NORMAN, Okla. — Yul Moldauer’s resume speaks for itself. The Oklahoma senior is a 15-time All-American and owner of seven individual national championships. Those are just a few of the honors and accolades the Colorado native has amassed in his time with the Sooners.
Yet, even Moldauer is not immune from the fiery intensity of Oklahoma coach Mark Williams. Nine days before the Sooners head to Champaign, Illinois, to defend their NCAA men’s gymnastics national championship, Williams booted Moldauer and the entire OU squad out of a Wednesday morning practice because he didn’t like their energy level.
“I think it was just a reality check for us. Yeah, we were pretty tired, but that doesn’t matter. What Colin Van Wicklen said is don’t take this week off. Take this week to get better,” Moldauer said. “This is the last little stretch, and I think that motivated us to come in here and fix our minds, and don’t think about, oh we just had conference. It’s no, it’s time to really attack it. We’ve only got one week left.”
Saturday, @OU_MGymnastics claimed our 8️⃣th conference title in a row. That's two full classes of #Sooners who have come and gone having NEVER lost a conference title. That's something special…That's #OUDNA pic.twitter.com/DtrEMQ3gMS— Mark Williams (@wellsgymn) April 10, 2019
More than anything else, that may be the best example of why Oklahoma has produced nine national champions since 2000 and will be going for five in a row April 19-20 at the 2019 NCAA Men's Gymnastics Championships at State Farm Center. They don’t settle.
“As much as we do, it’s like our hashtag. He’s never satisfied,” sophomore Gage Dyer said of Williams. “We’re never satisfied with how hard we work. We can always work harder, and I think that’s something that keeps us motivated cause, what we do is great. We could do it better.”
Dyer, who will make his second appearance at the national championships said it took him a while to really understand what it means to be part of the Oklahoma gymnastics tradition.
Moldauer had the same reaction his first season in 2016.
“You know, freshman year, I didn’t really know what it was like to be an OU gymnast, and it took me a whole year to really find out what it means to be,” Moldauer. “You know, always working hard, doing what’s good to get outside of the gym, in the community and working hard in class, and then coming in here and being prepared to go through some hard stuff, so you can be the best gymnast possible. Now that I’ve known what this program’s like, I just have to give so many thanks to everyone that works here and contributes to our team.”
The Sooner way these days means winning and winning consistently. Along with its titles, Oklahoma is also riding a win streak of 116 straight meets. It’s the third longest in NCAA history, across all sports. Only the University of Miami men’s tennis team (137; 1957-1974) and BYU/Hawaii women’s tennis team (130; 2002-2005) have recorded longer unbeaten stretches.
The Sooners’ streak dates back to January 17, 2015, which means Moldauer and the rest of the senior class have never felt the sting of defeat. With another NCAA championship, he will end his college career unbeaten and a four-time champion.
“It’d be amazing. It really gives me goosebumps just thinking about it, but winning four years in a row would just be amazing,” Moldauer said. “Hunter Justice did it. He’s the only OU gymnast who’s ever done that, and for us seniors to do that, that’d just be a cherry on top of our season and careers here at OU.”
However, despite the run Oklahoma is on, they know finishing the year on top will not be easy. After barely holding off No. 2 Stanford at the MPSF conference championships, the Sooners know the target on their backs has gotten bigger as the competition has grown stronger.
“There is quite a bit that we can do,” senior co-captain Levi Anderson said. “One is just continuing to figure out how to trust ourselves. Normally, what we’re really good in, no matter what the situation, high pressure no matter what, we just trust our training, trust the process and trust what Mark has done.”
Overall, Oklahoma is tied with Penn State with 12 national championships. In order for the Sooners to earn No. 13 and take the top spot by themselves, they have to go through a field that includes No. 2 Stanford, No. 3 Michigan, No. 4 Illinois, No. 5 Penn State, No. 6 Minnesota, No. 7 Nebraska, No. 8 Iowa, No. 9 Ohio State, No. 10 Navy, No. 11 California, and No. 12 Army West Point.
🔟 days until we leave for NCAA Championships, which also happens to be the number of times senior @Yul_Shin0122 has scored a 15 or higher this NCAA season, including this 15.25 parallel bars performance at Cal (March 23). #Never5ettle pic.twitter.com/qNLhXU4vwu— Mark Williams (@wellsgymn) April 8, 2019
Of the 11 other teams competing, the Sooners have already beaten nine of them at least once this season.
Because this is the most experienced team the Sooners have had over their recent run, the gymnasts know they don’t have go out and turn into supermen to walk off the floor as champions.
“The key is to stay within ourselves,” Moldauer said. “Bring our energy, and just do our job. You know, we don’t need to be better than we are to win. We just got to focus on ourselves, do our job, get in, and get out.”