No. 1 Oklahoma vs. No. 13 California
NORMAN — The No. 1-ranked Oklahoma men’s gymnastics team welcomes No. 13 California to McCasland Field House for its final home meet of the season Saturday, March 10 at 7 p.m. Seniors Hunter Justus and Reese Rickett will be honored as a part of “Senior Night” for their storied careers as Sooners. In its last meet two weeks ago, OU posted its third straight NCAA top score, totalling 429.550 against Navy. Last week, Cal finished fourth at the International Collegiate Challenge in Stanford, Calif. The Golden Bears notched a 384.650, defeating the Canada national team and falling to Michigan, Illinois, Stanford and the Japan national team. The meet will be held in “five-up, five-count” format, meaning all individual scores will count toward the team score and will be televised on FOX Sports Oklahoma.
NOTES AND NUMBERS
The Sooners have won every meet in which they have competed 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. It also stands as the longest current streak among all NCAA Division I sports.
RECAPPING THE LAST MEET
For the third time in as many meets, OU topped its own NCAA season high, becoming the first team to surpass the 420-point mark this season after beating Navy 429.550-401.300. Levi Anderson had a phenomenal meet, posting season highs on all six events on his way to a career-high all-around score of 86.100. In addition to Anderson’s phenomenal performance, the Sooners posted 10 more career-best performances and registered NCAA team season highs on floor (71.850), pommel horse (71.750), parallel bars (72.500) and high bar (71.550).
LAST YEAR VS. CAL
The last time the Sooners faced Cal was at last year’s MPSF Championships in Berkeley, Calif. OU claimed its sixth consecutive conference championship, scoring a 432.200. OU gymnasts claimed five total championships with Yul Moldauer (FX, SR, PB), Matt Wenske (VT) and Levi Anderson (HB) picking up titles. Cal placed third with a 410.100.
THE CHAMP RETURNS
Junior Yul Moldauer has made his mark on the OU record books and continues his storied career this season. Last week, Moldauer won his second straight American Cup, becoming the first gymnast to win back-to-back since former Sooner Jonathan Horton won in 2006 and 2007. The Arvada, Colo., native totaled a 85.964 all-around score, more than 2.500 higher than the runner-up’s mark, finished in the top three on all six events and posted higher than a 14.000 on five of six events. Moldauer is a three-time individual national champion and became just the second freshman to ever win the NCAA all-around title in 2016. In 2017, he added another pair of crowns 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).
Hunter Justus and Reese Rickett will be honored as they compete in their final home meet for the Sooners. Both have won three NCAA team championships at Oklahoma. A four-time All-American, Justus has never missed an NCAA meet in his four seasons at OU. The Cypress, Texas, native earned a spot on the U.S. Senior National Team in 2017 after an eighth-place finish at the Winter Cup. Rickett has been a steady presence on still rings for the Sooners. An All-American in 2017, Rickett was a part of OU’s last three national championship campaigns. At last year’s NCAA finals, the Tomball, Texas, native finished third on still rings.
THE McCASLAND ADVANTAGE
OU has not fallen in a regular season meet at McCasland Field House in nearly 11 years. Its last loss in Norman came on March 3, 2007, when it was beaten by Ohio State. Since then, the Sooners have racked up 44 straight regular season home wins.
THERE’S ONLY ONE
After not competing last weekend, OU maintained its top ranking for the fifth straight week. It posted the top score in the NCAA for the third straight meet two weeks ago against Navy, bringing its national best three-score average up to 422.133. The Sooners also boast top averages on pommel horse (70.283), parallel bars (71.183) and high bar (69.767), rank second on still rings (70.283) and vault (72.267), and fourth on floor (70.167). Levi Anderson posted the second-highest all-around score in the country (86.100) in OU’s last meet, catapulting him to a first-place tie in all-around average (83.450). He also ranks fourth on high bar (14.283). Yul Moldauer ranks first on parallel bars (15.117), second on still rings (14.750) and fifth on pommel horse (14.433). Genki Suzuki owns the top high bar average in the NCAA (14.533) and is fifth on parallel bars (14.317).
Despite losing three All-Americans in seniors Allan Bower, Thao Hoang and Colin Van Wicklen, OU returned quite the talent pool in 2018. Junior Yul Moldauer earned individual national titles on floor exercise and still rings in 2017, in addition to All-America nods on vault, parallel bars, high bar and all-around. Now a senior, Hunter Justus earned All-America honors on both rings and parallel bars in 2017. Reese Rickett and Genki Suzuki were All-Americans on rings and high bar, respectively.
The Sooners have received production from a pair of talented freshmen for 2018 in Gage Dyer and Alexei Vernyi. Dyer has been solid for OU so far this season, competing on at least three events in each of the team’s meets. He earned his first career event title last meet against Navy when he tallied a season high for the Sooners on vault, scoring a 14.900. Vernyi has competed on floor in every meet this season. He set the tone for OU against Navy as he posted a career-high 14.250 in the team’s first routine of the day.
OU hits the road for the first time in over a month as it travels to Champaign, Ill., to take on Illinois. The Sooners have not competed outside of McCasland Field House since Jan. 27 when they traveled to Michigan. All of OU’s remaining meets are on the road with trips to Ohio State, the MPSF Championships in Colorado Springs, Colo., and NCAA Championships in Chicago on deck.