When Casey Bryan was about 4-years-old, he discovered gymnastics on television and imitated what he saw. As a "safety valve," his parents, Marsha and Doug Bryan of Woods Cross, enrolled him in a gymnastics class "to learn to do it right. He had all this energy," says Marsha.
Two years later, he was competing for USA Gymnastics World in Bountiful, and now, at 15, Casey is the No. 1-ranked Class II male gymnast in the country and perhaps the only Utahn to have ever won the all-around title in an international meet. In open rankings (all ages), he's No. 9 nationally.He took first out of 54 boys against older competition in early April in an international meet in Oporto, Portugal, beating Europeans and the best Americans.
Friday (compulsories), Saturday (optionals) and Sunday (individual events), Bryan and eight other Utahns will vie for titles at the U.S. Gymnastics Federation's men's national championships at Cal State University-Fullerton.
Bryan, the regional champion, five-time member of the U.S. junior national team and currently the top-ranked USGF Class II man, is a good bet to win his first national all-around championship. There are 216 men in his age group (13-15). "He's the favorite if he hits," says Coach Chris Leech of USA Gymnastics World.
If he does win, it would probably mean a good choice of international competitions for Bryan; the USGF likes its top young people to get international exposure.
Bryan's chief rival for the national title this weekend will probably be Jamie Ellison of Gold Cup Gymnastics in Albuquerque, N.M., the club that produced Lance Ringnald, the reigning American.
Doug Bryan says his son's best events are floor exercise and horizontal bar, but, "If he hits pommel horse, he'll win pommel horse.
"Vault," he adds, "is his weakest, but he's still in the running there."
Following nationals, says Leech, Bryan wants to compete for the second time in the U.S. Olympic Festival in July in California. Beyond that, there's the fall re-ranking meet (it's done every four months), the regular season, the step up to Class I or elite and training toward the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
Bryan will be a bit young for the Olympics - 19 - but Ringnald made the '88 Olympic team at 18, the youngest since Steve Hugg in the '70s.
Bryan is also an Eagle Scout and an honor-roll/academic All-America student whose career goal is to be a physical therapist. "He's really well organized and self-motivated," says Marsha Bryan. "It's something he does naturally."
Adds Doug Bryan, "He's really good at setting short- and long-term goals and working toward them."
Other Utahns in this weekend's nationals are Justin Woodruff, 18, of Rocky Mountain Gymnastics in Murray; Kendall Schiss, 15, of Utah Academy of Gymnastics in Sandy; and six of Bryan's Gym World teammates: Reid Holbrook, 18, Bountiful; David Ashton, 17, Salt Lake City; Jeff Harris, 16, Sandy; Matt Hymas, 15, Bountiful; Jeremy Fenton, 15, Sandy; and Rob Kjar, 16, Woods Cross.