Sooners' Title Defense Begins at Air Force

Athletics Communications
By Athletics Communications
University of Oklahoma
West Virginia
 Oklahoma at No. 11 Air Force
Jan. 20 | 6 p.m. CT | Colorado Springs, Colo. | Center Gym

Ranking NR  No. 11
Season High NA 389.950


Oklahoma begins its hopes of another title run on Saturday, as the preseason-No. 1 Sooners head west to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., to face the 11th-ranked Falcons. In his 19th season at the helm of OU men’s gymnastics, OU head coach Mark Williams and his team are searching for a fourth-consecutive NCAA Title in 2018, as they have gone 1,371 days without a loss. Air Force finished 4th out of six teams at their season opening Rocky Mountain Open and enter this weekend at No. 11 in the nation.

Oklahoma made history in 2017, becoming just the fourth team since 1938 to win three straight national titles. The Sooners’ perfect 26-0 2017 campaign marked 81 straight wins for Williams and his team, making it 11 all-time titles for the Oklahoma men’s gymnastics program and eight under Williams. OU finished with seven All-Americans who notched a total of 22 honors. 

Oklahoma also opened up tits campaign with Air Force in 2017, earning a score of 433.200, which wound up as the squad’s third-highest score of the season. Then-senior Allan Bower posted meet-highs on pommel horse and still rings, while Yul Moldauer scored a 15.000 on rings and led both teams with a 15.500 on high bar.

Despite losing three All-Americans - seniors Allan Bower, Thao Hoang and Colin van Wicklen - OU returns quite the talent pool in 2018. Junior Yul Moldauer is coming off a 2017 campaign where he earned individual national titles in floor exercise and still rings, in addition to All-America nods on vault, parallel bars, high bar and all-around. Now a senior, Hunter Justus earned All-America honors in both rings and parallel bars in 2017, and Reese Rickett and Genki Suzuki were All-Americans in rings and high bar, respectively.

The Sooners have won or finished first in every meet they have competed in since placing second at the 2014 NCAA team finals. In that span they have racked up 81 victories, the most consecutive wins in program history and the most since piling up 52 wins from 2002 to 2004. The streak is also the current longest in any NCAA sport.

Junior Yul Moldauer has made his mark on the OU record books and will continue his historic collegiate career when the Sooners kick of their season on Saturday. Moldauer is a three-time individual national champion and became just the second freshman to ever win the all-around title in 2016. In 2017, he added another pair of titles on floor and still rings. His three titles rank fourth all-time at OU behind current assistant coach Steven Legendre (6), and Olympians Jonathan Horton (6) and Jake Dalton (4).

Williams’ squad returns four All-Americans from last year’s title team. Senior Hunter Justus (PB, SR), redshirt senior Reese Rickett (SR), junior Genki Suzuki (HB) and junior Yul Moldauer (AA, FX, HB, PB, SR, VT) all earned All-America status a year ago. The Sooners also return junior Levi Anderson who was a 2016 All-American on high bar.

The Sooners welcome a pair of talented freshmen for 2018 in Gage Dyer and Alexei Vernyi. Vernyi finished second on floor, third in the all-around and also turned in top-eight performances on parallel bars and still rings at the 2016 P&G Championships. At the 2016 Men's Junior Olympic National Championships, Vernyi took home the floor title and also placed second in the all-around. Additionally, he finished in the top eight on parallel bars, still rings and high bar. Dyer is a four-time Oklahoma state champion and in 2017 won the all-around at the Region 3 Elite Team Cup. He took second in the same event in 2016.

Oklahoma has one more road match before its first home meet of the season, as they will travel to Ann Arbor, Mich. to take on Michigan the following Saturday, Jan. 27 at 1 p.m. Last year, the Wolverines finished fifth at the NCAA Qualifier, and they were bested by Oklahoma 430.050-400.800 in the regular season.