April 20, 2012
NORMAN, Okla. - The Oklahoma men's gymnastics team captured second place at the 2012 NCAA Championship, narrowly falling to Illinois, 358.85-357.45 at the Lloyd Noble Center Friday night.
Since 2001, the Sooners have finished in the top two of the NCAA Championship 10 times.
Oklahoma junior Jake Dalton claimed the all-around title with a score of 91.00. Dalton has won three individual NCAA titles during his three seasons at OU, claiming both floor and vault in 2011.
Oklahoma and Illinois went back and forth the entire meet, but thanks largely to a Fighting Illini pommel horse score of 60.75 in the fifth rotation, Illinois pulled off the comeback on the Sooners' home floor.
Given the option of where to begin the meet, Oklahoma head coach Mark Williams and his team captains chose to start with their strongest event - floor exercise. OU entered the meet as the top floor team in the nation, and it didn't disappoint.
Presten Ellsworth kicked off the meet with a 15.05 and was followed by a 15.00 from Alec Robin. The rest of the Sooner floor lineup followed suit. Led by Dalton -- the 2011 NCAA floor champion -- and his 15.75, OU posted a 60.95 team score.
Following the first rotation, the Sooners narrowly led second-place Penn State, 60.95-60.60.
Considered to be their weakest event, the Sooners scrapped together a 58.350 on pommel horse with top scores coming from Michael Reid (14.70) and Ellsworth (14.50).
Penn State and Illinois passed the Sooners in the team standings, although all three squads were within 0.85 points of each other.
The Sooners began their rings set with a pair of sub-14.50 scores before the upperclassman trio of Chris Stehl (15.300), Troy Nitzky (15.000) and Dalton (15.200) stepped up to boost OU's score to a 60.20.
Oklahoma's rings total was enough to retake the lead halfway through the meet, a 179.50-178.65 advantage over Illinois.
The Sooners took their momentum into the fourth rotation and posted their highest vault score of the season. Oklahoma's 61.20 topped a previous high of 60.10.
All six OU gymnasts topped a 14.70 on vault, including team-high scores from Dalton (15.55) and seniors Mike Heredia and Patrick Piscitelli (15.250 each).
Dalton's 15.50 led to a 59.60 on parallel bars for Oklahoma. On the other side of the floor, however, Illinois put together a 60.75 on pommel horse to reduce OU's lead.
Heading into the final rotation, the Sooners led the Fighting Illini, 300.30-299.40.
The Sooners put together a 57.15 on high bar, but it wasn't enough to counter the Fighting Illini's 59.45 on rings. Jacoby Rubin, one of the Sooners' top scorers on high bar, was unable to compete due to a recent diagnosis of mononucleosis.
Besides Dalton, individual event champions on Friday were Stanford's Eddie Penev on floor exercise (16.050), California's Glen Ishino on pommel horse (15.850), Penn State's Scott Rosenthal on rings (15.900), Dalton on vault (15.550) and Michigan's Sam Mikulak on parallel bars (15.750) and high bar (15.650).
Saturday's individual finals for each of the six events will begin at 7 p.m. at Lloyd Noble Center.