Men's gymnastics: Oklahoma finishes perfect season with third straight national championship
WEST POINT, N.Y. – Back-to-back-to-back. Once again the Sooner dynasty reigns over the gymnastics world.
Saturday night at Christl Arena in West Point, New York, the University of Oklahoma men’s gymnastics team etched its legacy in the history books, notching a team score of 431.950 to claim its third consecutive NCAA national championship.
The Sooners are just the fourth team in history to do so since the NCAA began holding gymnastics championships in 1938 and the first since Nebraska did so from 1979 to 1983.
The title is Oklahoma's 11th overall, giving it the second most in NCAA history (Penn State, 12), and the eighth during the 18-year tenure of head coach Mark Williams. Williams is now tied with his old head coach from Nebraska, Francis Allen, for the second-most all-time by a head coach (Gene Wettstone, PSU, 9).
In addition to the team title, Yul Moldauer won individual titles on floor exercise and still rings Saturday night and seven Sooners won a total of 22 All-America honors.
Oklahoma's championship caps a third straight perfect season. The Sooners have won every meet they have competed in since finishing second at the 2014 NCAA Championships. In that span OU has racked up a program best 76 straight wins while claiming three national titles, three conference titles and nine individual national titles.
Just as they did in qualifying one night earlier the Sooners started their night on floor exercise. OU came out of the gates well, notching a team score of 70.950. Moldauer paced the Sooners with his championship-caliber 14.900. Senior co-captains Van Wicklen and Bower backed him up with a pair of strong 14.600s to earn All-American status as well. Starting the night on vault, the most generous event this season, Illinois led after the first rotation by just over a point.
Oklahoma moved to pommel horse in the second rotation. Always the most difficult event, the Sooners scored a 69.850 on horse and cut half point off the Illini lead. Bower led the way with a 14.850 to snag All-America honors. Senior co-captain Josh Yee added a 14.250 for OU in his last collegiate horse set while junior Hunter Justus led off with a strong 13.850. After two rotations, and with their most challenging events behind them, the Sooners trailed Illinois by just one point.
Williams’ bunch hit the gas pedal in rotation three. The Sooners’ veteran-laden lineup put up a massive 74.000, with every gymnast sticking their dismount, to launch OU into the lead by 3.750 points at the halfway point. Moldauer led the way with a 14.950 to take the event title, Reese Rickett went for 14.800, senior Thao Hoang matched that mark, Hunter Justus hit for 14.750 and Bower logged a 14.700 in the anchor position. All five Sooner competitors earned All-America honors on the event and and placed sixth or better, an unprecedented accomplishment.
The momentum rolled right into vault in rotation four. Four of the five Sooner vaulters topped 14.650 to push OU to a huge 73.100. Bower led the way with a 14.950, while Van Wicklen and Moldauer both hit for 14.850 to earn All-America designation. Freshman Tanner Justus added a 14.700. The Sooners’ enormous run through vault and rings pushed them into a lead of 5.600 point heading down the stretch.
Parallel bars proved to be the Sooners’ best event of the night. OU put up a 74.100 that bested their previous season high by more than a full point. OU was led by a 15.200 from Bower and a 15.150 from Moldauer. Hunter Justus logged a 14.900 and Van Wicklen hit for 14.500 while senior Alex Powarzynski ended his career with a 14.35. OU’s top four all earned All-America honors.
A meet-high 69.950 capped the win for Oklahoma. Suzuki and Moldauer both put up 14.500s while Van Wicklen anchored the event and night for OU with a 14.350. All three earned All-America status.