Jan. 14, 2012
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The University of Oklahoma men's gymnastics team clinched its 13th-straight Rocky Mountain Open title Saturday at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.
The Sooners, ranked No. 1 in the GymInfo Preseason Coaches Poll, posted a team score of 343.700, edging out second-place Air Force (333.300) by 10.400 points. Nebraska took third place with a 331.300 followed by club teams from Arizona State (314.100) and Washington (248.100). Members of the U.S. Olympic Training Center also competed but their results are not official.
"It always means a lot for us to start the season off strong and with a win," said junior Jake Dalton. "We came in and we did what we wanted to do. We've put a lot of effort into the gym since coming back from Christmas break. We wanted to come in here and hit our routines. We had a few mistakes, with it being the first meet of the season, but that keeps the fire under our feet as we head back to the gym to fix those mistakes."
As a team, Oklahoma claimed the top score on floor, pommel horse, rings, vault and high bar.
Individually, four Sooners took home a combined six event titles: Chris Stehl (rings, parallel bars), Patrick Piscitelli (floor, vault), Dalton (high bar) and Michael Reid (pommel horse).
Since 2000, Oklahoma has won at least two individual event titles in each year of the Rocky Mountain and has swept the individual titles five times (2001, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2012).
Stehl, the only Sooner to compete in all-around, collected an 83.000 to take first place. In the past 13 seasons, all of the Rocky Mountain Open all-around champions have been Sooner gymnasts.
"Starting the season with winning the all-around is just amazing," said Stehl. "I couldn't have done it without my teammates, they were backing me up the entire way. The energy level was just amazing."
The Sooners opened the meet on rings, where they scored a 61.900, improving on last year's season-best of 61.250. Stehl set a Rocky Mountain Open record with a career-high 15.700. Dalton (15.500) and Patrick Piscitelli (15.300) also boasted career highs on rings.
On vault, Oklahoma posted a 58.400. Three of the Sooners' four counting scores came from freshmen, with Alec Robin scoring a 14.600 and Danny Berardini and Dylan Akers each earning a 14.400. Piscitelli led the Sooners with a 15.000.
As of this season, the NCAA is having judges score the vault one full point lower per gymnast than in the past.
Stehl led the Sooners on parallel bars with a 14.500 followed by freshman Jacoby Rubin with a 14.400. As a team, Oklahoma scored a 55.600 on the apparatus.
On high bar, Oklahoma scored a 56.800 behind Dalton's 14.700 and Rubin's 14.500. The Sooners scored a 55.400 on floor exercise with Piscitelli leading the squad with a 14.300.
OU ended the night on pommel horse, posting a 55.600. Freshman Michael Reid led the Sooners with a 14.400, winning his first career event title.
"I think this showed that we have a lot of heart," said Dalton. "If there's a mess up, we have the next guy to pick it up and step up. Nobody gave up and everyone fought to the end. We started strong and finished strong, which is something we wanted to do."
Oklahoma is encouraged by its 343.700 total, which under last year's point system would have been 1.200 points higher than its 2011 score at the season opener.
The Sooners return to action at Ohio State on Jan. 21 in their first duel meet of the season. The No. 7 Buckeyes are in their first season under new head coach and former OU assistant Rustam Sharipov.