April 11, 2015

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) Oklahoma senior Michael Squires got special congratulations when he won his third consecutive national championship in the still rings Saturday night in the NCAA gymnastics championship.

Squires became just the third man to win the event three straight years. Nebraska's Jim Hartung won from 1980-82, and Paul O'Neill won for Houston Baptist in 1987 and New Mexico in 1988 and 1989. Hartung, an assistant coach at Nebraska, watched Squires performance, and the two spoke afterward.

''To have his respect is really cool,'' Squires said.

Hartung said swinging was emphasized more than strength in his day, but strength has become the most important element, and Squires has plenty of that.

''The kid - he's an animal,'' Hartung said. ''I mean, I personally would not want to arm wrestle him. He's got perfect strength parts, perfect position, and we both had pretty good dismounts for our times. I noticed he stuck his dismount on the landing, which is huge. It was fun watching him compete.''

Oklahoma's Michael Reid won pommel horse with a score of 15.500. Squires and Reid, both former walk-ons, won their championships a day after the Sooners won the team title in front of the home fans at the Lloyd Noble Center. Oklahoma finished with 14 All-Americans.

''It's great,'' Reid said. ''All of our alumni are here from when they won. It's great to continue their legacy and win it for them and hear them cheering in the crowd.''

Other event winners were Penn State's Thad Lawson on the floor, Stanford's Sean Senters on the vault, Stanford's Brian Knott on parallel bars and Illinois' C.J. Maestas on high bar.

Squires' score of 16.400 on the still rings was just short of the national record-tying 16.450 he scored in the team finals the previous night. It was the highest finals score since the current scoring system was implemented in 2008.

Squires said his Friday night performance was better.

''I think it was just the emotion because after the set, I was just trying to pump up the team, and that was the best feeling,'' he said. ''Today was more nerve-racking, but yesterday was more enjoyable, and I feel like I did the best routine I could have done last night.''

Squires said he was nervous heading into Saturday's event.

''Coming back and having to defend your title is the hardest thing, because winning it the first time, I think you're in a better position,'' he said. ''If maybe you're an underdog. There's a little bit less pressure. You don't have as much to lose. When you're in a position where it's kind of expected of you to win, you have that going through your head.

Now, he's able to put the win into perspective.

''Now that it's over, I'm just amazed I can be put in the realm with Jim Hartung and Paul O'Neill, because those guys were insane,'' Squires said.

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