The 1979 NCAA Men’s Gymnastics Championships featured two of America’s best ever male gymnasts with Oklahoma’s Bart Conner and Indiana State’s Kurt Thomas….as both would go on to make USA Olympic history.
These NCAA championships took place at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana….when the Nebraska Cornhuskers took the team national title with 448.275 points…..which compared to the Oklahoma Sooners capturing 2nd place with 446.625 points.
OU’s Bart Conner first became involved in gymnastics at school and his local YMCA….and was later on the gymnastics team at Niles West High School in Marton Grove, Illinois….where he graduated in 1976. He later attended the University of Oklahoma to work with coach Paul Ziert on the gymnastics team….where he eventually graduated from OU in 1984…..after he was an All-American and won the 1981 Nissen Award as America’s best gymnast…..which was prior to him becoming an Olympic Gold Medalist at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games.
His top competitor at the 1979 NCAA Mens Gymnastics Championships….as seen in this video herewith….was Indiana State’s Kurt Thomas….who was a five-time NCAA champion….while winning the parallel bars and all-around in 1977….along with the parallel bars, horizontal bar and the all-around in 1979. Thomas helped lead the men’s gymnastics to the 1977 National Championship.
He earned All-America honors 13 times in his career….and was the James E. Sullivan award winner in 1979….as well as the 1979 Nissen Award (the “Heisman” of men’s gymnastics) awardee. He was inducted into the Indiana State University Athletic Hall of Fame in 1999 and the Missouri Valley Conference Hall of Fame in 2010.
Thomas became a member of the US Olympic team at the 1976 Summer Olympics…..then in 1978, Thomas was the first American male gymnast to win a gold medal in floor exercise in a world championship. In 1979 he became the first gymnast to receive the James E. Sullivan Award for the best amateur athlete in the US….while earning six medals at the World Championships….including gold on the horizontal bar and floor exercise….and silver in the all-around, parallel bars and pommel horse. Coming off an impressive 1979 World Championship (6 medals) he was a favorite to win a gold medal at the 1980 Summer Olympics….however, the games were boycotted by the United States government.