NORMAN – Sooners past and present are set to take center stage this week to represent the Oklahoma’s men’s gymnastics program at the annual P&G Championships in Anaheim, Calif.
Competition begins Thursday at 3 p.m. CT with the junior division before the senior division caps the opening day at 9:30 p.m. CT. The top 15 competitors will secure a place on the U.S. National Team, with the top six earning a coveted spot on the World Team.
Junior Yul Moldauer and sophomore Matt Wenske will represent OU in the senior division, while freshman Alexei Vernyi will compete in his first meet as a Sooner in the junior session with an opportunity to advance. Former Sooners Allan Bower, Alex Naddour, Kanji Oyama, Alex Powarzynski, Michael Reid and Colin Van Wicklen will also compete at the senior level.
“It’s the re-ranking of our Senior National Team based on the two-day competition at the P&G Championships,” OU head coach Mark Williams said. “It’s a relatively young group. We have had a lot of turnover from the 2016 Olympic Games, so the field is kind of wide open. Based on some of the things Allan Bower, Colin Van Wicklen and Yul Moldauer have done, I certainly expect they will have the chance to be on our National Team again and have an outside shot to be on the World Team.”
A recent graduate, Van Wicklen served as the team captain of the 2017 national championship Sooners and said having so many OU alumni at the P&G Championships speaks volumes to the success of the program.
“We’ve had Olympians from OU at the last couple Olympics,” he said. “I think it comes from the culture that Mark Williams has established here and the preparation that he bestows upon us. We always go out there feeling like we are the most prepared and confident team.”
Moldauer said that despite the event being an individual competition, having the opportunity to compete alongside his teammates will help him remain confident in reaching his goals.
“We have such a big group, so it’s going to be pretty easy compared to other years,” Moldauer explained. “This is more of an individual event and having a good group of guys like Colin, Allan, Alex, Matt and Alexei, it’s going to feel like a team competition. This is a big meet for some of us because we can make the Senior National Team. A lot of the guys have dreams of making it. This will keep us focused and improve how we compete individually and in the regular season.”
For Vernyi, the transition to becoming a Sooner has helped him prepare physically and mentally for the P&G Championships. The newcomer qualified for the event through his club team at the Junior Olympic Nationals. Once the Cypress, Texas, native finished his senior year of high school in May, Vernyi quickly adapted to OU in order to train.
“I finished the rest of my school year and started classes here, got into the training program and did the summer stuff the rest of the guys were doing,” Vernyi said. “I got back in my routines very quickly to get in shape for P&Gs. The first month was probably trying to get used to training here and with these guys and getting acclimated to the coaching. Most of July was trying to get in shape and preparing for the event. It ramped up really quickly for me.”
Although Vernyi will begin competition in the junior session, he will have the opportunity to qualify into the senior session on Saturday.
“That’s my biggest goal, trying to get up with the seniors and get to the next level,” he added.
Thursday’s portion of the senior session will be broadcast on the Olympic Channel, while coverage of Saturday’s finals will air on NBCSN at 8 p.m. CT.