DOWNEY – After over 33 years at Downey High School, longtime wrestling coach Gordon Weisenburger has retired.
While Weisenburger, 62, is renowned for his successful tenure as a teacher and wrestling coach at Downey, his career originally started with a nearby rival.
“My first six and a half years were at Paramount High,” Weisenburger recalled. “That’s where I went to high school. Graduated in 1974 from Paramount High, shot through college pretty fast – I went to Cerritos College first and finished at Whittier College – graduated in May of ‘78, did some student teaching for a semester and then got hired in January.”
It was in 1985 that he made the jump to Downey to take on the varsity wrestling and – briefly – the freshman football coach positions. He also taught math.
Coming from Paramount to Downey was a bit of an ironic move for Weisenburger, as he had spent much of his high school athletic career with the Vikings firmly in his competitive crosshairs.
“I was a three-sport guy in high school for a while, and then I cut down to two: football and wrestling,” said Weisenburger. “Downey is the last place I figured I’d end up, because growing up in Paramount, Downey was one of our rivals…Downey doesn’t even realize that Paramount wants to beat Downey in every sport possible, because Downey is always too busy thinking about Warren.”
“Very little did the Downey guys realize that Paramount doesn’t have a natural rival. When I was growing up it was Lynwood and Dominguez, Downey and Warren, and then Gahr and Cerritos…there wasn’t another high school in the Paramount district so we didn’t really have a rival, so our coaches…they said that Downey was the team that we wanted to beat.
“Their rationale was that the kids at Paramount were just a poor bunch of street Mexican kids, small and scrawny, eating tortillas and beans and the kids over in Downey were a bunch of rich kids with silver spoons hanging out of their mouths, and they just thought they were better than us.”
Yet when Weisenburger found himself at Downey in a coaching position, he says he put old rivalries aside and “threw his whole self into it and took care of the job at hand.”
“My bread and butter was here at Downey now,” said Weisenburger. “Now I’m the head coach in wrestling and I got to put all those feelings aside, and I had to go up against my old coach, whose job I thought I was going to take and trained me to be a wrestler…I had to go up against him. I had to try and beat him.”
Weisenburger accumulated much success during his time as the Vikings’ wrestling coach, collecting 12 San Gabriel Valley League titles under his tenure, including a nine-year straight run at the top, as well as a CIF title in 2004.
Overall, Weisenburger’s record as coach stands at 482 wins, 192 losses, and three ties for a 71 percent win percentage, and 72 wins, 13 losses (84.7 percent) in SGV League.
He says one of his biggest highlights, however, was leading Downey’s wrestling team to end an over 17-year win drought against Paramount.
“I think at the time, I think Paramount hadn’t lost a dual meet in league in 10 years, of course hadn’t lost to Downey in 17 years,” said Weisenburger. “My second year, which was ’86-’87, we put a team together and we beat Paramount, and that was the first time in 17 years. We beat Paramount, we beat Warren, and we ended up being league champs.”
As the sun now sets on Weisenburger’s career, he looks forward to spending time with his wife, Holly, as well as continuing to officiate football on the side as a referee.
Mostly, he says he’s just going to wait and “see how things flow.”
“We’re definitely invested in the area, we plan to stay local,” said Weisenburger. “Coach [Jack] Williams, who is our head varsity football coach, asked me if I wanted to continue and coach after I retired.
“I told him I think I’m just going to make a clean break right now and see the way things go, but he told me there’s always going to be a job for me at Downey High if I want to coach football.”