Legendary Westfield High coach Gary Kehler dies
by Bruce Moran/For The Star-Ledger
Saturday December 08, 2007, 7:09 AM
Gary Kehler, one of New Jersey's greatest football coaches who also achieved fame as a wrestling and golf coach at Westfield High, died Friday at Overlook Hospital in Summit. He was 76.
Kehler, a member of the National Football Hall of Fame "Walk of Champions" and the New Jersey Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, had battled stomach cancer the past four years.
Kehler retired from coaching football in 1982 after 22 seasons, during which his teams compiled a 172-26-7 record. His Blue
Devil teams at Westfield High, which employed an unbalanced line and ran out of the Wing-T, won nine state sectional championships and 17 conference titles and finished undefeated nine times.
Under Kehler, Westfield strung together a 48-game undefeated streak - then a state record - that ended in 1973.
Kehler's Westfield teams claimed four Star-Ledger Top 20 trophies, which is awarded to the state's No. 1-ranked team. His 1977 team, which ended 11-0 and won the program's fourth Top 20 Trophy, was named the greatest public high school team in the history of New Jersey when The Star-Ledger compiled a special article in 2003.
That team defeated No. 2-ranked Barringer, 33-12, before 33,000 at Giants Stadium, still a record crowd for a New Jersey high school football game.
Among the All-Staters who played in that 1977 game for Westfield was running back Butch Woolfolk, who went on to star in college at Michigan and played in the NFL for the Giants and Houston
Kehler's record during his 24 years coaching wrestling was as impressive: 232-37-10. He coached 12 individual state champions, 25 region winners and 111 district champions while he guided his teams to 16 district titles.
Kehler, an avid golfer, coached Westfield's golf team to a 324-40-6 record.
The book "The Coaching Edge. The Gary Kehler Story" was written about the coach in 1994.
He was a member of the New Jersey Football Coaches, the New Jersey Wrestling Coaches and the Westfield Athletic halls of fame. He received Presidential Letters of Recognition for Outstanding Achievement in Coaching from Presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.
Kehler is survived by his wife of 54 years, Alice; three sons, Glen, an All-State fullback at Westfield, where he played for his father from 1972-74, Todd and Douglas; and six grandchildren. A memorial will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at the Presbyterian Church in Westfield.