NORMAN — Michael Taylor Squires had all but given up gymnastics. After graduating from high school in 2011, the Edmond native was all set to become a full-time student and get ready for the real world.
However, Squires decided he wasn’t ready to turn his back on his passion for gymnastics. He had been competing in the sport since he was 8 years old and wanted to give it one last shot.
“I definitely could have gone to many other places,” Squires said. “I applied to a few other colleges for Petroleum Engineering. I was offered pretty big scholarships. I wasn’t offered any big ones here. I could have gone out of state and that would have been really fun to do. But when you are committed to a sport for so long, it’s hard to let go. You want to give it a last try.”
Squires chose to become a walk-on last season. But he wasn’t going to just walk on anywhere. He wanted to do it at Oklahoma, the country’s top program. One that has eight national championships and has produced numerous All-Americans.
“It was extremely intimidating,” Squires said. “When I first got here in the summer, the new freshmen were walking in and they were faces I recognized in international gymnastics magazines. Having to look at those guys and know I have to fight them for a spot. They are already promised positions. It’s a total gamble whether you are going to make the team or not. It’s tough, but it actually makes the reward so much better. Rather than being given a spot and treating it like I don’t have to work as hard, when you are a walk on and finally make it, you appreciate it so much more.”
Squires has done more than just make the team. After a solid first year, he came this season and has become a vital part in the Sooners’ search for a ninth championship. He is tied for fifth in the nation on the rings with a 15.383 four-score average and his season-high of 16.000 is the highest in the nation.
Squires said he owes his success to all the hard work he put in before this season even began.
“As a walk-on it’s pretty challenging,” Squires said. “You really have to prove yourself. You have to show everybody you are meant to be on the team. Last summer I was able to come in the gym. I was only gone for a week in the summer. That’s completely optional. You don’t have to be here at all during the summer. I took it upon myself to work hard, train hard. When the summer was over, I was the team’s top ring guy. Coming from a walk-on as a freshman to now leading the team on rings, I had to step up.”
As confident as Squires is in himself and his abilities, even he has been surprised with his results this season.
“This has as been a dream come true,” Squires said. “I have wanted to be on this team since I was 10. Back then they were just beginning their dynasty. Growing up all you hear in the gymnastics news and community is how great OU is. Being able to come here and do this is a dream come true and it’s a great feeling.”
Squires and No. 2 Oklahoma will host No. 5 Ohio in their final meet of the regular season at 7 p.m. today at the McCasland Fieldhouse. It will be the last chance for Oklahoma fans to see the Sooners at home.
“Being in front of your home crowd, it’s not just about doing your best routine, but also putting on a show,” Squires said. “And trying to amp up the crowd. That’s a huge advantage for me personally. Having a large support community from Oklahoma come out and cheering me on.”
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