2018 NCAA Championships Recap: OU Reigns Oklahoma Wins Fourth Straight Title In Action-Packed Meet

When you win four championships in a row, it probably starts getting tough to distinguish the differences between each. Sure, they all come with a different group of guys, but at the same time, the feeling is similar. Everything you sweated out during the preseason and regular season now seems well-worth the time.

So what was the defining factor for this year's Oklahoma team? From an outsider's perspective, it looked to be resilience.

For the first time since (probably) 2012, there was a point during Saturday's meet where it felt like any one of four teams could win. The Sooners, coming off a stellar five-for-five pommel horse rotation, walked over to the rings corral while Mark Williams assumed his position atop the podium, awaiting the first of five gymnasts who would surely do what they've done all year: hit.

OU's PH rotation was highlighted by Moldauer's 14.533 (photo: Jess Frankl)

For the most part, the Sooners did their job. Positions were held, along with many other good things you're supposed to do on rings that I would never understand (pommel horse guy here). But, the rotation was nothing like what we saw at West Point in 2017 (pure domination). There were steps on landings and even hands put down by fifth-year senior and captain, Reese Rickett.

Given how stellar the All-American has been throughout his career, it came as a bit of a shock and seemed like it would open the door for a team like Illinois, Minnesota or Stanford.

The impressive thing is, it didn't phase Oklahoma. Rickett was greeted by a group of teammates who visibly had his back and were ready to fight for him.

Said Williams when asked about this particular moment, "I think that’s something that we’ve tried to always feel like we’re going to pick up a guy and the next guy’s going to step up and do what we have to do to get back on track."

VT provided a much-needed pick-me-up for the Sooners (photo: Jess Frankl)

Back on track they got as a meet-leading 72.566 eased the mind of any Sooner fan in the building. The rotation included Yul Moldauer's second of four individual NCAA titles he would win over the course of the night.

Moldauer and OU would then head to parallel bars & high bar where the junior secured his third (parallel bars) and fourth (all-around) titles putting him, and his teammates, in the record books for the rest of time.

Yul Moldauer captured four individual NCAA titles this weekend (photo: Jess Frankl)
"Yul’s been amazing. He won the all-around by almost four points. He obviously was the difference between our winning and being second. He’s an incredible kid; humble, works hard all the time, I have to slow him down to keep him healthy at times. But when it’s go time he is a fierce competitor and I’m just so impressed when he goes out there and has days like today.” - Mark Williams

Moldauer's performance this weekend will go down as one of the best ever at an NCAA Championships. The scariest part? The Colorado-native will give it one more go next year.

The Sooners were crowned champions once again (photo: Jess Frankl)

How long until you start thinking about five in a row? That's the question I posed to Williams on Saturday night as he sported a fresh championship shirt and hat. "Probably tomorrow."

FYI: there wasn't a hint of sarcasm in those words.

Oklahoma All-Americans

  • Yul Moldauer (FX, PH, SR, VT, PB, AA)
  • Levi Anderson (HB, AA)
  • Genki Suzuki (PH)
  • Tanner Justus (VT)
  • Hunter Justus (VT)

"It was probably one of the most enjoyable nights of my life," Minnesota head coach Mike Burns told reporters upon the team's return to Minneapolis.

When you hit thirty out of thirty routines and tie for the highest finish in program history, you're going to have a good time more often than not.

Justin Karstadt joined his teammate, Wiskus, in earning multiple All-America honors (photo: Jess Frankl)

This was a team on a mission. While the majority of eyes were on Oklahoma and Illinois, the Gophers simply did their job. Maybe it was the extra motivation stemming from a fifth-place finish at B1G's, or just pure desperation coming from a group with six seniors competing for the last time with an 'M' on their chest.

Ironically, it was a freshman that paved the way for this veteran team to finish the way they did. CGA Rookie of the Year Shane Wiskus put together an impressive 83.064 to collect his second silver trophy of the night.

The national runner-up in the all-around, Shane Wiskus (photo: Jess Frankl)

All-in-all, Minnesota joined Oklahoma as the only two teams to leave the UIC Pavilion on Saturday night having competed just two routines below a 13.0.

With a school-record eleven All-American accolades distributed between eight athletes, this was the true definition of a team effort. Sure, Minnesota is losing a great crop of gymnasts, but the ten-man class will forever be known for putting the Gophers squarely back onto the NCAA men's gymnastics map.


Minnesota All-Americans

  • Shane Wiskus (SR, HB, AA)
  • Justin Karstadt (PH, PB)
  • Tristan Duran (AA)
  • Jalon Stephens (HB)
  • Shaun Herzog (SR)
  • Yaroslav Pochinka (VT)
  • Vitali Kan (VT)
  • Luke Aldrich (FX)

After fifteen routines were in the books, it looked like a magical night might be in store for the Illini. Five routines had been hit on an event (PH) they had struggled on the previous day, and they turned in an electric 72.464 on VT -- their highest single-rotation score in all of 2018.

Johnny Jacobson earned one of his two All-America honors of the night on VT (photo: Jess Frankl)

A small hiccup occurred on PB, but otherwise, with ten routines left, Illinois still looked in play for a national championship. Unfortunately, the high-flying, risk-taking nature took its toll on HB where the team suffered through scores of 12.533 and 11.9, effectively leaving them in a fight for second place.

