Gene Weiss: A Legacy of Giving Back

Gene3-1Gene Weiss was accomplished as a wrestler. He won an Ohio state high school title for Shaker Hts. in 1953 and also went on to capture gold the same year at the Maccabiah Games Israel at the age of 18.

He resumed his career at The Ohio State University and, after his senior year in 1957, he won both gold and silver medals at the Maccabiah Games. He went on to coach the United States wrestling team in 1961 and experienced the proudest moment of his sports career in 1965 when he was the flag bearer for the United States Team at the opening day ceremonies of the 7th World Maccabiah Games in Israel. The same year, he was named Ohio Amateur Athletic Union coach of the year.

Gene Weiss’ accomplishments in the sports arena are unprecedented. But his greatest accomplishments may have come in his service to others.

Gene and Lenny Weiss

Gene and Lenny Weiss

Gene was personally responsible for starting and running the Ohio School of Wrestling, Ohio’s first wrestling camp.

“When we finished our wrestling careers we stayed involved with the sport,” reports Gene’s brother Lenny, the youngest of the three Weiss brothers (Earl, Gene and Lenny all wrestled at Ohio State).

“The Ohio School of Wrestling was the first summer camp sanctioned by the OHSAA,” said Lenny. “The problem we ran into was they felt a kid who came to camp would have an advantage over the kid who couldn’t afford to come to camp. So we started a camp that, let’s say, cost us 40 bucks a kid for a week to run the camp. We went out and found sponsors for it so all the kids could come.”

The camps were attended by over 7500 student-athletes, regardless of their financial resources, over the 25-plus years of his involvement. The result, said Lenny was an extended family of wrestlers bonded the friendships kindled by the sport. “The wrestling community is very tight-knit,” said Lenny. “If you haven’t seen someone for years, you can run into them and it is like you had been together yesterday.”

Lenny added that wrestling also develops an attitude for perseverance unlike any other. “I am a double cancer survivor. If it weren’t for my wrestling mentality – ‘refuse to lose’ – I don’t think I would have made it,” he said. “A lot of things you do in the sport to be good at it carry forward in life.”

Gene continued to coach with the United States wrestling teams in 1969, 1973 & 1977 and ultimately became the National Wrestling Chairman of the Maccabiah Games. During those years he was a member of the United States Olympic Committee. In 1977, Gene was inducted into the Ohio Wrestling Hall of Fame and in 1980 he was inducted into both the Cleveland Sports Hall of Fame and the Shaker Heights High School Hall of Fame. In 1996, Gene was appointed to the Ohio Athletic Commission and became Chairman in 2001. He is also known as the father of MMA throughout the state of Ohio.