E.A. Sports Today

Taking Centre Stage

More than 500 gymnasts will compete in this weekend’s Centre Stage Invitational at The Venue at Cossa Landing

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

GADSDEN – Aaron Whittaker made his bones as a high school wrestler. He won an individual state championship in 2018 at Alexandria in the best match of the class. He always thought he’d be involved in the sport for a long time, but fate has a way of intervening.

Whittaker is the boys gymnastics coach for Zee’s Gymnastics in Gadsden. Although his group won’t be competing this weekend he’ll be around as the gym “doing whatever is needed” as his club hosts the Centre Stage Invitational at The Venue at Coosa Landing.

More than 500 girls ages 6 to 16 from across the state will compete in the USA Gymnastics-sanctioned event .

Whittaker hadn’t planned to get into the sport. He tried to start a wrestling club shortly after high school and it didn’t take off as he had hoped. He needed a job and Zee’s owner and women’s coach J.R. Zeringue asked if he would consider becoming the school’s boys coach.

After turning the opportunity down “quite a few times,” Whittaker relented and now he wonders where it has been all his life. He has been to several coaching camps and lectures to get up to speed, met three-time Olympian Sam Mikulak, and his program grown from 10 to 30 boys and won two state titles.

“I thought at the very least I’d be involved in wrestling forever,” he said. “This is the most incredible thing I’ve ever been involved in. I’ve never seen anything as amazing as these young kids doing flips off these apparatus I’ve never seen before. One hundred percent if I could choose I’d go into gymnastics before wrestling.”

The Centre Stage Invitational runs from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for children.

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