"I saw a lot of fight and at the end a lot of tears and a lot of broken hearts to be completely honest," Justin Spring told FightingIllini.com after the meet. "We were probably the best team here just not the best team on the floor today. We kind of gave a national championship away and that hurts a lot. We had five and a half, almost six falls today. Minnesota had a perfect meet and Oklahoma had two falls and we lost by just under four points."

Illinois was on a roll through four rotations (photo: Jess Frankl)

That just about sums it up. A disappointing end to what looked like a promising day.

Still, Illinois wouldn't leave without an individual national title. Just two weeks earlier, after winning his third B1G SR title, Alex Diab told John Roethlisberger in a post-meet interview that he would no longer be the undisputed second-best ring-man in his family (his father, Mark, was a 2x NCAA champion at Iowa State). Well, Diab called his shot and became Illinois' third-ever NCAA champion on the event.

Still battling through ankle pain, Bobby Baker was phenomenal in his last collegiate meet. An 82.331 placed him fourth all-around to go along with All-America finishes on SR and VT.

Illinois All-Americans

  • Bobby Baker (SR, VT, AA)
  • Alex Diab (FX, SR)
  • Johnny Jacobson (VT, PB)
  • Sebastian Quiana (FX)
  • Brandon Ngai (PH)
  • Michael Paradise (PH)
  • Dennis Minton (SR)
  • Chandler Eggleston (HB)

Stanford's impressive streak continues. After finishing fourth on Saturday, the Cardinal has now finished top-five at NCAA Championships every year dating back to 2006.

Jacob Barrus was part of a stellar HB rotation for the Cardinal (photo: Jess Frankl)

They were the only team to win an event by more than one point as a dominant high bar (70.066) performance put them in the mix halfway through the meet. Robert Neff was able to secure his second NCAA title in a row with a beautiful 14.766, besting teammate Grant Breckenridge who finished second with a 14.5.

Robert Neff ends his career as a 2x NCAA high bar champion (photo: Jess Frankl)

Unfortunately, three bottom-two team event finishes (FX, PH, SR) over the final three rotations left Stanford out of the championship running.

Stanford All-Americans

  • Robert Neff (HB, AA)
  • Grant Breckenridge (HB)
  • Blake Sun (PB)

Nebraska continues their climb. After they qualified into NCAA team finals for the first time since 1999 last year and finished sixth, the Huskers have one upped themselves by finishing one spot higher in 2018.

Andrew Zymball reacts following his PB routine (photo: Jess Frankl)

As usual, the Huskers were helped tremendously by their FX team who put up a 70.099 -- good enough to be the best of the night.

Saturday did mark the end of an era as we'll no longer have the pleasure of watching the Stephenson brothers compete alongside each other. In a cool moment, Anton and Chris embraced after both receiving their All-American trophies. Chris will be graduating while his younger brother will have one more year to stick a million vaults.

Anton Stephenson (middle, right) will have one more season as a Husker (photo: Jess Frankl)

Nebraska All-Americans

  • Connor Adamsick (FX)
  • Griffin Kehler (FX)
  • Anton Stephenson (VT)
  • Chris Stephenson (PB)

After prevailing over Ohio State in qualifying session II, Penn State earned a spot in team finals where they finished sixth as a team. It wasn't the night that the Nittany Lions were looking for, but for the second year in a row, Stephen Nedoroscik gave folks in Happy Valley a reason to celebrate.

Two years, two national title for Stephen Nedoroscik (photo: Jess Frankl)

The sophomore became just the second Penn State gymnast to win two PH NCAA titles. "It feels unbelievable,” Nedoroscik told GoPSUSports.com. “I did not think that I was going to be able to do it again, but I did. This year felt so much better when I won because I got to do it alongside my brothers.”

On the team side, things are only looking up for Penn State going into 2019. According to head coach Randy Jepson, they will be losing just one routine from 2018. On top of that, they should be returning Favian Valdez who missed all of this season.

Penn State should return a solid team in 2019 (photo: Jess Frankl)

Penn State All-Americans

  • Sam Zakutney (PB, HB)
  • Stephen Nedoroscik (PH)
  • Colin Coates (PH)
  • Greg Tamargo (SR)

Other All-Americans

MICHIGAN: Jacob Moore (FX), Ryan Dunning (SR), Cameron Bock (PB)

Bock (pictured), Moore and Dunning each picked up their first career All-America honor (photo: Jess Frankl)

OHIO STATE: Alec Yoder (PH, PB, AA), Sean Melton (AA)

Melton (left) and Yoder (right) each picked up a top-eight all-around finish (photo: Jess Frankl)

CALIFORNIA: Kyte Crigger (FX), Yordan Aleksandrov (HB)

Yordan Aleksandrov finished up an illustrious career at Cal on a high note (photo: Jess Frankl)

Saturday night was one of the coolest gymnastics meets I've ever witnessed in person. A big thank you to UIC for putting on such a great championships and we'll see you all in 2019!

Created By
Logan Bradley


All photos: Jess Frankl

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