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January 12, 2013

Runners up last year, Sooners expect to get right back into title contention

NORMAN — Troy Nitzky hasn’t forgotten. In fact, the Oklahoma redshirt senior gymnast won’t let himself forget how it felt when his Sooners came up less than two points short of winning a national championship last season.

As much as it hurts to remember that April 20 night at Lloyd Noble Center, where OU lost to Illinois 358.85-357.45, Nitzky and his teammates are using that pain of that moment as fuel to finish off this season one spot higher this season, when the NCAA championships begin April 19 in State College, Penn.

“That thought is in my head every single day I’m at the gym,” Nitzky said. “I think it will be in my head up until April when we’re competing again.

“I think it’s in every single person on the team’s head knowing how close we are, knowing what we need to do. I think we have taken that in and accepted it and gone back in the gym and changed all the things we needed to change to make sure it doesn’t happen again this year.”

The Sooners head into this season ranked No. 3 and seeking the program’s ninth national championship, a trophy last claimed in 2008, the year before Nitzky arrived in Norman from his Philadelphia home.

Since 2001, OU has finished first or second at the NCAA championships 10 times. Nitzky doesn’t see that changing.

“As always, our expectations are very high just coming from OU,” Nitzky said. “We expect to at least be top three and competing for a national championship … every single year.”

Last season, the Sooners earned 12 All-America honors, more than any other squad. That includes Nitzky, who earned his second straight on the rings.

Other returning All-Americans include senior Chris Stehl, sophomore Danny Berardini and junior Preston Ellsworth. They’ll form the core of a young team that features 15 freshmen and sophomores.

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