Former Alpena gymnast has built powerhouse as Michigan coach

Courtesy Photo/Jack Discher University of Michigan men’s gymnastics coach Kurt Golder is pictured at the 2012 Big Ten Championships. In 25 seasons coaching the Wolverines, Golder, an Alpena High alum, has led Michigan to four national championships.

ALPENA — If things had gone a little differently, Kurt Golder may have been a wrestler.

As a youngster, Golder tagged along to his older brother Dave’s wrestling matches and looked up to him.

“Your older siblings become your heroes, and that’s what I was motivated by,” Golder said.

Golder didn’t become a wrestler, instead finding his niche on Alpena’s gymnastics team.

It was a move that kicked off a lifelong love for the sport and eventually propelled Golder into coaching.

Courtesy Photo/Jack Discher University of Michigan men's gymnastics coach Kurt Golder, right is pictured after being named the 2021 Big Ten Coach of the Year in April. Golder, an Alpena High alum earned the award for the sixth time.

Now in his 25th year as coach of the University of Michigan men’s gymnastics team, Golder has turned the Wolverines into a powerhouse and built an accomplished resume.

“Every day is a new challenge, and my goal is trying to get everybody better in some way,” Golder said. “They’re already people of high caliber, and to get them out the door more accomplished and more confident is rewarding.”

Golder’s love for gymnastics can be traced back to former Alpena coach Jack Discher, who saw potential in Golder and molded him to success. As a sophomore, Golder took sixth in the state, which began a string of three straight all-state finishes. He finished fourth as a junior and second as a senior.

“He had a huge impact,” Golder said of Discher. “He gave me an opportunity. I got into some trouble, and I think Jack saw the potential in me. I think he took some grief from the coaches, but he gave me a second chance.”

Golder went on to Michigan, where he competed from 1975 to 1977 and helped Michigan win a Big Ten title.

Courtesy Photo/Jack Discher University of Michigan men’s gymnastics coach Kurt Golder is pictured with the 2014 National Championship. Golder has guided the Wolverines to four national titles during his tenure, including back-to-back titles in 2013 and 2014.

After his days of competition were over, Golder turned his attention to coaching. One of his first coaching jobs was as coach of Ann Arbor Huron, which he led to a state championship in 1978 by — ironically enough — beating Alpena.

His coaching travels took him to Michigan State, Iowa, and numerous international appointments. In 1997, Golder returned to his alma mater and got to work rebuilding the Wolverines.

In 1996, Michigan went 0-16 and finished last at the Big Ten Championships. Three years later, with Golder as coach, the Wolverines were national champions.

“I worked my finger to the bone,” Golder said. “We started at 6 a.m. and the earliest I came home was 11 p.m. We outworked everybody.”

In 25 years at the helm, Golder has led Michigan to four national championships, six Big Ten team titles, and nearly three dozen individual titles. He’s been named National Coach of the Year four times and has coached several Big Ten Gymnasts of the Year and Olympians.

Courtesy Photo/Jack Discher University of Michigan men’s gymnastics coach Kurt Golder is pictured with a gymnast in this 2013 photo.

This season, Golder led Michigan to a three-place finish at the NCAA finals, was named Big Ten Coach of the Year for the sixth time, and was also named a CGA Midwest Regional Coach of the Year.

In 2001, Golder was elected to the Alpena Sports Hall of Fame, and, in 2013, he was awarded the key to the city by Alpena Mayor Matt Waligora.

Even with a resume as decorated as his, Golder never stops working. Only 15 schools currently sponsor men’s collegiate gymnastics programs, but Golder doesn’t rest on his laurels.

Instead, he’s motivated by helping kids get better and giving them opportunities, just like Discher gave him as an Alpena Wildcat.

“I don’t sit and daydream and think about all the ones I could’ve and should’ve won,” Golder said. “If not for gymnastics, my life would be far, far different.”

Courtesy Photo/Jack Discher University of Michigan men’s gymnastics coach Kurt Golder is pictured with Michigan gymnast Sam Mikulak. Mikulak was a part of Michigan’s 2013 and 2014 National Championship teams, has competed in the Olympics, and has won multiple individual titles.

Courtesy Photo Kurt Golder is pictured competing for Alpena High School in this photo. Golder was a star for the Wildcats, earning all-state finishers three years in a row before going on to compete for the University of Michigan.


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