ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Oklahoma men’s gymnastics coach Mark Williams knew it was risky for his team to start the NCAA team finals on its two weakest events.
If the Sooners stuck dismounts and executed routines as planned in the parallel bars and high bar, they could roll through the remaining four events in which they ranked near the top in the country to have a chance at winning a national championship.
But slip ups or falls could create a hole too big to dig out of.
That’s exactly what happened, with Jacoby Rubin’s feet coming otu from underneath him during his landing from the parallel bars and Stanton Rehkemp falling off the high bar.
Those two early mishaps led to top-seeded Oklahoma finishing in second place with a final score of 441.650 behind Michigan’s 445.050. The second-ranked Wolverines won their second straight national title and third in five years behind Sam Mikulak’s second consecutive all-around title.
“We had some mistakes, so we opened the door,” Williams said. “ We didn’t quite get the momentum going that we wanted until floor (exercise). … We just didn’t quite execute as well as we wanted to on the first two events.”
OU’s Michael Reid and Michael Squires finished first in the pommel horse and still rings, respectively, to advance to Saturday’s individual event finals. Reid’s score of 15.600 tied Mikulak for first, while Squires finished with a score of 15.700, even after failing to stick his dismount — and added .200 points onto the total score.
Reid and Squires were two of seven Sooners to finish in the top 10 and qualify for Saturday’s individual finals. Kanji Oyama, Collin Van Wicklen, Alec Robin, Will Clement and Danny Berardini moved on for Oklahoma, which will send at least one athlete in every event.
The Sooners captured first in the floor exercise and vault routine, their third and sixth rotations, in an attempt to come back from its fourth-place finish on the parallel bars and third-place finish on the high bar.
The Wolverines, though, finished first on the pommel horse, vault and parallel bars to create a four-point lead after the fourth event that was too much to overcome.
“We did everything we could to close the gap from last year and hopefully take away their chance of a national championship at home,” Williams said. “But they were just too good.”
Momentum was tough to find in front of a nearly sold-out crowd at the Crisler Center.
“It was the loudest (crowd) I’ve heard all year,” Berardini said. “But it didn’t impact us. The noise only helped us, I think. We really enjoyed a crowd to perform for.”
Added Williams: “In the practices, we were trying to work ways to distract each other so they blocked everything out and did their job.”