After spending the last 32 seasons as Eastern Michigan University gymnastics coach, Steve Wilce announced Tuesday, his retirement effective July 1, 2014.
For his career, Wilce produced 22 Mid-American Conference individual champions, three MAC Gymnasts of the Year and a 2007 MAC team championship.
Wilce was named three times as the MAC Coach of Year, in 1987, 1989 and 1992.
“Thirty-two years, that’s a long time, but looking back on it, it doesn’t seem like a long time at all, something you love to do every day, so it was never a job,” Wilce said on emueagles.com Tuesday.
“Thank you to all my co-workers, assistant coaches and especially the student-athletes who over the years have given so much of themselves to make our success possible. I would also like to thank my wife, daughters, family and friends for always being there for me.”
The impact Wilce had on EMU gymnastics was felt not only in competitions, but after the meets ended.
Junior gymnast Nikki Paterson saw him not only as a motivator, but a father figure.
“Steve was pretty much a father and a mentor to every single one of us on the team, Paterson said. “He helped us learn and grow in our own individual ways and was nothing short of amazing. Steve was always the kind of person to put your needs before his own and he made EMU gymnastics what it is today.”
Junior All-Around specialist Carrina Lo Bello believes even with Wilce’s retirement, his legacy will live on.
“The program will definitely be different without Steve, however he will continue to be what is behind our drive and force to succeed,” Lo Bello said.
Senior gymnast Shawna Ciaramella talked about how Wilce’s full commitment to ensure the success of each and every one of his athletes.
“I think that Steve is an amazing man and an outstanding coach,” Ciaramella said. “He was 100 percent committed to everything he did and he was willing to go beyond what was necessary for us girls. I think he had an amazing career and I know I can say this on behalf of all of us girls but we are very honored to be able to say he was able to coach us and that is definitely one of my most prized memory from being here at EMU. We will miss him very much and I am happy I got to be with him for my whole career here.”
Wilce compiled a 228-222 record and is the winningest coach in EMU gymnastics history.
The 58-year-old Wilce began his term at Eastern Michigan after serving as the assistant gymnastics coach at Eastern Kentucky University from 1974-79 and again in 1981-82. The 1982 squad won the AIAW Region II title, while the 1979 and 1981 teams finished second.
A national search will be conducted for the program’s third head coach.
Follow Eugene Evans on Twitter @GenoSportsguy.