On Saturday, April 16, the Oklahoma men’s gymnastics team claimed the 10th NCAA title in program history and seventh under head coach Mark Williams. The Sooners posted nearly a 10-point margin of victory, the largest in the modern scoring era, claimed two individual national championships and took home 16 All-America honors.
Take a look back with us as the team reflects on some of the most important moments from that historic evening...
St. John Arena on the campus of Ohio State University was more than a little warm during the championship. The air conditioning was not working and Mother Nature had blessed the area with chamber of commerce weather for the weekend. Conditions in the arena were hot and after prelims on day one, Williams decided he might be able to gain an edge by mixing things up for his team. They would stay in the climate-controlled hotel an extra hour and do their stretching there.Head Coach Mark Williams
“The night before when we got done in the afternoon, I noticed I was really feeling overheated and I hadn’t done anything. There was no reason to go over there and lie around and waste time when its 80 degrees in there when we could be here in a cool, quiet environment and then just walk over, drop our bags and start with timed warm up.”
“Initially the captains and the guys I talked it over with said no, they didn’t want to break their normal pattern. So I kind of talked them into it.
"I told them no, I wasn’t going to tell anyone. They thought that was awesome. They could just go in and kick butt."
They got excited about it and wanted to know if anyone else would know about it. I told them no, I wasn’t going to tell anyone. They thought that was awesome. They could just go in and kick butt.”Junior Colin Van Wicklen
“At first I was thinking this is crazy. This is the national championship and I didn’t really want to switch anything up, but Mark has done this enough so we trust him.”Freshman Yul Moldauer
“I was a little nervous about it. This is my first year and I was like ‘oh my gosh we aren’t going to stretch at the gym’. Everyone told me that it would be intimidating so let’s do it. I just trusted them.”Senior Kanji Oyama
“Mark always does stuff like that, and we are mentally prepared. Stretching at the hotel or the gym it didn’t matter. We were just ready.”
During the final timed warm up before march in, sophomore Hunter Justus injured his knee during a tumbling pass. Justus is a staple in the Sooners’ floor lineup and his loss could have been trouble for OU, but he made the call to take himself out of the lineup, leaving freshman alternate Levi Anderson to take his place.Sophomore Hunter Justus
“I was warming up and tweaked my knee a little bit. I’ve had troubles with that in the past and I knew there was a chance that if I went out and put my hand up I could fall. I didn’t want to take that chance for the team so I trusted Levi to go hit a routine and he did.”Head Coach Mark Williams
“During the floor warm up, which is really the last warm up before the meet starts, he tumbled and kind of landed awkwardly on his knee. He has had some issues with it in the past and he was a little worried that it might give out. He thought he could go if he had to, but he was aware that Levi had competed for us the day before and could go if he was needed. He was more concerned about the team than about himself.”Sophomore Hunter Justus
“We try to prepare everyone to be ready just for reasons like that. Levi has been doing that all year and I had 100 percent confidence in him.”Senior Sergey Resnick
“Levi has the mental toughness of a junior or senior. He hit both his events. He was one of the most consistent guys all season. He did a great job.”
I’m Sooner Born!
I’m Sooner Bred!
When I die, I’ll be Sooner dead!
That chant filled the tunnel as the players locked their arms around each other in a circle and prepared for march in. The energy in that circled would fuel the Sooners’ performance throughout the night and the guys will tell you, Sooner Magic was in the air.Junior Colin Van Wicklen
“We looked each other in the eyes and said we will never have this same team again. People will graduate so this is a special moment. This is the last huddle we will ever have together. We have to make it count”Freshman Yul Moldauer
“I was really nervous, but Colin and Allan (Bower) were speaking and it was indescribable the feeling. I remember Colin saying that is was Sooner Magic. In our hearts we could all feel it, and if you looked up you could tell that everyone else was feeling it too.Senior Kanji Oyama
“It was just a lot of excitement. We were so ready that it didn’t matter what happened before or after that moment, I knew from the beginning. With what our coaches and teammates had said, we knew there was Sooner Magic in that building.
