Sunday, April 3, 2016

M Gymnastics: Sooners Claim Fifth Straight MPSF Conference Title

The top-ranked Oklahoma men’s gymnastics team won its fifth consecutive conference title Saturday night, placing first at the 2016 MPSF Conference Championship in Palo Alto, Calif., with a team score of 448.050.

In addition to the team title, three Sooners claimed individual conference championships, with junior Allan Bower winning the all-around (90.100), senior Kanji Oyama claiming his third straight vault title (15.400) and freshman Yul Moldauer taking parallel bars (16.100).

“We left things in doubt until we got to parallel bars,” head coach Mark Williams said. “It wasn’t like we were giving things away but we weren’t up to caliber in what we’ve been in the last three or four meets, just in execution. The guys hung in there and we knew it was a six-event kind of championship. I’m very proud of the fight and the effort they gave today. We aren’t done yet. We have a week and half before nationals. We won’t take anything for granted. We have a lot of work to do to defend for 10.”

Following Olympic order, the Sooners started the night on floor. Oklahoma posted a 74.200 in the night’s first rotation, led by a 15.500 from junior Colin Van Wicklen. Sophomore Hunter Justus also topped the 15-point mark, scoring 15.200 in the leadoff position, while Oyama and Moldauer both contributed 14.750s. After the first rotation, the Sooners trailed Stanford, who started on vault, by just .150.

OU moved to pommel horse in the second rotation. Bower paced the Sooners with a 15.050 in the anchor position that helped propel the Sooners to a team total of 72.100. Oklahoma also got a 14.550 from senior Sergey Resnick and a 14.400 from Moldauer. At the end of the second rotation, OU faced something it hadn’t seen all year; the Sooners sat in third place and trailed first by 2.500 points.

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The Sooners picked up the pace in the third rotation. Competing on rings, OU turned in a team score of 75.900 to eat into the Cardinal lead. Justus paced the Sooners, turning in a career-best 15.500. Oklahoma also saw high marks from junior Thao Hoang (15.450), Oyama (15.100) and junior Reese Rickett (15.000). The Sooners' big rotation cut into Stanford’s lead by a full point.

“We started kind of slowly on the first two events but we had some good sets on rings that bumped our egos a little bit,” Bower said. “We headed over to vault and it was good all the way through, with just one little mistake. Then on p-bars we just took off. You couldn’t really stop us after that. It was pretty amazing and so much fun.”

The fourth rotation saw Oklahoma move to vault. The Sooners carried their momentum from rings to the vault, totaling 74.950 on the back of three scores over the 15-point mark. Oyama set the tone for the rotation with a stuck landing and a 15.400. Bower turned in a 15.300 and Van Wicklen added a 15.050 of his own. Senior Josh Yee led off the set with a 14.950. With two big rotations back-to-back, the Sooners continued to chip away at Stanford’s margin, trailing by just one point.

If the Sooners were heating up in rotations three and four, they were fully on fire in the fifth. On parallel bars all five OU competitors scored at least 14.900 en route to an NCAA-record 77.000. Moldauer led the way with a career-best 16.100 that marked the nation’s highest score of the year on the event. OU also saw a 15.600 from Bower, a career-best 15.350 from Oyama and a 15.050 from Justus. After their p-bars explosion, the Sooners had vaulted into the lead by more than two full points.

“I’m still shocked,” Moldauer said. “I can still visualize it and it was so fun. I’m just so proud of the guys and my team.”

“We’ve been good there and we caught fire when we needed to,” Williams said. “We stuck three landings and Yul hit an unbelievable routine that made a big swing in the team scores at that point. That gave us some momentum that we hadn’t had up to that point.”

OU finished on high bar. The Sooners posted a 73.900, good enough to seal the win and hold off the second-place Cardinal. Freshman Levi Anderson paced OU with a 15.050. Moldauer and Van Wicklen also turned in solid routines with a 14.950 and 14.850, respectively.

“On high bar we were good,” Williams said. “We have been a little flat on high bar and could have given it back, but I’m proud of the way the guys stepped up and competed. They had the adversity of being on the road and Stanford being lights out in the first half of the competition. They put their heads down, got to work and got it done.”

Last up for Oklahoma is a chance to defend its title at the 2016 NCAA Championships in Columbus, Ohio, hosted by Ohio State University on April 15-16.

TEAM SCORES
OUSUCalAFA
FX74.20074.35072.20073.750
PH72.10071.70071.60070.950
SR75.90074.80072.35071.900
VT74.950 74.350 74.000 69.750 
PB77.000 75.450 73.350 71.300 
HB73.900 74.000 73.050 71.550 
AA448.050444.650435.550429.200
2016 MPSF CHAMPIONS
EventGymnastScore
FX Akash Modi (SU)15.650
PH Arinn Wade (AFA)15.450 
SRDennis Zaremski (SU)15.550
VTKanji Oyama (OU)15.400
PBYul Moldauer (OU)16.100
HBGrant Breckenridge (SU)15.250 
AAAllan Bower (OU)90.100
OU TEAM HIGHS
EventGymnastScore
FX Colin Van Wicklen 15.500
PHAllan Bower 15.050 
SRHunter Justus15.500
VTKanji Oyama15.400
PBYul Moldauer16.100
HBLevi Anderson15.050
AAAllan Bower90.100

Photo Courtesy Oklahoma Athletics

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