Jan. 28, 2012
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- The top-ranked University of Oklahoma men's gymnastics team suffered its first loss of the season, falling to No. 2 Illinois on Saturday, 349.800-347.700. No. 7 Michigan scored a 339.100 to take third place in the triangular meet, held in Champaign, Ill.
Oklahoma led the Fighting Illini through the first five of the six rotations before Illinois scored a 61.400 on high bar to knock off the nation's No. 1-ranked team. The tri-meet marked the Sooners (6-1, 1-0 MPSF) first regular-season loss since falling to Stanford on March 7, 2010.
"Illinois had a pretty electric atmosphere," said OU Head Coach Mark Williams. "The home team took advantage of that and came away with the victory because they wanted it more. We gave things away, little by little. We started well in the first few events but then we started to have some uncharacteristic mistakes. We have to do better at finishing and being the team that wants to win."
Despite taking second in the overall meet, the Sooners still took event titles on floor and parallel bars. OU junior Jake Dalton claimed three event titles - floor, rings and parallel bars - along with the all-around title with an 88.400. Through three meets, Dalton has accumulated two all-around titles and 10 event titles.
The Sooners began the night by posting a 59.200 rings to take an early lead. Dalton led Oklahoma with a 15.300 followed by junior Chris Stehl (14.900) and freshman Michael Squires (14.600). Junior Presten Ellsworth tied a career best with a 14.400.
Oklahoma totaled a 60.200 on floor behind a 15.900 from Dalton and a 15.200 for sophomore Raymond White. Senior Michael Heredia set a career high with a 14.700.
Freshman Dylan Akers posted a career-best 13.900 on pommel horse to lead the Sooners in their 55.000 showing on the apparatus. Freshman Jacoby Rubin scored a 13.900 and White earned a 13.700.
On high bar, the Sooners scored a 57.500 with Dalton claiming the team's best score of 14.900. Freshmen Rubin (14.600) and William Clement (14.400) each scored career highs.
After four rotations, Oklahoma led Illinois by a narrow margin of 232.200-231.400. The Sooners put together a 58.100 on vault after White notched a season-best 14.900 to extend their lead to 290.300-288.400 with one rotation remaining.
Oklahoma concluded the meet with a 57.400 on parallel bars, but it wasn't enough to match the Fighting Illini's 61.400 on high bar in the sixth rotation. Illinois' high bar total, fueled by C.J. Maestas' 15.600 and Paul Ruggeri's 16.000, gave the Illini their first lead of the meet and with it, the victory.
"Obviously, we have to get better," said Williams. "There are events that, as a team, we did poorly. We can't give things away like that and expect to be in the hunt at the end with the best teams."
Up next for the Sooners, select gymnasts will compete individually at the 2012 Winter Cup Challenge Feb. 2-4 in Las Vegas, Nev. The annual USA Gymnastics event determines the field for the 2012 Visa Championships later this year.