CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- I'm sure most of you reading this today have never heard of Gene Wettstone. It is my pleasure to inform you.
This past Tuesday, Wettstone died at the age of 100 in central Pennylvania. 100 years! Think about that.
Wettstone is one of the legendary coaches in the history of college athletics. He is considered the "John Wooden of NCAA men's gymnastics."
Wettstone coached at Penn State from 1939-76, and during that time he won nine NCAA championships and produced 14 Olympians. He managed the U.S. Olympic team in 1976 and spent 20 years on the Olympic committee. He also coached a 37 individual NCAA champions and was inducted into the U.S. Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 1963.
We don't have any men's gymnastics college programs teams in our state but, amazingly enough, Wettstone also had an impact here.
His daughter, Janet, a 1967 graduate of State College High School, would marry a Penn State football player, Craig Lyle from Olean, NY.
After playing in two Orange Bowls and a Sugar Bowl as an offensive lineman for the Nittany Lions, Craig Lyle graduated with a masters degree in civil engineering in 1974 and took a job with an engineering firm based in Pittsburgh, Ackenheil Associates. Ackenheil also had an office in Nitro and placed Craig in the Kanawha Valley.
Craig and Janet settled in Poca, fell in love with our state and its people and raised their three sons in the Kanawha Valley.
To my knowledge, Wettstone's grandsons never spent a day on a pommel horse or a vault, but they did cast a very big shadow over our local athletic scene.
Wettstone's grandsons David, Seth and Tim Lyle were all multi-sport athletes for the Poca Dots. They were also model students and citizens.
They played on Poca's 1994 football team that won a Class AA state championship over Sissonville 19-0. Tim was also on the 1997 Poca basketball team that won a Class AA state title over Bluefield 77-60.