. “I feel like we have a really good team when we put it all together.”
Tickets for OU's upcoming home meets are available for purchase online or by calling the OU Athletics Tickets Office at (405) 325-2424 or toll-free at (800) 456-GoOU.