Sooner R3ign: OU Wins Third Straight Title
|Ind. National Champs|
|FX||Yul Moldauer (OU)||14.900|
|PH||Stephen Nedorosci (PSU)||14.900|
|SR||Yul Moldauer (OU)||14.950|
|VT||Anthony McCallum (MICH)||15.100|
|PB||Akash Modi (STAN)||15.300|
|HB||Robert Neff (STAN)||14.850|
|AA||Akash Modi (STAN)||87.900|
|OU Team Highs|
|VT||Colin Van Wicklen||15.100|
WEST POINT, N.Y. – Back-to-back-to-back. Once again the Sooner dynasty r3igns over the gymnastics world.
Saturday night at Christl Arena in West Point, N.Y., the University of Oklahoma men's gymnastics team etched its legacy in the history books, notching a team score of 431.950 to claim its third consecutive NCAA national championship.
The Sooners are just the fourth team in history to accomplish the feat since the NCAA began holding gymnastics championships in 1938, and the first since Nebraska did so from 1979 to 1983.
The title is Oklahoma's 11th overall, giving it the second most in NCAA history (Penn State, 12), and the eighth during the 18-year tenure of head coach Mark Williams. Williams is now tied with his old head coach from Nebraska, Francis Allen, for the second-most all-time by a head coach (Gene Wettstone, PSU, 9).
In addition to the team title, Yul Moldauer won individual titles on floor exercise and still rings Saturday night and seven Sooners won a total of 22 All-America honors.
Oklahoma's championship caps a third straight perfect season. The Sooners have won every meet they have competed in since finishing second at the 2014 NCAA Championships. In that span OU has racked up a program-best 76 straight victories while claiming three national titles, three conference titles and nine individual national titles.
Just as they did in qualifying one night earlier, the Sooners started their night on floor exercise. OU came out of the gates well, notching a team score of 70.950. Moldauer paced the Sooners with his championship-caliber 14.900. Senior co-captains Van Wicklen and Bower backed him up with a pair of strong 14.600s to earn All-America status as well. Starting the night on vault, the most generous event this season, Illinois led after the first rotation by just more than a point.
Oklahoma moved to pommel horse in the second rotation. Always the most difficult event, the Sooners scored a 69.850 and cut a half point off the Illini lead. Bower led the way with a 14.850 to snag All-America honors. Senior co-captain Josh Yee added a 14.250 for OU in his last collegiate horse set while junior Hunter Justus led off with a strong 13.850. After two rotations, and with their most challenging events behind them, the Sooners trailed Illinois by just one point.
Williams' bunch hit the gas pedal on still rings in rotation three. The Sooners' veteran-laden lineup put up a massive 74.000, with every gymnast sticking their dismount, to launch OU into the lead by 3.750 points at the halfway point. Moldauer led the way with a 14.950 to take the event title, Reese Rickett went for 14.800, senior Thao Hoang matched that mark, Hunter Justus hit for 14.750 and Bower logged a 14.700 in the anchor position. All five Sooner competitors earned All-America honors on the event and and placed sixth or better, an unprecedented accomplishment.
The momentum rolled right into vault in rotation four. Four of the five Sooner vaulters topped 14.650 to push OU to a huge 73.100. Bower led the way with a 14.950, while Van Wicklen and Moldauer both hit for 14.850 to earn All-America designation. Freshman Tanner Justus added a 14.700. The Sooners' enormous run through vault and rings pushed them into a lead of 5.600 points heading down the stretch.
Parallel bars proved to be the Sooners' best event of the night. OU put up a 74.100 that bested its previous season high by more than a full point. OU was led by a 15.200 from Bower and a 15.150 from Moldauer. Hunter Justus logged a 14.900 and Van Wicklen hit for 14.500 while senior Alex Powarzynski ended his career with a 14.35. OU's top four all earned All-America honors.
