NORMAN, Okla. — Illinois rallied in its final two events to pass No. 1 Oklahoma on Friday night and win its first NCAA men’s gymnastics title since 1989.
Led by U.S. Senior National Team members Paul Ruggeri and C.J. Maestes, Illinois posted a team score of 358.85, 1.4 points better than Oklahoma, which failed to win the national title in its home arena.
It was Illinois’ third win of the season over the Sooners and the second in as many days.
Another U.S. Senior National Team member, Oklahoma’s Jake Dalton, won the individual all-around title with a score of 91. Sam Mikulak of Michigan and Maestes tied for second at 89.7.
Illinois has won 10 NCAA titles, but before Friday, only one of those had come since 1956.
The Illini trailed Oklahoma by 2.05 points with two rotations remaining, but posted a season-high 60.75 score in the pommel horse and 59.45 on the rings — in which they were ranked second nationally — to close the gap.
In its last event, the high bar, Oklahoma posted a 57.15, its second-worst score in that event this season and its worst since the season opener.
When it became evident the Illini would win, Oklahoma coach Mark Williams walked over to shake the hand of his Illinois counterpart, former U.S. Olympian Justin Spring.
Penn State was third, followed by California, Stanford and Michigan.
In the semifinals on Thursday, Illinois topped Oklahoma 356.25-356.20 and the two went back and forth again on Friday.
Oklahoma started on the floor exercise, while the Illini opened on the vault. Oklahoma led 60.950-60.100 after that rotation.
llinois used a solid effort on the parallel bars (59.800) to remain in second behind Penn State after the second rotation, while the Sooners, who were on the pommel horse, fell to third after a 58.350 score.
Oklahoma jumped back into first at 179.50 after a 60.200 team score on the rings in the third rotation, with Illinois at 178.65 after going on the high bar. Penn State dropped to fourth at 177.95 after a 57.800 on the parallel bars.
The Sooners seized control in the fourth rotation, on the vault, posting a 61.200 score, highest among the six teams. Dalton led the way, earning a score of 15.550 points, tops among all gymnasts.