In 2015, Van Wicklen finished as the NCAA runner-up on floor exercise, just .125 away from claiming the title. He was determined not to let that happen again in 2016. The junior was nearly flawless in his routine, sticking the dismount for a 15.300 and the early lead, but with five rotations to go, he would have to wait all night to know for sure.Junior Colin Van Wicklen
“Oh man, that was an incredible moment. I got second last year so this was a little redemption. When I stuck the dismount to basically seal the individual title so many emotions poured out. I just let it all out and it’s a moment I will remember for a long time.”Sophomore Hunter Justus
“As soon as he stuck his dismount I knew. Unless someone stuck every pass and their dismount there was no way they could beat him.”Junior Colin Van Wicklen
“I was the last guy on floor and I think that really brought the momentum to horse, which is a really hard event to stay on. I think that momentum helped us get five hits.”
Van Wicklen’s energy helped to carry Oklahoma to a five-for-five performance on its next event, the pommel horse. Always one of the most treacherous events, pommel horse presents the opportunity for falls that could have eaten into the Sooners’ advantage, but not on that night. Every OU gymnast that took the podium hit their routine and the team posted a 73.150.Junior Allan Bower
“That was the moment. When I landed pommel I knew we were going to have a really good night. Then seeing everyone rock their sets on rings and Hunter sticking the landing with his knee, I was like ‘this is sweet’.”Head Coach Mark Williams
“We did really well on pommel horse. I thought that should push us toward a little more separation and it didn’t. We ended up being third after two rotations. But when you are rotating around I recognized that we were doing well and other teams would have to do pommel horse after us.”Sophomore Hunter Justus
“I had faith we would win before we even got to Columbus. We are by far the hardest working team and we have beaten every team we faced. There was just no way that our hard work wasn’t going to pay off. After we rocked pommel I just knew it was over.”
The Sooners were full of confidence after their pommel horse performance, but the scoreboard showed them in third place. Their rotation on rings would take care of that as they scored 74.500 to jump into the lead. Justus provided the highlight, scoring a 15.200 that included a stuck dismount just minutes after injuring his knee in warm ups.Sophomore Hunter Justus
“I was little worried about the dismount but Phil (Hartog) our trainer taped me up pretty good and I knew that my nerves and adrenaline were pumping so much that I wouldn’t feel it until after I landed. That’s exactly what happened.”Head Coach Mark Williams
“He knew that would hurt when he landed. Throughout the routine he had to be wondering if his knee would hold up when he put all that pressure on it on the landing. He was good through the air and he held it all the way to the ground for a stuck dismount. He gave us great energy and put us in a good place after rings. That was the first time that we took the lead.Junior Colin Van Wicklen
“Hunter is tough. We know no matter what he will go out and give everything he has for the team and lay it all on the line for the team. That landing got us fired up and we were ready to go for the last half of the meet.”
Van Wicklen wasn’t just hunting for a national title on floor. The junior had been preparing one of the most difficult vaults in gymnastics all season, a double front half out, and through his hard work and determination, he was able to convince Williams to let him do it on the biggest stage of all.Junior Colin Van Wicklen
“I have saluted Mark on a bunch of vaults in the gym, even when he didn’t want me to. I vaulted at 6 a.m. in the morning and I vaulted on light days. I was persistent in showing Mark that I could do it no matter what. It was an incredible moment when I landed it and could get all excited and take that energy back to the team.”Head Coach Mark Williams
“I told him before the meet that we would look at the circumstances and see if it was a risk worth taking. I gave him the green light and had confidence that he could do it after watching him do it twice in warm ups pretty well. All the guys felt that he could do it. He was very close to sticking the landing, just a little off to his left side and took a sidestep.
"That was a moment that could have gone badly if the landing wasn’t as good as it was and we would have dropped back to the pack a little."
"Instead we created a little more separation and a little more energy going into what is one of our best events in p-bars.”
