By Danny Kobren Communications Assistant, Oklahoma University
Sooners Finish Perfect Regular Season With A Comeback
COLUMBUS, Ohio —The top-ranked Oklahoma men’s gymnastics team capped a perfect regular season with an extraordinary comeback Friday night, winning a close contest against No. 7 Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio, 413.650-412.700. The win completed OU’s fourth consecutive perfect regular season and picked up its 84th straight win.
Levi Anderson posted an 83.700 all-around score in the victory while three different Oklahoma gymnasts won event titles.
“It was about doing what I can to secure the best possible score for the team,” Anderson said. “When we came to the end, I just knew I did everything I could have done to contribute to our team score.”
With Yul Moldauer resting, Isamu Ito in Canada on international assignment and Grant Kell competing through illness, OU head coach Mark Williams knew his team had to come up big while they were shorthanded.
“It was a great experience to have that pressure,” he said. “They could not afford to have mistakes the last couple events if they wanted to win.”
The Sooners got off to a slow start on pommel horse, notching a 65.050 and digging themselves into a 4.000 hole. Genki Suzuki paced the team with a 13.700 and Brian Schibler followed with a 13.600. Grant Kell (13.300), Anderson (12.750) and Tanner Justus (11.700) finished the first rotation for OU.
Said Williams: “We put ourselves in a little bit of a hole. Guys had to accept that responsibility and get the job done. They’ve done the training. They had to be in the right frame of mind to do the gymnastics they do at home.”
In the second rotation, the Sooners got back on track as they totaled 69.400 on floor. Tanner Justus picked up the event title with a 14.300 and Gage Dyer scored a 14.100. Anderson (13.850), Alexei Vernyi (13.600) and Hunter Justus (13.550) rounded out the lineup, cutting the deficit to 3.100.
On vault, all five of OU’s gymnasts scored above a 14.200 or above as the team earned a 71.800. Hunter Justus and Dyer each earned a 14.450 to lead the Sooners. Anderson (14.350), Tanner Justus (14.350) and Suzuki (14.200) wrapped up the first half of the meet.
Through three rotations, the Sooners were locked in a tight contest and trailed 206.500-206.250.
A trio of OU gymnasts tallied scores over 14.000 on still rings, with Reese Rickett leading the way with a 14.300. Jake Maloley tied his career high with a 14.200 and Anderson tallied a 14.000. Collyn Kellogg (13.800) and Tanner Justus (12.450) helped the Sooners to a 68.750 total and kept the meet close, only trailing by 0.750.
Suzuki earned an event title on high bar with a 14.700. Anderson finished just behind him with a 14.650, followed by Dyer (14.000), Kell (13.700) and Hunter Justus (13.150) as OU finished with a 70.200.
Down less than one point heading into the sixth rotation, Oklahoma needed a clutch performance from its gymnasts and they delivered.
With a phenomenal parallel bars rotation, the Sooners climbed into the lead. Suzuki finished with a team-best 14.150. Anderson capped off his impressive all-around performance with a 14.100 and Hunter Justus (14.000), Kell (13.150) and Dyer (13.050) lifted OU to a 68.450 to complete the comeback.
“We competed for the brothers beside us,” Anderson said. “Our motto was to chip away at their lead. It’s a six-rotation meet. If we kept our heads down and went to work, we would come out on top. This was the most passion I have seen any Sooner team compete with.”
With the regular season behind them, the Sooners turn their attention to the postseason. Williams knows the team has plenty to work on to be their best when it counts.
“We are still not hitting as much as I hope,” said Williams. “It is a different animal heading into the postseason. We have some gaps where our guys have to make some improvements. However, I am proud of how this team fought. We came into a difficult environment and came away with a victory.”
After an off week, OU looks to claim their seventh consecutive conference title at the MPSF Championships in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Saturday, April 7 at 6 p.m. CT.