Mid-Mon Valley Sports Hall of Fame Peters was football, gymnastics standout
This is the fifth in a series on the Mid Mon Valley Sports Hall of Famers who will be honored at the annual banquet Friday at The Willow Room.
Football and gymnastics aren't supposed to mix.
Don't tell Belle Vernon's Don Peters.
Peters was a two-way gridder for two years at Bellmar High under Bap Manzini and started on Belle Vernon Area's first team under Jimmy Russell in 1965.
"I was a 155-pound center on offense and inside linebacker on defense," he recalled. "It was a different world back then.
Gymnastics, however, was the sport where Peters made a name for himself.
Peters won the state title on the pommel horse and was on a four-member state championship team that included football teammate Bruce Vannucci, Dan Warbutton and Joe Fedorchak.
Peters never expected to return as a state titlist.
"I wasn't that good," he said. "I got lucky because the two guys better than me both fell."
Peters, however, was a good enough gymnast to start for four years at West Chester University and captain the Golden Rams during his senior year.
After college, Peters turned to coaching in Pennsylvania gymnastic clubs in Downington and Philadelphia and the the highly respected Grossfield School of Gym-nastics in Milford, Conn.
In 1979, Peters took over as head coach and executive director at SCATS Gymnastics in Long Beach, Calif., which is the oldest private gymnastics school in the country.
"We had 300 kids when I started there," he said. "Now we have 1,500."
Inducted in the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 1991, Peters has an impressive gymnastics resume:
- He coached the first U.S. Olympic team to win a team medal (silver) and all-around gold in 1984.
- He coached the first American (Marcia Fredericks) to win a gold medal in the World Championships.
- He is the only United States coach to ever place five gymnasts on the same OIympic team.
- He developed 59 U.S. National team members, 22 U.S. World Championship team members and nine U.S. Olympians.
- He served as head coach for the U.S. team for eight years (1980-88).
- He was a four-time USA Gymnastics Coach of the Year.
- He coached gymnasts in World Championships in 1974, '78. '79, '81, '83, '85, '87, '97 and 2005.