The No. 3 Ohio State men’s gymnastics team played host to the NCAA Men’s Gymnastics National Championships over the weekend at St. John Arena. The event, which spanned two nights, was broken into two qualifying sessions Friday and the finals the following evening.
The Buckeyes came into the weekend boasting the reigning Big Ten Gymnast of the Year in redshirt sophomore Sean Melton, the Big Ten Coach of the Year in Rustam Sharipov and the Big Ten Freshman of the Year in Alec Yoder.
Friday night’s qualifier pitted the Buckeyes against five of the nation’s top schools and individual gymnasts from non-qualifying schools. OSU (433.400) finished in second place as a team on the night, advancing along with Friday night’s winner, Stanford (434.350), and third-place Illinois (432.050). Those three joined Oklahoma, Penn State and Minnesota, which qualified in the first session of the day.
On Saturday night, the qualifying teams and athletes participated in the championship portion. After an up-and-down night, which saw Buckeyes bouncing around the team standings, the hosts eventually fought their way back and cemented themselves in the standings, taking third place on the night with a score of 433.150.
The third-place finish was the best finish for OSU in the NCAA finals since 2005. The Buckeyes finished only behind No. 2 Stanford and No. 1 Oklahoma, which clinched its second consecutive title.
“The guys never give up, so this is what it is all about,” Sharipov said. “This year we (were) Big Ten champions (and) third in the NCAAs, it’s great.”
Senior and team captain Alex Johnson took home the national title on the high bar (15.200), his first career national title in his final collegiate event.
“It means the world to me, but honestly coming in, I was more worried about the team.” Johnson said. “My coach always preaches that if you go in with team goals in mind, individual accolades will come, and that’s what happened tonight, so I’m ecstatic.”
Having had a strong season, the Buckeyes felt they could have put forth a stronger performance in the NCAA Championships, but Yoder said he realizes that finishing in third place is nothing to be disappointed with.
“This is so much fun, of course it’s a bummer that we didn’t come out on top like we wanted,” Yoder said. “How close this team is to each other (and) the amount of passion, pride and excellence in the gym is great. I know we have what it takes to be the best.”
Individually, six different Buckeyes were recognized with All-American honors, the most OSU has ever had at an NCAA championship.
Johnson received his first while Yoder brought in three awards in his first NCAA championship. Melton added two All-American awards with sophomore Seth Delbridge, sophomore Alex Wilson and senior Emeric Quade receiving their first All-American honors.