Top-ranked Sooners start defense of NCAA crown at home

By Michael Kinney

Defending national champion Oklahoma kicks off defense of its crown this week when they will host one of four NCAA regional gymnastics meets that will take place around the country. The other sites include UCLA, Denver and Pittsburgh.

The Norman regional starts March 29 and runs through April 1 at the Lloyd Noble Center.

The top-ranked Sooners are the prohibited favorites to claim the 2023 title, which would be the program’s sixth. However, they first have to make it through a crowded regional field that features a number of the top gymnasts in the country.

Joining Oklahoma is No. 8 Alabama, No. 9 Kentucky, No. 16 Ohio State, No. 17 Arkansas, Ball State, Illinois, Iowa and NC State.

Oklahoma has already beaten both Alabama and Arkansas earlier this season at the annual Metroplex Challenge.

The first round takes place on March 29 and will feature a play-in meet between Ball State and North Carolina State. The winner will join the rest of the competitors on March 30 in the second round. It will begin at 6:45 p.m.

The afternoon session of round two will begin at 2 p.m. and will feature Alabama, Kentucky, Illinois and Iowa. The evening session will begin at 7 p.m. and will include the Sooners, Ohio State, Arkansas and the winner of the first round.

The top two teams from each session will advance to Saturday’s regional final, beginning at 5 p.m. CT.

For the second straight year, the meet will have a recovery day on Friday, March 31 for the gymnasts between the second round and finals.

All-session tickets for the NCAA postseason event are $10 and single-meet tickets are available starting at $5. However, the event is free for any current student at the University of Oklahoma who has a student ID.

“We are honored to host such a strong field of teams here in Norman,” Oklahoma head coach K.J. Kindler said. “The fans will have an incredible opportunity to see our sport’s best over a three-day championship, culminating in the final two teams who will move on to Fort Worth for the NCAA semifinals and Four on the Floor. I know our fans will fill the LNC.”

The Sooners earned the nation’s No. 1 overall seed for the seventh time in the last eight seasons and it’s the 13th consecutive season OU has taken the No. 1 seed for regional competition.

Oklahoma is 17-1 on the season. Their only loss came to No. 2 Michigan earlier this month in Ann Arbor. However, already had beaten the Wolverines in the Super 16 meet to start the season.

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Photos: OU Athletics

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