Chapter 17

Lee Bjella 2015



1947 marks the arrival of Hubert Dunn from Illinois to Washington State College in Pullman. He was surprised at the lack of knowledge in the field of modern gymnastics in the area at that time. There were no college or high school teams, and nothing else for that matter, on the east side of the mountains. There was a coach and an athletic director at WSC who, in the early 1900’s performed at exhibitions at the school, but nothing that resembled competitive gymnastics. Dunn started an exhibition team that traveled to local high schools during the spring break of 1948 to promote gymnastics in the State of Washington.

On April 30, 1949, the Washington State College Men’s Team met for a competitive meet at Montana State College in Bozeman, Montana. This was the first competitive gymnastic meet held in Montana and the first competitive men’s collegiate meet for the state of Washington. First Team:1948-1949: Wayne Aeschilman, Charles Eggleston, Roy Goss, Leo Kluesner, Gerry McHugh, Jack Olson, Lyle Pugh, and Roy Rost.

Pacific Northwest AAU (PNWAAU) Gymnastics Championship: Prior to WWII, this meet was held on a joint basis between Seattle and Vancouver, BC. Following the war in 1949 and 1950 the meet was held in Vancouver, BC; George Lewis reinstated these meets on a joint basis and hosted the meet in 1951 at the Seattle YMCA. The surrounding colleges competed at this event.


Washington State met the University of British Columbia, March 4th, under the direction of Doug Whittle. March 11,1950 marked the first intercollegiate meet in Washington State when WSC had a rematch with Montana State. Later, on March 24th, Washington State met the University of Idaho, under the coaching of Dick Smith. The score for Washington was 49 and University of Idaho 31. Also that year, WSC went to the AAU meet in Vancouver, BC and placed second. On April 22nd they traveled to a meet against the team at Oregon State University, the first collegiate meet held in Oregon. The University of Idaho held its first gymnastic meet in their state on March 2,1951.

In 1950, Eric Hughes came from Bemidji State College in Minnesota (originally from Victoria, BC, then to the U of Illinois) to work on a doctorate program at the University of Washington. He taught a co-educational program of gymnastics one night a week as a recreational outlet for himself. The next year when he was hired by the Physical Education Department, he had more time to devote to this extra-curricular group. Prior to this, in about 1948, the University of Washington instructors were Augie Auemheimer, Russ Cutler and Paul Smith .

WSC won the Pacific Northwest Championship in 1952. The team consisted of: Dave Chilson, Preston Shepherd, Rex Davis, Jake Nonlux, Dick Olson, Jim Sullivan, Dick Loren, and Richal Smith.

The WSC men continued to have meets with Montana State, Idaho, UBC, and Victoria Pro-Rec in 1951 through '56. On March 7,1953, WSC traveled to Berkeley, California where they met the University of California and the University of Southern California in a double dual meet. Over the years the Washington State team made 11 trips to California in an effort to promote gymnastics among the west coast states. These schools never came here because they had enough competition locally and because of the cost.

On March 19,1955, WSC traveled to Seattle for the PNWAAU Championships held at Edmundson Pavilion under the direction of Eric Hughes. Washington State won with the score of 108.5; Vancouver YMCA 62.0; Husky Gymnastic Club 60.

Gymnastic competition had begun at the UW on a club basis during the 1954-55 season. Club status is given to a team that does not get financial backing from the university. Their first meet was against the "has beens" which included Eric Hughes, George Lewis and some "young ones"; Jim David, Bill Crow and Guy Moen versus the Husky Gym Club including Jim Lange and Pat McGunnigle.

On March 26,1955, the first PNW College Invitational Meet was held at WSC in Pullman. The competition included floor, trampoline, rope climb, side horse, long horse, high bar, parallel bars, flying rings, tumbling and all around. Still rings was also held but counted only in all-around scores.

In February of 1956 the UW budget was approved meaning that gymnastics was now a recognized sport at the University of Washington. Their first meet was with UBC that they won 66 to 46. There was also a three way meet with UW, WSC, and U of Idaho.

This year, Eastern Washington College in Cheney, under Harry Lades traveled to Vancouver, BC, to compete in the PNWAAU meet taking third place.
Eastern Washington State, under the promotion of Dr. Jack Leighton, started gymnastics in the 1950’s. (Jack’s father was the inventor of the Grip Flexometer and at the University of Oregon, Leighton Field is named for Jacks father.) The exact date of the start of the EWU team is not known.

In it’s fifth competitive year, UW was recognized gymnastics as a "major” sport for the1959-60 season. They also had a freshman squad.

On March 20th and 21st of 1959, WSC gymnasts competed at the 17th annual NCAA Gymnastic Championships in Berkeley, California. This was the first year that any Pacific Northwest college had been represented in the NCAA Championships. Cougar entries were Thorne Tibbitts in high bar and parallel bars; Jay Eliason on rope climb and side horse; Woodward Davis in free exercise and tumbling; Olan Jenkins and Jack Otterson in high bar.
Eastern Washington, coached by Dave Kaufman, competed against WSC and UW several times in early 1959. On the 7th of February four gymnastic teams met at the UW; UW, Eastern Washington, Oregon State and Seattle University.


