Defending conference champions and national runner-up enters 2013 ranked No. 3 in Preseason poll.
NORMAN, Okla. -- The University of Oklahoma men's gymnastics team enters
the 2013 season ranked No. 3 in the GymnInfo Preseason Coaches Poll.
This is not uncharted territory for the eight-time national champions, who have
been ranked in the top three in every preseason poll since 2000.
The Sooners are ranked behind defending NCAA Champion and top-ranked Illinois,
and Michigan. Penn State is fourth, followed by Mountain Pacific Sports Federation
foe Stanford at No. 5. MPSF members California (No. 6) and Air Force (No. 11)
are also ranked in the preseason poll. All four MPSF teams competed at the 2012
NCAA Championship, and OU, California and Stanford all placed in the top five.
Oklahoma, the 2012 NCAA runner-up, heads into 2013 fresh off its 12th-consecutive
top-three finish at the NCAA Championships. The Sooners also claimed their 19th
conference title in 2012, their 10th in the past 13 years under head coach Mark
The storylines for the 2013 season undoubtedly will be the team's returning
youth and a new team scoring format. With a 17-man roster that includes 10 sophomores
and just two seniors, consistency in the new five-up, five-count scoring system
will be important.
"My emphasis has been on getting gymnastics that was consistent, and done well,"
Williams said. "We're trying to put together a team that can build on its difficulty
but certainly looking at hit percentages as the most important quality of this
| Five Up, Five Count
biggest change in college gymnastics this season will be the new scoring system.
In the past, six gymnasts competed at each event, with the top four scores counting
toward a team's total. This season, five scores will count, and beginning in March,
only five gymnasts will compete for each team. The new format will put a greater
importance on consistency, without the benefit of the lowest score being dropped.
"I think it will change things dramatically, where you can't have two misses on
an event and still be ok after you drop those scores." Williams said. "In the
preseason, it's been a work in progress where certain things have had to either
come in or out of routines so that we reach our most consistent high team score.
We'll just have to make the most of what we have in terms of doing good gymnastics
that guys can do well consistently throughout season and hope we can keep up with
the best teams just by our quality of performances.
"I think from a spectator standpoint, it will be much easier to understand who's
winning and who's doing well. When somebody falls, it will affect your team right
then, and you know you won't have the option to drop a score later."
|| Sophomore Youth Movement
OU roster is packed with youth. Nine sophomores and four freshmen lead the way,
with two juniors and two seniors serving as the experienced veterans on the squad.
What was a group of wide-eyed freshmen last season return more mature a year later,
having seen what it takes to reach an elite level.
"The great thing about the sophomores is that they now have the scope of a full
season behind them and they understand the whole process of competing throughout
the regular season and into the championship rounds and team finals," Williams
said. "To understand the processes is the key to having them be a little more
prepared for what comes our way throughout the year."
Williams expects Alec Robin on floor, Mike Squires on rings and Mike Reid on pommel
horse to play a prominent role in 2013, in addition to Dylan Akers on all-around
and returning All-American Danny Berardini on parallel bars and high bar. All
five sophomores are coming off impressive freshman campaigns for OU.
|| Returning All-Americans
Sooners return four All-Americans from last season. Seniors Troy Nitzky and Chris
Stehl earned the honor on rings last season, while junior Presten Ellsworth earned
All-American status on vault and sophomore Danny Berardini did so on parallel
bars. Nitzky was also an All-American in 2011 on rings.
OU lost three All Americans, led by Jake Dalton's honors in the all-around, floor,
rings, vault, parallel bars and high bar. Mike Heredia and Patrick Piscitelli
were All Americans on vault.
|| A Look Inside Each Meet
2013 OU schedule consists of 10 regular season meets, including three home meets
at the McCasland Field House.
The season begins at the Rocky Mountain Open on Jan. 12. The Sooners will face
Nebraska, Arizona State, Washington and host Air Force. Oklahoma heads to the
west coast on Jan. 19 for the Stanford Open on Jan. 19.
"The Stanford Open will be a good test against two teams in our conference," Williams
said. "Two meets in, we will have competed against our entire conference and have
a good understanding of where everybody's at."
The Sooners will be closer to home, at the Metroplex Challenge in Fort Worth,
Texas, on Jan. 25. OU will see several top collegiate teams, Illinois, Ohio State
"The Metroplex Challenge is new to our schedule this year," Williams said. "It
will be a big meet against some strong competition, including defending national
Oklahoma closes out the first half of its season on the road at Iowa on Feb. 2.
The first of three home meets is slated for Feb. 16 as the Sooners welcome Minnesota
to the McCasland Field House. OU hosts MPSF conference foe Air Force the following
weekend on Feb. 23. Both meets begin at 7 p.m.
"We look forward to finally getting home," said Williams. "Minnesota is another
team that has improved a lot. Air Force will be coming in right after that for
a conference meet."
After trips to Nebraska on March 3 and Michigan on March 9, Oklahoma hosts Ohio
State on March 23 in the final meet of the regular season. The season-finale is
scheduled to commence at 7 p.m.
The postseason begins two weeks later for OU, as the Sooners return to Colorado
Springs for the MPSF Conference Championships on April 6. Oklahoma will be competing
for its 12th conference title in the last 15 seasons and 20th overall.
The 2013 season concludes on April 19-21 in State College, Pa., at the NCAA Championships.
The three-day event is hosted by Penn State, where the Sooners will be competing
for their ninth national championship in program history and sixth in the last
"The conference and NCAA team finals will be very interesting," Williams said.
"In the past, you've had that leniency where you can drop two scores, and now,
it's going to be just like the Olympic finals. It's all going to count, and that's
definitely a very different way of counting scores than we've done in the past.
It's going to make it exciting and interesting, but it's also going to be a very
challenging task even for the best teams to put their best day out there and be
capable of hitting 30 out of 30 routines."