2008 Gary Gutknecht  Riverdale.jpgGary Gutknecht, son of Carl and Evelyn Gutknecht, is the oldest of five children and was raised on a farm near Avoca, Wisconsin. Gary was first introduced to the sport of wrestling in an elementary physical education class taught by Don Greenwood in the mid 1960's. George Martin Hall Of Fame member Bob Miller was Gary's junior high and high school coach and instilled in him a love and desire for the sport. While a three year varsity starter at Riverdale High School (Muscoda) from 1968-71, Gary compiled a 72-10-2 record and won SWAL conference titles at 155 pounds in both 1970 and 1971. He was a two-time WIAA state qualifier in both 1970 and 1971. As a senior in 1971, he was a WIAA state wrestling champion at 155 pounds with a 31-1 record and was Riverdale's first state wrestling champion. Gary also participated in football and track as well as vocal and instrumental music while in high school.
In the fall of 1971, Gary entered the University of Wisconsin-Madison as a physical education major. He was a member of the University of Wisconsin Wrestling Team from 1971 to 1975 and was coached by Duane Kleven and Russ Hellickson. Some of his teammates at that time included Ed Vatch, Laurent Soucie, Jim Haines, and Jack Reinwand. Gary said, "I learned how practices should be structured and organized from Coach Kleven and sound teaching technique from Coach Hellickson. I also learned from both of them the importance of networking and establishing positive relationships with your wrestlers , coaches and the wrestling community. From Jack and Jim, I learned that if you master a few moves well (single leg takedown), you can be a champion. From Ed and Laurent, I learned not to take yourself too seriously and that somewhere in the mix wrestling has to be fun."
Upon graduation from the UW-Madison, Gary accepted a teaching job at Ithaca in the fall of 1975 where his duties included teaching elementary physical education, high school health education, and serving as an assistant wrestling coach, After assisting for a year, Gary became Ithaca's head coach in 1976 and served in that capacity until 1986. During that time, he compiled a 68-41-1 dual meet record, won two Ridge and Valley Conference Titles, two WIAA Regional Titles, and seven invitational tournament titles. His 1981 team produced two WIAA individual titlists and finished third in the WIAA State Class ?C' Wrestling Championships. During his ten year stint at Ithaca, Gary coached two individual State Champions as well as 17 State Qualifiers and Place Winners. In addition, he was an assistant freestyle coach for the Wisconsin AAU Cultural Exchange Team to West Germany during the summer of 1979. In 1981 and 1983, he was a host coach when a West German Cultural Exchange team came to southwest Wisconsin.
In the fall of 1986, Gary's dream of coaching with his high school coach, Bob Miller, came true. From 1986 to 1995, he served as an assistant wrestling coach at Riverdale High School with Bob and with one of his long-time friends and ex-UW teammate Dale Spies. Gary assisted when Riverdale won Class C (Division III) State Wrestling Team Titles in 1990 and 1992. During his time there, Riverdale also won seven SWAL Dual Meet Conference Titles, three SWAL Tournament Conference Titles, eight WIAA Regional Titles, nine WIAA Individual State Titlists, and qualified 41 individual State Qualifiers and Place Winners. In addition Gary was the USA Wrestling Cultural Exchange Coordinator when a Turkish Wrestling Exchange Team came to Riverdale in 1993.
After a four year absence from coaching, Gary returned to the coaching ranks as a volunteer coach at Richland Center High School and served in that capacity from 1996 to 2005. From 2005 to the present, he has served as an assistant wrestling coach under current head coach, Fuzz McCauley.
Gary is a past member of the Wisconsin Alliance of Health, Physical Education, and Dance. He was selected as Walmart "Teacher of the Year" in 1999 and Ithaca Public Schools "Teacher of the Year" in 2007. Gary is a member of the Riverdale Wrestling Hall of Fame (1996) and the National Wrestling Hall Of Fame (Lifetime Service To Wrestling Award)-Wisconsin Chapter (2006).
Gary currently resides in Richland Center and has recently celebrated his 30th wedding anniversary with his wife, Mary. He is the proud father of two daughters, Kira and Leah, and a new son-in-law, Marty. He is in his 34th year as an elementary physical education and high school health education teacher in the Ithaca Public Schools. His hobbies include reading, biking, kayaking, and most anything music-related.
Gary credits his wife, daughters, parents, siblings, teammates, coaches, officials, and great kids he has worked with for his success, and is most grateful to them. Gary continues to promote and be an ambassador for the sport of wrestling in southwest Wisconsin.
"I want to thank my mother and father for all their encouragement and support through the years and teaching me to always do my best. I want to thank my high school coach, Bob Miller, for believing in me. I want to thank my college coaches , Duane Kleven and Russ Hellickson, for their coaching and teachings. I want to thank my wife, Mary, and my daughters Kira and Leah, for all the matches you attended (and still do) and for your love and support. I want to thank Dale Spies and Fuzz McCauley for being friends on and off the mat. Lastly, I would like to thank Scott Schmitz and Chuck Rassmussen for nominating me and the Hall Of Fame Selection Committee for selecting me."