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Former wrestling coach with strong winning legacy dies

21 Oct Posted by in HS Wrestling Blog | Comments
Former wrestling coach with strong winning legacy dies

Gerald Leeman, who coached at Lehigh from 1953 to 1970, died on Oct. 10 at the age of 86.

The cause of death was a long battle with cancer, according to a Lehigh wrestling press release.

He is survived by his wife Darlene, sons Martin and Jay, and daughter Jerilou.

Leeman’s winning percentage of 80.3 is Lehigh’s highest of all time. His number of victories, 161, are the fourth highest of all-time in school records, according to the press release.

Leeman ended his 18 years coaching wrestling at Lehigh with a record of 161-38-4. His team won six Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association championships, and 22 of his players won a total of 36 Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association crowns. Four of his wrestlers earned All-American accolades and two others earned All-American honors. During his 1961 to 1962 season, the team was undefeated, ending with a 12-0-0 record.

“Coach Leeman was truly an icon, not only in his sport of wrestling, but as a member of the Lehigh community,” said Joe Sterrett, dean of athletics, in the press release. “His words and advice were always meaningful. I feel fortunate to have known him, especially during the time when I began my career as an assistant coach. He will be missed but never forgotten.”

Born in Osage, Iowa, Leeman was a three-time high school wrestling state champion.

Leeman served in World War II as a Navy carrier pilot from 1943 to 1945.

At the 1948 Olympics in London, he earned a silver medal in wrestling.

After graduating from Northern Iowa University, he came to Lehigh and coached wrestling, tennis, soccer, cross-country and track. He never had a losing season in any of his sports.

“I did not know Coach Leeman, however my heart goes out to his family during their time of sorrow,” said John Hughes, assistant wrestling coach. “From everything I have heard and read lately, he had a profound impact on a lot of individuals at Lehigh University. He was a great ambassador for wrestling and someone I would like to emulate.”

After Leeman retired from coaching, he continued to stay connected with Lehigh sports from 1971 to 1982.