Vern Zellner, 63, respected USA Wrestling coach and leader, passed away on March 21

By Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling | March 26, 2020, 2:55 p.m. (ET)
Photo with Vern Zellner (center) with part of his wrestling family at a wrestling event, as posted to his Facebook page by Erin Mc

Vern Zellner of Washington Twp., N.J., 63, an active and respected USA Wrestling coach and leader, passed away on March 21 after battling cancer.

Zellner coached young athletes at his Orchard Wrestling Club in South New Jersey, and was involved with USA Wrestling New Jersey for many years. He coached at numerous USA Wrestling national and regional events, impacting the lives of numerous young wrestlers and their families for decades. He had friends within the wrestling community across the nation and around the world.

Zellner also coached often at an international level, opening the world to many wrestlers. He led exchange tours for young wrestlers to Puerto Rico and other locations. He was also active in USA Wrestling National Teams program, helping coach U.S. teams overseas, bringing his passion for wrestling to other nations.

Here are some voices within USA Wrestling about Vern Zellner.

“Vern Zellner was one of USA Wrestling’s all-time great contributors. Always ready to step in and help in any way he could, Vern’s infectious personality and ‘can do’ spirit was such an inspiration to so many. His deep and rich passion to help young wrestlers achieve their full human and athletic potential was evident to everyone to which he came in contact with. He will be very deeply missed by thousands of wrestlers and the entire wrestling community.”
- Rich Bender, USA Wrestling Executive

“Vern Zellner was one of the founders of USA Wrestling’s Coaches Council. He was a true innovator. He embodied what a developmental wrestling coach is and should be.”
- Rick Gumbel, New York USA Wrestling.

“I'm thankful to have spent a great deal of time with Vern. His impact on South Jersey wrestling is immeasurable and his legacy will live on forever.”
- Tweet from Olympic champion and four-time World champion Jordan Burroughs, who was coached by Zellner as a young wrestler in New Jersey

“Vern was one of the mainstays coaching kids at our regional and national events. I know he spent many days in Fargo at Cadet and Junior Nationals, where he was always advocating for his wrestlers.”
- Tony Black, USA Wrestling Director of State Services.

“Vern was an amazing continuous learning coach and a constant advocate for our student-athletes. He developed The Orchard Wrestling Club Belt System, a ranking system that began with great fundamentals based on education for the athlete to learn about our sport. He standardized the way they developed the student-athlete and he shared this information with many coaches. We coached together in Vasteras, Sweden for the Malarcupen Tour in 1994. He always did an outstanding job of coaching, making sure that the athletes had a great overall experience. He was a long-term friend, supporter, always a mentor to many coaches and officials.”
- Gary Mayabb, USA Wrestling Manager of Greco-Roman programs.

His impact on wrestling in New Jersey was enormous, as explained in an article by Tom McGurk of the Cherry Hill Courier Post. In the article, a local coach said the following:
“Vern has probably been in every wrestling room in South Jersey,” St. Augustine head coach Bill Ward said. “He had a big impact on a lot of kids from this area for a long period of time. He preached toughness from his guys, but they all loved him.”

COURIER POST: ‘Coach Vern’ Zellner left a legacy in the South Jersey wrestling community.

Vern, we already miss you dearly.

Vernon Zellner

On March 21, 2020 of Washington Twp. Age 63. Beloved husband of Margaret A. “Peggy” (nee Kuhns). Devoted step-father of Kristen Blomquist. Loving grandfather of Julianna, Alexander and MyKaela. Dear brother of Joseph, Alan, Gary, and Chrystal Zellner.

Vern started the Orchard Wrestling Club in 2001, where so many great wrestlers came out of that room.

He wrestled for Williamstown High School, Glassboro State College and Wilkes University. Vern coached nationally, internationally, Beat the Streets in NY City, and coached a World and Olympic Champion. He ran boys and girls club’s in Hoboken, Jersey City and Paulsboro and was a Gold Level Referee.

Vernon’s life will be honored and remembered privately at this time. His Life will be celebrated by family and friends at a later date.

“A Life Well Lived Is Worth Remembering”