Greg Mutchler graduated from Bremerton High School in 1979 and went into construction. In fact, he did for a short time, but life intervened and dragged him back to gymnastics, a sport he was good at in high school that turned out to be a part of the rest of his life.
Mutchler, the 61-year-old coach-owner of the Olympic Gymnastics Center at Silverdale, has made the center a place where national-caliber gymnastics is being developed. One of them, Amanda Hall, has just been inducted into the Hall of Fame at the University of New Hampshire.
It would have been unthinkable in the early years of the OGC for college scouts to turn up hoping to sign one of Mutchler’s gymnasts. These days the major coaches in the country have Mutchler’s phone number and directions to the center just off the intersection of Newberry and Dickey Place. The University of California, Kentucky, Boise State and Denver recently visited, to name a few.
Mutchler was a good athlete in high school, dabbling in football and wrestling, then leading a gymnastics team that was among the best in the state when coached by Bob Becker. Mutchler was nationally ranked and All-American on vault, and also did floor exercise and horizontal bars.
He is also the son of the late Ralph Mutchler, who led the jazz band at Olympic College and was known for his musical arrangements, such as the arrangement of “Tequila” which the late Bill Bissell made famous as director of the marching band at University of Washington football games. . Half of his senior year he went to the West Sound Technical Skills Center, where he took construction classes, then another year of advanced construction at OC.
Life was good for Mutchler.
He spent April to November 1981 on a 2,500-acre family farm in Northwood, North Dakota, which a cousin ran. But this experience of planting and harvesting beans, sunflowers and wheat in 16 hours did not sit well with him.
“I knew it wasn’t for me,” he says. “I drove the tractor from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. when we were harvesting. During planting and harvesting we put in the most hours, around 115 hours per week.
He did not think of training gymnastics. Instead, he came back from North Dakota and chopped wood for two years and started framing houses (he estimates he did about 20). But his direction was about to change.
Mutchler accepted a part-time coaching job at the Olympic Gymnastics Center in Port Orchard, and about a year later the owner asked him to become a partner. They moved to a facility on Naval Avenue in Bremerton in 1987, with Mutchler coaching and his partner taking care of the business side. Shortly after the move, the partner got up and left, leaving the whole shebang to Mutchler.
Steeped in the gymnastics coaching business, Mutchler took a trip to Russia in 1989 with a group studying gymnastics coaches from the former Soviet Union.
“They were so far ahead of us,” Mutchler says. “The whole Russian team has been amazing.”
The Russians had perfected the art of coaching by adding a coach for every gymnastics event and training top athletes from a young age through high school, college and the Olympics. Mutchler embraced the philosophy.
Forced to relocate by new owners, Mutchler moved the OGC to Fourth Street in Bremerton from 1991 to 1993 and then to its current location, which was originally built for Frank Perrone, a national champion on the West Rings Bremerton High School which ran Kitsap Tucks County.
Mutchler received approximately $100,000 for his share in the sale of the North Dakota farm in 1993, which helped him purchase the building from Spencer Horning. He then asked a contractor to expand the building from 6,000 square feet to 10,000 square feet. Mutchler has since expanded it even further by doing it himself, adding 2,000 square feet of viewing area. The next phase will be to add a 5,000 square foot building across from the current facility.
Many improvements have been made over the years, and now OGC is a busy place with instructors helping gymnasts move up the ranks.
It hasn’t been easy for Mutchler, but he’s doing something he really loves. He had help from the business side of his younger brother Chris, who died of cancer in November 2020. Chris had his own accounting business and was a CPA.
“I didn’t know much about taxes and he helped me deal with it,” says Mutchler, who has to multitask, taking care of the business, the management and all the renovations, landscaping and expansion.
“I love being in the gym,” Mutchler says. “It keeps me busy. They say if you train, you never work a day in your life. It’s not true. I run the business, I do all the carpentry, the landscaping – I do all the mowing – I change all the light bulbs, I build things. I save a lot of money doing things myself.
He, along with a host of coaches he employs, is developing a reputation with colleges and USA Gymnastics. The OGC sends gymnasts to the National Training Center in Texas for the USA Gymnastics Development Camp, some as young as 8 or 10 years old.
The top 300 in the country invite to the training center for testing, and that number is reduced to 100. The top 50 go to Camp A, for the top performers, and the other 50 go to Camp B, the second tier. Mutchler has sent a gymnast to the training center every year but one since 2010.
“It’s the creme de la creme,” says Mutchler.
Mutchler has very good coaches who work in the center and that allows him to breathe from time to time, if he wishes. What does he do when he has time?
Well, fishing and camping top the list. Or he can just sit on his property between Crosby and Holly and watch the birds fly or the sun rise and set over the cool waters of Hood Canal, or sit by the Tahuya River which runs through his property or near a pond.
Then there’s the thought that he could just come to the gym and watch his trainers train and sit down.
In the end, however, he probably won’t stop mowing the lawn or coaching.
“I will probably still train. I always like to help the coach,” he says. “Not all kids go to college for gymnastics. You still want your guy to be a good worker who is constantly working, struggling. You need to teach them to work hard and stay busy, put in a good effort, and make sure you’re smart about it.
The end justifies the means, as Mya Wiley could tell you. Wiley, one of the top gymnasts to come out of OGC and a rising junior at Central Kitsap, is recruited by every major gymnastics program.
Another OGC gymnast, Central Kitsap senior Chelsea Hallinan, has been invited to attend the University of Washington with the possibility of a scholarship in the future.
So it pays to work hard and be part of the OGC culture, and to be coached by Mutchler who knows that discipline and hard work can lead to success.
Terry Mosher is a longtime sports journalist and regularly writes columns for the Kitsap Sun about local sports personalities. Contact him at [email protected].