By Michael Kinney
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — It was supposed to be a matchup of titanic proportions. No. 2 Oklahoma taking on No. 5 Ohio State in the final men’s gymnastics meet of the regular season would determine who was ready for the postseason and who needed some more work.
But, as they have done most of the year, the Sooners rolled over their competition with ease as they defeated the Buckeyes 441.250-426.750 Saturday at McCasland Fieldhouse. It was the type of victory they hope sends a message to the rest of the teams around the country.
“It was very nice to do that,” Senior Chris Stehl said. “I really wasn’t expecting to score that high. It’s definitely a plus for us. Now the other teams will see that with this new scoring system, we are able to score that high. Hopefully they will be scared of us.”
The 441.250 is the second highest scoring output of the season for OU (15-1, 4-1 MPSF). It came on a night when coach Mark Williams thinks his squad could have done much better in a few areas.
“It’s a confidence builder,” Williams said. We definitely need that with this kind of format of five up, five down. We really need some momentum and everybody needs to be comfortable and confident as they are doing their performance.”
The victory also extended the Sooners’ regular season home unbeaten streak to 23 consecutive meets. Neither of Oklahoma’s two graduating seniors have ever lost at home during the regular season.
“Everyone was just excited to send our seniors off with an undefeated home season in all four of their years,” sophomore William Clement said. “We were all just excited and ready to compete.”
Oklahoma jumped out to an early lead on the Buckeyes and held a six-point advantage after two rotations.
Ohio State, which is coached by former OU assistant Rustam Sharipov, was steady for much of the evening. Drew Moling, Jeff Treleaven and Misha Koudinov kept OSU competitive.
“Ohio State has always been a formidable challenge,” Williams said. “It’s great seeing Rustam Sharipov pop back after being my assistant for five years and doing well as a head coach.”
Heading into final rotation, the Sooners led the Buckeyes 367 to 56. Ohio State would need an off-the-chart performance on parallel bars to win.
Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, they came up with faulty landings after strong performances.
But it really didn’t matter what Ohio State did, it was all about Oklahoma. The Sooners ended the night on the high bar and continued to roll. Ethan Jose, Danny Berardini, Alec Robin, Clement and Stanton Rehkemper all finished off with strong routines. The 74.150 group score is a season high.
“I think I did pretty well today,” Clement said. “High Bar went pretty smooth. I stayed calm and relaxed and did what I had to do. It was good.”
Stehl joined Troy Nitzky in saying good-bye to the Sooners for a last time.
I was trying not to get emotional about it,” Stehl said. “At first, it didn’t hit me very much. But then having the whole ceremony on the floor, seeing my parents and my mom crying, it kind of hit me a little bit. I tried to block it out as much as possible and concentrate on what I was doing.”
But Oklahoma isn’t done yet. It has the conference meet April 6 and the national championships April 19-21. The Sooners are searching for the program’s ninth title and believe they are in prime position to get it this year.
“We need to take where we are going right now and fix the little mistakes,” Clement said. “But if we fix those, we are definitely in contention to win a national championship.”
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