A meet-high 69.950 on high bar capped the win for Oklahoma. Suzuki and Moldauer both registered 14.500s while Van Wicklen anchored the event and night for OU with a 14.350. All three earned All-America status.
Head Coach Mark Williams
Overall thoughts on the night:
“I felt like we were hanging in there in the beginning. We had some good gymnastics on floor and pommel horse, but we also didn't really feel like we were getting things rolling. I didn't feel like we were in jeopardy, but it didn't feel like gymnastics was very easy. Until we got to rings, and that was the turning point for us. I'm just so happy for the guys, like Thao (Hoang), who has been trying to be an All-American for all his four years here. When he landed I knew he had made All-American. Then to have the whole team stick was unbelievable. They were all on the awards stand. I don't know that that has every happened. An entire team on the awards stand. That was certainly the key to our victory.
On tying his old coach and mentor Francis Allen of Nebraska for second all-time with eight national titles as a head coach:
“I would have never known when I was an athlete with him that I would follow in those kind of footsteps. He has been a tremendous mentor to me and I've seen the fantastic teams he's had in the past and its humbling to be mentioned in the same realm as him. I have the most respect for what he did for me and for the teams that he coaches. It's just special and it's something I'll cherish. Certainly next year and in the next couple years I hope to pass him.”
On his senior class:
“They have been through a lot, but it's been amazing. Those guys came in as freshman with expectations of championships and they finished second the first time. After that it was like ‘we're going to work harder and make it happen.'” It's amazing to me and I'm so thrilled for them.”
On the defining moment of the night:
“Rings by far. We were doing okay on floor and pommel horse, but we really hadn't quite gotten the emotions going. To have five guys stick their dismounts? It's already a strong event for us, but that was fun. That was fun.”
“It is fun to be on the podium and to be next to them when they are sticking like that. That is kind of the standard. Those were great routines.”
On Allan Bower:
“He has been amazing. Even though he had some trouble on the last event, he didn't give it away. That's the kind of stuff that we train so long for. To make sure you make it through. You find a way to power on and not give it away for the team. I think I was more proud of that than some of the other stuff we were really hitting. It was something we have done in the mornings just as a possibility. If it comes up you have to be ready to handle that. Allan just listens to all that and he knows how to inspire guys by example.”
Sophomore Yul Moldauer
On winning two individual national titles:
“It feels pretty good but I'm just happy for the team. It was a great night and sending off those seniors? This is a great way to end their senior years.”
On the Sooners' rings rotation:
“We knew once we got to rings and we got five sticks as a team—it was just coasting from there. After that our confidence shot through the roof and we just tried to take it all in.”
On the senior class:
“They mean so much to us. They have taught us what it means to compete at OU and how to be part of the University. It's going to be tough to lose them all, but I'm glad I've had these two years with them and they will be friends for life.”
Senior Co-captain Colin Van Wicklen
On the high bar rotation and finishing the meet for the team:
“That was incredible and for the last five minutes we just kept yelling finish. We have talked about a three-peat for so long and being able to finish it for the team and to seal the victory and run it back—it was an incredible feel that I will remember for the rest of my life.”
On the Sooners' rings rotation:
“We knew we had started a little slow and had to pick it up. The rings guys did absolutely phenomenal. Five hits, five sticks and that really turned the meet around.”
On finishing the season perfect:
“It's more than just being teammates. It's truly a family. I've grown so class to my class. Each and every one of them has stepped up and been a leader for this team. They are a huge reason why we three-peated today.”
Senior Co-captain Allan Bower
On capping the year with a title:
“I couldn't have asked for a better way to go out. We came out and just gave it our all and I'm just on top of the world right now.”
On anchoring the rings rotation:
“One guy stuck after the other. And then another and another. Everyone was saying ‘it's going to come to you.' Colin (Van Wicklen) looked at me told me that it would be there and it was. I stuck it and I turned back and all the guys were—that was just the turning point of the meet and we got on a roll after that. We knew no one would come close to us after that. We had little mistakes here and there but overall it was an amazing experience.”