KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ Blaine Wilson came from second place in the final event Thursday night to capture the 1996 National Gymnastics Championship over defending champion John Roethlisberger.

Roethlisberger, a four-time national champion, entered Thursday's optional competition with a slender lead (.150 points) over Wilson, and stretched it to .550 after two events.

Wilson whittled away from there, and needed just a 9.225 on the still rings _ his best event and last of the night _ to capture the title. He posted a 9.8.

``I really didn't even think about my routine because I'm real comfortable on the rings,'' said Wilson, a senior at Ohio State.

Roethlisberger said he knew what score Wilson needed to win, and figured his time as champion was about over.

``I knew at that point my chances were pretty slim,'' he said. ``I just had to sit back and watch.''

Peter Kormann, the U.S. Olympic coach and Wilson's coach at Ohio State, said he talked to Wilson just before his ring routine.

``I told him there was a little bit of pressure here, but this is nothing compared what it's going to be in another month,'' he said.

The top 14 finishers advance to the Olympic trials later this month in Boston.

John Mcready of UCLA finished third, followed by Kip Simons of Ohio State and Josh Stein of Stanford.

The second five consists of Garry Denk of the U.S. Olympic Training Center, Mihai Bagiu of Gold Cup, Jair Lynch of Stanford, Chainey Umphrey of UCLA and Chris Waller of UCLA.

Rounding out the top 14 were Stephen McCain of UCLA, Scott Keswick of UCLA, Mark Booth of Stanford and Jay Thornton of Iowa.

Roethlisberger said his second-place finish ``shows the U.S. is getting stronger.''

``I knew Blaine was a heck of a gymnast coming in. I'm really optimistic about the strength of the team. I think there's a world of opportunity coming up for us in July.''