From the Eastern WA University 2008 Hall of Fame - from their website:
"JACK BENSON - Athlete & Coach/Gymnastics & Contributor
A former student-athlete, long-time gymnastics coach and faculty member at Eastern, Benson led one of the premier teams in NAIA for 13 seasons from 1966-1970 (five seasons) and 1973-1980 (eight seasons). Nine times Eastern placed in the top 10 at the NAIA Championships under Benson, including third in 1968, fourth in 1967, fifth in 1977 and 1978 and sixth in 1979 when Eastern had its fourth-straight top 10 national finish under Benson. His 1967 squad finished 7-1, with the lone loss coming to the University of Washington. The team lost only once in 1968, again to the UW. Benson coached three individual NAIA champions, and his athletes won a collective total of 13 All-America honors. He served on several NAIA gymnastics committees, including two terms as the president and several years on the rules committee. He also was the gymnastics representative on the NAIA Coaches Board of Directors.

Benson graduated from Eastern in 1965 where he competed in gymnastics, and in 1962 he competed in the NCAA Championships in the horizontal bar and rope climb. As a result, he was selected as Eastern's Male Athlete of the Year. He went on to serve as an assistant coach at Washington State University, where he received his master's degree. In the 1971-72 school year, Benson worked on his doctorate degree at Oregon State University. He coached two seasons at Renton, WA High School, leading the school to a pair of third-place finishes at the state championships. He is a retired member of the Eastern physical education and health department and still volunteers as a timer at Eastern football games. He graduated from Bothell, WA, High School."

Many Junior Colleges had teams in the 1960's.

Everett Junior College had a team coached by George Gyorgyfalvy.

George (pictured at left) escaped from Hungary and had a very interesting life. read more

Eric Hughes, when asked in 2015 (at age 92) if he remembered George, Eric wrote: "Our paths crossed many times. He was a very friendly man and contributed much to gymnastics while in our area. I believe he coached Dick Foxal while he was at Everett."


1965 Everett Junior College Team pictured at right. Note: Dick Foxal - front row (Team included - front row: Mace Brody, Jim Jeffries, Dick Foxal, captain Bob Gengler. back row: Bruce Ulness, Rick Brumpton, Eldon Simmons, Roger Brumpton, George Gyorgyfalvy)

Dick Foxal competing, left, and Dick later as Oregon State University assistant Women's Gymnastics Coach.



In the late 1960’s and the 1970’s, the UW men’s team, under Dr. Eric Hughes, was recognized as being a powerhouse in college gymnastics.

Eric Hughes coached the U.S. team that competed in Czechoslovakia, Poland and Russia in 1961, which included men from the Huskey team.

Bob Hall, (1943-2002) UW, finished fourth in pommel horse at NCAA championships in 1964 and second in pommel horse and fourth in all-around in 1965.

The UW Team placed 2nd in the NCAA Championship in 1965 – the highest finish by any Husky team in history in an official NCAA championship until the women’s rowing crew won in the 1990’s.

In 1966, the Husky Gymnastics Club toured Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. The Club included Gunter Bohrmann, Gary Finne, Mike Lovell, Mike Flansaas, Eigil Flaathen, Jim David, Bob Hall and Bo Bennett.

Mike Flansaas won the all around at the PNW College Meet, and the UW won the team 1st place.

Mauno Nissinen, former UW standout, competed in the 1968 Olympics for his native Finland. Mauno was the first gymnast to perform a double back off the parallel bars in the Olympics.

The UW hosted the NCAA Championship in 1969.

UW won the National AAU Championship in 1968 and 1969. Mike Flansass was on the National Men’s Team. UW’s Nissinen, 1969, and Hayasaki in 1970 and '71 won the NCAA All-Around Champion.

WSU/Eastern: Steve Woodward was outstanding Washington High School gymnast. His wife Michelle wroter in 2011, "Steve competed for WSU in Pullman. Those years would have been 1961 and 1962. Steve had an injury so he took some time off and we met in March of 1963 and married 6 weeks later. Then Steve and I relocated to Cheney where Steve competed for Eastern Washington under Thorne Tibbits. This was for two years (1964 & 1965). Steve won second place in the all-around at the NAIA tournament competing for Eastern in 1965." Steve died in 2001.

Before college, Steve competed for Highline High School along with Rehnstrom, Dietrich, Lombardo, Gatto, Shirley, Kennerud, and Hildebrand. Most of these fellows attended Camp Waskowitz Gym Camp in North Bend, Washington.


UW: Not only did Yoshi Hayasaki win the All-Around at the NCAA championships, but also was the High Bar winner in 1970. He went on to coach at the U of Ill. In 1972, Eric Hughes traveled to the Olympics as the men’s team manager. Also there, but representing Finland, was former UW gymnast Mauno Nissinen. (Yoshi was inducted into the UW Hall of Fame in 1983, 2000 Honor Coach Award of the CGA and USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 2014.)

