Men's gymnastics: Oklahoma repeats as national champions
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Defend for 10. The mission statement has that driven the top-ranked Oklahoma men’s gymnastics team all season is officially outdated.
Saturday night at St. John Arena in Columbus, Ohio, the Sooners scored 443.400, capping a second consecutive undefeated season and claiming the 10th NCAA championship in program history.
“It feels great,” head coach Mark Williams said. “The guys hit 100 percent and you can’t ask any more than that. We had a 10-point margin of victory, the largest of any we’ve had, and the guys were awesome all night. I am so excited for them because it’s so hard to repeat.”
Already a program laden with championship history, Oklahoma’s team total was good enough to secure a 10-point victory, the largest in NCAA history under the current scoring system, over second-place Stanford (434.050) and lay claim to its fourth set of back-to-back titles.
In addition to the team title, the Sooners also won a pair of individual national titles. Freshman Yul Moldauer became the eighth Sooner in OU history to win the NCAA all-around title, and the first since Jake Dalton won it in 2012. Moldauer scored 89.100 and joins some illustrious company that includes Olympians Dalton and Bart Conner as well as current OU assistant coaches Taqiy Abdullah-Simmons and Steven Legendre.
Junior Colin Van Wicklen also topped a podium Saturday night, winning the national title on floor with a score of 15.300. Van Wicklen had a huge night, scoring at least 14.800 on all three of his events and topping 15.200 in two of them.
Just as it did in the prelims, Oklahoma started its night on floor. OU improved on its prelim performance by nearly a full point, scoring 73.600. The Sooners were led by Van Wicklen’s championship performance, and also got a 15.100 from senior Kanji Oyama and a 15.000 from Moldauer. Sophomore Hunter Justus was a late scratch from the lineup with an injury in warmups.
OU entered the second rotation in second place, just a fraction of a point behind then-leader Stanford. Oklahoma was solid on pommel horse, scoring 73.150. Junior Allan Bower paced the Sooners with a 15.100 from the anchor position. Freshman Genki Suzuki also turned in a big performance for OU, scoring a 14.800, just a tenth of a point shy of his career best. After two rotations OU was in an unfamiliar position, sitting in third place.
That wouldn’t last long however, as Oklahoma moved to still rings in the third rotation. That event has been kind to OU all year and it was again Saturday night. Led by a 15.200 from Justus, OU totaled 74.500 to vault into the lead. The Sooners got solid marks from the entire lineup with junior Thao Hoang scoring 14.950, Moldauer totaling 14.800, senior Reese Rickett sticking for a 14.800 and Oyama turning in a 14.750. At the halfway point, OU and Stanford had separated themselves from the field and were separated by less than one point.
The fourth rotation proved to be crucial with Stanford competing on floor, its best event, and trailing OU by just a fraction. The Sooners competed on vault, where they exploded with four scores topping the 15-point mark. Van Wicklen set the bar high for OU, scoring 15.250. Bower (15.050), Moldauer (15.000) and Oyama (15.200) also hit big vaults. OU’s huge numbers on vault ballooned its lead to more than four points over the second-place Cardinal. The Sooners had given themselves room to breathe.
The lead continued to grow in the fifth rotation as OU’s relentless attack rolled on. The Sooners saw five solid routines, including Moldauer’s 15.250 that was just .050 off Akash Modi’s (of Stanford) national-championship total of 15.300. OU totaled 74.100 as a team, bettering their total from prelims by two full points. Stanford struggled on pommel horse in the rotation and with just one event left, had fallen to fourth place. Illinois and Ohio State battled for second place while the Sooners road an eight-point lead into high bar.
OU put the bow on its national title with a 72.800 on high bar. Van Wicklen and freshman Levi Anderson paced the Sooners with a pair of 14.800s. That high bar score secured the Sooners’ 443.400 and the seventh national title of Williams’ career.