Blaine Wilson won an unprecedented fourth straight national all-around gymnastics title and lost his training partner.

Wilson wrapped up the title with a nearly flawless performance in the finals tonight after Jason Gatson, who led following Wednesday's preliminary phase, tore a knee ligament and dropped out of the U.S. gymnastics championships.

Wilson's overall score of 115.300 points made him the first man to win four national titles since John Roethlisberger in 1990, '92, '93 and '95.

Roethlisberger, 29, less than a year after reconstructive knee surgery, made a dramatic comeback by finishing second with a score of 111.800. Brett McClure was third with 111.500.

The top 14 men in the all-around competition qualify for the World Championships team trials, to be held Sept. 15-18 in Kansas City, Mo. That event will help choose the American squad for the world gymnastics championships Oct. 8-16 in Tianjin, China.

Gatson, a national title within his reach after coming close the last three years, injured his right knee while dismounting from the horizontal bar. He was leading the all-around competition at the time of the injury, in his first event of the night.

The injury could keep one of the United States' most promising male gymnasts out of the Sydney Olympics, though Gatson predicted he will return from the injury in time to compete in the 2000 Games.

"As soon as I landed, something popped and I just fell to the ground, it hurt so bad," Gatson said. "I knew something happened, because it was a loud pop. My knee just went out on me.

"This is going to make me stronger. I am going to get it fixed and I am going to come back and be on the Olympic team in Sydney, and we're going to bring back a medal to the United States."

He was treated and released from UC Davis Medical Center and is expected to have surgery in the next few weeks.

Gatson, 18, who finished second in 1996 and '98 and was third in the national championships in 1997, held a slim lead over Wilson at the start of the all-around finals. But his right knee buckled as he flew off the high bar, and he fell to the side of the mat. After getting iced on the competition floor, he was helped to the locker room.

Gatson was too young to compete in the Olympics in 1996, but has been among the nation's top competitors the last three years. He was second in the national all-around competition in 1996, losing to Wilson, and was third in 1997 behind Wilson and Roethlisberger. That third-place finish made him the youngest American man to qualify for the world championships.

Last year, he finished second again in the all-around national championships to Wilson, his training partner at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.