The Sooners were strong on parallel bars, scoring 74.100 to take an 8-point lead into the last rotation. As OU changed corrals to go to high bar, the electronic scoring system went down. The Sooners would have to compete high bar without knowing their scores. That wouldn’t matter for Oklahoma as the last event served as its coronation. All five Sooners in the rotation hit their routines, capping a perfect 30-for-30 night and second consecutive perfect season.Head Coach Mark Williams
“We knew that if we could just catch the bar we could win. Our first guy is about to go and we are waiting for scores and they never come. They told us just to go ahead so Levi went and did a great set. We waited and waited and they sent the next guy. The whole team ends up going and we are hitting well, but we didn’t get a single score.
I waited until we were finished and instead of running to celebrate with the team I went over to the judges like ‘what’s going on, what did we get?’ They had all these people there and they said ‘hold on coach we’re working on it’. I said ‘surely you wrote it down, can I at least look at them to get an idea’. They turned that to me and I went through my calculations and by the time I had our number and knew we were fine, the guys had been celebrating for quite a while. They were yelling ‘Mark, Mark, Mark’ and crowded in on me. That was pretty great, knowing we had won a team championship.”Freshman Yul Moldauer
“You land the dismount. You run back to the huddle and everyone is jumping and clapping. Taqiy (Abdullah-Simmons) got in and you could just tell that he and Steve (Legendre) were really emotional. They have been through the program and they have won national titles so to see that was really cool. Then Mark got in and we started chanting his name. It was a special moment.”Senior Kanji Oyama
“It was a lot of fun. All the nerves were gone and all the hard work from our year was paying off in that moment. We were laughing and smiling. It was amazing.”Redshirt Senior Sergey Resnick
“It was electric. We were feeding off each other’s energy and we were excited.
"Our hard work had finally paid off and we did it. All the morning workouts and everything we did in the preseason finally paid off."
Oklahoma’s historic night included more than just the team title. Joining Van Wicklen as an individual national champion was freshman Yul Moldauer, who became just the second freshman in NCAA history to win the all-around championship. Moldauer was far from the only Sooner on the all-around podium. Teammates Kanji Oyama tied for second and Allan Bower took fourth.Head Coach Mark Williams
“I didn’t know or keep track of that at all. Someone told me and I was like ‘wow really?’ No one knew for sure since the scores went out on high bar. I had no idea we were first second and fourth until well after we were done. I don’t know that that has ever been done. That made me smile, because it was the first time I had ever even had three guys go in the all-around at the national championship, let alone all three of them in the top five. In the end, Yul beating the entire field as a freshman is pretty impressive.”Freshman Yul Moldauer
“I didn’t know until after high bar. I was focused on hitting for the team. The guys told me that if I performed for the team that individual success would come. I knew on high bar that I could win this… I just have to hit. When I did it was crazy. I almost cried honestly. The week before nationals I had been struggling on high bar a little. I remember fist pumping and yelling. It was incredible.”
It wasn’t just the men’s team making history that night. Less than two hours after the men claimed their 10th national title, head coach K.J Kindler’s women’s team won its second in the last three years. Oklahoma had become the first school in NCAA history to win the national championship in both men’s and women’s gymnastics in the same year. From the moment the men’s championship ended, the team was glued to the women’s results.Sophomore Hunter Justus
"We were in the hotel and we were about to go to our banquet. I remember seeing that they were ahead and we were rooting so hard for them. We got so excited when they won.”Redshirt Senior Sergey Resnick
“Right after we had finished I think they were on their first event. I was checking their scores on my phone. We were in the hotel room watching the last two events and we saw that Haley Scaman had to go on floor last and they had already clinched it, so we knew we had just won three times: men’s, women’s and the OU club team."Head Coach Mark Williams
“I watched a lot of the third and fourth events in the lobby of the hotel. When we first got back my wife was watching and I sat down with her and the other parents that were watching. I knew floor being their last event, being maybe not as risky as finishing on beam, I though they had a really good chance. I felt like it was going to happen."
"I texted K.J. earlier in the day, ‘Let’s go make history.' And we did.”
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