Inducted May 30, 1985
In the first 38 years of the sport at Michigan State University, only one man served as its head coach: George Szypula. His squad was co-champs (with Illinois) of the NCAA tournament in 1958. Spartan gymnasts have taken 18 individual NCAA titles and 45 Big Ten honors. A star gymnast in his own right at Temple, Szypula dominated the sport from the mid-1930s to the mid-1940s. He has served his profession in a number of leadership roles in national associations.
A Lifetime Dedicated to Gymnastics
A native of Philadelphia, George Szypula is a graduate of Temple University, where he compiled a great gymnastics record as a performer. He won four consecutive AAU National Tumbling Championships from 1940-43. In 1942, he was the NCAA Men’s Tumbling Champion.
After spending time in the service during World War II, Szypula became the first coach of the new gymnastics program at Michigan State University in 1947. He served in this position until his retirement in 1989. But George was not done with coaching yet. From 1989 to the present, he has been the gymnastics coach at East Lansing High School and continues to run recreational gymnastics programs for young people of all ages.
Under Szypula’s expert direction, Spartan individual gymnasts captured 45 Big Ten and 18 NCAA titles. MSU qualified an individual to the NCAA national meet every year during Szypula’s tenure as coach.
The 1958 Michigan State gymnastics team achieved the highest team honors of Szypula’s coaching career, gaining a share of the NCAA national team championship with Big Ten rival, Illinois. The Spartans also finished in the top five of the championship eight different times under Szypula.
In 1968, Michigan State captured the Big Ten gymnastics’ team championship. Szypula coached teams also finished second five times and took third place honors 11 times.
During his long and distinguished career at Michigan State, he served his profession in a number of roles. Szypula has been president of the National Association of Gymnastics Coaches and chairman of the selection committee for the Gymnastics Hall of Fame.
The National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame is the third such honor for Szypula. He previously had been inducted into the Gymnastics Hall of Fame and the Temple University Hall of Fame.
The National Association of Collegiate Gymnastics Coaches presented Szypula with its prestigious “Honor Coach Award” in 1977 for his outstanding service for more than 30 years in the sport. In 1978, the U.S. Gymnastics Federation conferred on him its “Master of Sports” award and in 1984, the U.S. Gymnastics Federation’s Junior Olympic Boys Program again honored Szypula when he received the Frank Cumisky award in recognition of the significant contribution that he has made to the youth gymnastics program in the United States. Upon his retirement from MSU in 1989, the Michigan State Senate cited him for meritorious service.
In January 2002, the 80-year-old Szypula was chosen for an honor of a lifetime. As the Olympic flame for the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games made its cross-country journey through Michigan, George carried the flame as one of the honorary torchbearers. A fitting honor for a true hall of fame performer!