PSU news by
Penn State's student blog



Legendary Coach Gene Wettstone Passes Away at 100

The Nittany Lion mascot is now an iconic tradition at Penn State football games. But without the efforts of men’s gymnastics head coach Gene Wettstone, the mascot may have been forgotten. In 1939, he believed Penn State athletics “needed a lift,” so he wore the suit that hadn’t been worn in 12 years. He then passed the suit on to a student, laying the foundation of a beloved tradition at the university.

Although there’s no statue of this Penn State legendary coach on campus to signify his greatness, he does have a sculpture recognizing his achievements. The sculpture, which honors the longtime coach, has been on permanent display in the Penn State All-Sports Museum for nearly a decade.

As first reported by the Centre Daily Times, coach Wettstone died Tuesday at Mount Nittany Medical Center. He was 100.

Wettstone graduated from the University of Iowa in 1937 after having won Big Ten titles in pommel horse, horizontal bar, and all-around his senior season. His decision to come to Penn State was simple.

“I applied to Penn State College primarily because of its location,” Wettstone said in a 2010 article in The Daily Collegian. “I loved the streams and the mountains and so forth, being able to hitchhike through that country so many times.”

When he came to Penn State in 1939, meets resembled a student circus, including high wire acts, juggling, unicycles and trapeze performances. Wettstone made it his goal to get the university involved in the real sport of gymnastics.

He led Penn State until 1976, earning more than 200 victories and twelve undefeated seasons. Of Penn State gymnastics’ record 12 national championship, Wettstone coached nine of them.

Wettstone’s success was not limited to coaching at the collegiate level. He coached the U.S. Olympic team in 1948 and 1956 and was a manager for the 1976 team.

After winning another national championship for Penn State in his final season, Wettstone was succeeded by Karl Schier.

Even after retiring from a career with the Nittany Lions that spanned five decades, coach Wettstone remained interested in the success of the men’s gymnastics team. He resided in State College and was commonly seen watching meets at Rec Hall.

According to the 2010 Collegian article, Wettstone is reported to have gone to every home meet, except the meet against William & Mary because of a fainting spell the previous week. He always presented the Gene Wettstone Award, established in 1977, to the meet’s most outstanding gymnast.

Koch Funeral Home on South Atherton Street is preparing funeral arrangements.

Onward State would like to extend its deepest sympathies to his friends and family for their loss. He truly was a Penn State legend.

About the Author

Jessica Tully

Jessica Tully is a first-year law student at Penn State's Dickinson School of Law. She graduated in May 2014 with degrees in journalism and political science.


More by Jessica

Phyrst and Cafe 210 West Closed Early on State Patty’s Day

At least two locals bars have closed their doors to the public early due to rowdy State Patty’s Day patrons. The Phyrst and Cafe 210 West closed at about 7 p.m. Saturday.

55 Days Of Cafe: To Drink Or Not To Drink?

Sign Your Favorite Memories At The THON Museum


North Dakota Interested In Playing Against Penn State Hockey In Nashville

North Dakota is working towards an agreement that will see its hockey team play against Penn State in Nashville during the 2020-21 season.

Former Cal Swimmer Says She Emailed Sandy Barbour About Sexual Harassment Claims

Max Sauve Commits To Penn State Hockey

Penn State Women’s Volleyball Releases 2018 Schedule

Penn State Hoops Alumnus Joonas Suotamo’s Journey To Becoming Chewbacca Featured On ESPN’s ‘E:60’

Student Life

Penn State Love Stories: A Chance Meeting On A Service Trip

When Abby Wilt went on a service trip to Nassau, Bahamas, she had no idea she’d meet the love of her life.

10 Questions With 2019 Class Gift Director Tom Beeby

Career Services To Launch Integrated Career Management & Recruiting Platform

Plans Submitted For New KFC In State College

Developers have submitted preliminary land development plans to build a new KFC restaurant at 1780 S. Atherton St. in State College.

State Theatre Recognized As A State College Historic Site

As it approaches the 80th anniversary of its opening, the State Theatre has been recognized as a State College historic site.

Penn State Love Stories: A Chance Meeting On A Service Trip

When Abby Wilt went on a service trip to Nassau, Bahamas, she had no idea she’d meet the love of her life.

Be the first to know

  • Top posts and the best Penn State stories

Thank you for subscribing.

Something went wrong.

10 Questions With 2019 Class Gift Director Tom Beeby

Tom Beeby will serve as the 2019 Class Gift Executive Director.

Send this to a friend