Gene Wettstone, record-setting gymnastics coach; at 100

Penn State gymnastics coach Gene Wettstone (left) applauded his team's efforts during the NCAA gymnastics championships in Philadelphia in April 1976.

Associated Press/File 1976

Penn State gymnastics coach Gene Wettstone (left) applauded his team's efforts during the NCAA gymnastics championships in Philadelphia in April 1976.

NEW YORK — Gene Wettstone, a gymnastics coach who led Penn State University to a record nine NCAA championships in the sport, coached the US men’s teams in the 1948 and 1956 Olympic Games, and successfully promoted gymnastics on a campus better known for football, died on Tuesday in State College, Pa. He was 100.

About 6 feet tall and 170 pounds, Mr. Wettstone was a sequoia of a gymnast at the University of Iowa, where he won a national championship. He joined Penn State in 1939. At the time, the closest thing to a gymnastics program at Penn State was a student circus featuring acrobatics and tumbling.


Mr. Wettstone molded his first championship team by 1948. Over the next 25 years, he won more than 200 meets and eight more national championships for Penn State, including three in a row from 1959 through 1961.

“Gene was very, very much a stickler for making things clean and sharp,” Randy Jepson, the current gymnastics coach at Penn State, said Friday. “Gene would have guys come to the gym for the first few days, and he wouldn’t want to see gymnastics; he’d want to see how they walked, their posture.”

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Mr. Wettstone instructed 35 individual national champions, and 13 of his gymnasts, including the US Gymnastics Hall of Fame members Greg Weiss and Armando Vega, competed in the Olympics.

Three of them, Steve Cohen (1967), Gene Whelan (1976), and Bob Emery (1969), won the Nissen-Emery Award, collegiate gymnastics’ version of the Heisman Trophy.

Mr. Wettstone’s Olympic teams did not fare so well. His athletes won no medals in the 1948 Games in London. His team took sixth in team all-around at the Melbourne Games in 1956, the United States’ best showing since the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles.

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