Steve Wejmar won vault at the NCAA Championships in 1977. Rich Gaylor (1951-2002) was a Team Captain of the Huskies in the 70’s and was All-American, placing second on Vault at Nationals in 1973. Mel Cooley won High Bar at the 1978 NCAA Championships, as well as the AAU Championship the same year.

Overall, under coach Eric Hughes, the UW went 146-31-1 and appeared at the NCAA Championships 15 times. Eric coached four NCAA individual champions and two AAU champions of which five are in the UW Hall of Fame. (Cooley, David, Hall, Hayasaki, Nissenen.)

WSU had its best ever NCAA finish in gymnastics in 1974 under Coach Bob Peavy. Dubi Lufi was second on the Parallel Bars (best ever by a Cougar): Bob Dickmeyer was seventh in vaulting; Gene Johnson, Westminster, CA, fifteenth on the rings. WSU finished fourth in the National AAU meet that year with Lufi second on parallel bars and Johnson third on rings."(8)

Dubi Lufi, a student from Israel, became the most noted WSU gymnast. He was All American 1974 and 1975 in Parallel Bars. Pacific 8 Conference Champ, 1975 in Parallel Bars. He was the Inland Empire Sportswriters and Broadcasters Association “Athlete of the Month”, May 1974. Dubi was the Pacific Northwest AA Champ 1974, 1975,1976, and 1978. He was an Olympian in 1976 and team qualifier in 1980 for Israel. Dubi also was an assistant coach at WSU 1975-1978. He was the winner of many regional gymnastics championships and national AAU competitions. Dubi helped WSU gain national recognition when the team was ranked 10th in the nation in 1975. That was also the year that the Cougars beat the Washington Huskies for the first time in ten years.

1978 The Pac-8 becomes the Pac-10.


UW: Jim Holt took control of the men’s team reigns in 1980. The UW men’s unfunded team did very well. Jim Holt notes that Mac Smith, who qualified for the 1985 USGF Nationals, is perhaps, “the most important and least known of all the gymnasts that have passed through the UW program. Mac’s qualifying re-established the “unfunded” UW men’s program as capable of producing legitimate national and subsequently international level gymnasts…without Mac Smith, there would have been no Chris Smith, Ignacio Morales, Mike Williams, or ultimately, Jeff Johnson.”

In 1987, Chris Smith competed at the Pan Am Games.


UW's Ignacio Morales, in 1991,'93 and '94 competed at the World Championships. In 1992 Mike Williams qualified for the U.S. National Team. He was also the first American in history to do a triple back on the floor - at the U.S. Nationals in 1993.

Jeff Johnson won the 1998 USAG National Championship on rings.


Jeff Johnson (former UW gymnast and Boeing engineer) took 8th place on rings in 2002 at the World Championships in Hungary.
Jeff Crocket competed as a junior for 12 years and was a four time Junior Olympic National competitor. He moved to Seattle from Boise in the fall of 2000 after graduating from Centennial High School. Jeff competed for the UW men’s team for 5 years, during which he became a 20 time Collegiate All American, and 8 time Collegiate National Champion on various events and the All around. He was the UW assistant coach from ’06 to ‘09 and received Collegiate Assistant Coach of the Year all three years. Jeff is the only one in the world who has performed "the Crockett" - a double twisting laid out Jäger in February of 2006, winning the first ever New Skills Challenge held at the Winter Cup Challenge in Las Vegas.

2011 The Pac 10 becomes the Pac 12.


Central Washington State Men’s Team Coaches: Richard Aronson 1967-1969; Dennis Lazzar 1969-1970; Richard Fozal 1970-

Eastern Washington State Men’s team Coaches: Harry Ladas 1956-1959; Dave Kaufman 1959-1960; Thorne Tibbitts 1960-1965; Jack Benson 1965-1970: Dennis Lazzar 1970.

Seattle University Men’s Team Coaches: Ev Woodward.(1960)

UW Men’s Team Coaches; Eric Hughes 1955-78; Dick Foxal 1978-1980; Jim Holt 1980-1989; Mark Russo 1989 to present.

Washington State University Men’s Team Coaches: Dr. J. Hubert Dunn 1948-1955: Gerry McHugh 1955-1956: Hubert Dunn 1956-1962: James Sweeney 1963-1966: Rex Davis 1966-1969: Robert Peavy 1969-1970; Rae Anders (1970-71); Robert Peavy 1971-1977; Ward Black 1977-1978; Robert Peavy 1978-1980.
Assistant coach Paul Mengedoht 1973-74; assistant coach Dubi Lufi 1975-1978: Rea Anders 1970-1971.

Everett Junior College: 1960's - George Gyorgyfalvy

8. USAG online: 2000 Olympic Games: History of US Gymnasts.
11.The Crimson and The Gray: 100 Years With The WSU Cougars. Pullman, WA. Washington State University Press. Fry, R.B., 1989.

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