Men’s gymnastics wins its sixth NCAA title, ending Sooners’ four-title streak in upset

Saturday’s title is the 120th awarded to a Stanford team

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After a season of trailing four-time defending champion No. 1 Oklahoma (OU) in the rankings, and after trailing the perennial OU powerhouse for much of Saturday’s NCAA Championship meet, No. 2 Stanford broke away in the final event for a come-from-behind 415.222-414.556 victory in Illinois.

OU’s Big Red Machine of a gymnastics team had 121 straight victories in head-to-head competitions against the Cardinal. With Saturday’s win, Stanford ended the third-longest such winning streak in NCAA history.

The Cardinal dug themselves out of what was at its worse a four-point deficit against OU, securing victory in the final rotation of the day.

Men’s gymnastics’ newest title is its sixth ever and first since 2011. It is also the 120th NCAA Division I championship won by a Stanford Athletics team, increasing its lead over the University of California Los Angeles, which has 116 total titles.

Integral to Stanford’s triumph was its season-best performance on the rings, as each Cardinal athlete scored at least 14.000 en route to a team score of 71.131.

But freshman Brody Malone led the charge, going down as the first Cardinal gymnast to win three titles in a season and the third freshman in NCAA history to win the all-around title. He is also the fifth Cardinal gymnast to earn five All-American honors in a single championship meet.

Freshman Brody Malone (above) made history at Saturday’s NCAA Championship, becoming the third freshman in NCAA history to win the all-around title. Malone also claimed the floor and high bar event titles. (CRAIG PESSMAN/Illinois Athletics)

Malone didn’t just win the all-around. He did so convincingly, posting a career-best 85.832 — thanks to title-winning scores of 14.800 (another career high) on the floor and 14.633 on the high bar. His other two All-American honors came on the parallel bar (14.100) and rings (14.266), and he put together solid performances of 13.533 on the pommel and 14.500 on the vault.

While he was undoubtedly the star of Saturday’s show, Malone didn’t do it alone. Stanford left Saturday’s meet with 15 All-Americans, tying the school’s record from 2008, a year in which the Cardinal failed to secure the championship.

When redshirt senior Ryan Sheppard was pulled from multiple events — including the rings — due to illness, sophomore Andrew Bitner stepped in for him and won All-American honors (14.366). Freshman Ian Gunther matched Bitner’s score, joining him as an All-American.

“We have some good depth, which showed up tonight,” said head coach Thom Glielmi. “We tell the guys that we have a great team, and because of that, there may be gymnasts who could be All-Americans who won’t be in the lineup because it’s so competitive. That was reflected tonight.”

Stanford also had some luck on its side, as 2019 Nissen-Emery Award winner Yul Moldauer’s fall on the high bar contributed to a low Sooners score of 66.065 in the final event of the day.

In terms of All-Americans, the Cardinal shined, with senior Grant Breckenridge earning eighth in the all-around (81.464).

The other Cardinal All-American finishers were junior Bailey Perez (14.766) and sophomore Bryan Perla (14.466) on the floor, sophomore Blake Sun (14.166) and redshirt senior Jacob Barrus (13.800) on the parallel bars and David Jessen (13.933) on the high bar.

Stanford has won at least one NCAA Championship in each of the last 43 years, including three this season with titles in women’s volleyball and women’s swimming.

Contact Holden Foreman at hs4man21 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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Holden Foreman '21 is the Vol. 257 president and editor-in-chief. He was the Vol. 256 executive editor (vice president). He was managing editor of news in Vol. 254 and student business director in Vol. 255. He hails from the city of St. Louis, Missouri and is studying computer science. Contact him at hs4man21 'at' stanford.edu.