clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Legendary Golden Gate Wrestling Club shutting down after 40 years

‘GGWC literally saved my life.’ An outpouring of love and support for one of the pioneering sports groups for LGBTQ people.

Gene Dermody (center) and the Golden Gate Wrestling Club have been pioneers that have led to a worldwide expansion of LGBTQ wrestling clubs. This photo was taken at the 2014 Gay Games in Cleveland.
Gene Dermody / Facebook

The Golden Gate Wrestling Club, one of the pioneering sports organizations in the world for LGBTQ people, is ending its run after 40 years.

The group of wrestlers in San Francisco, many of whom are LGBTQ, was founded by the late Don Jung. It was designed as a safe space for LGBTQ people, though its mission went far beyond that, working with youth and others to build an interest in the sport of wrestling.

In his announcement on Facebook, GGWC president Gene Dermody pointed to issues related to the club’s home venue and COVID-19, which has presented unique challenges to grappling sports around the world.

“I have invested a lot of my resources since Gay Games 1982, to keep GGWC operating professionally, almost free, and welcoming all,” Dermody wrote. “I promised this to GGWC’s founder Don Jung on his death bed in 1986. Promise kept and debt paid.”

The response of appreciation and respect for what Dermody and GGWC accomplished has been both local and worldwide, with at least one person saying the group saved his life:

Thank you so much for your service to the community for making it happen. You created an amazing space for countless folks to grow. — Andrew McIlrath

It has made a difference in so many people’s lives (including my own) that it will endure through each of us. Thank you for your selflessness, your passion, and your efforts. — Donna Rose

Wow. I do not know what to say. GGWC literally saved my life. Gene, thank you so much for the amazing team and giving me a place to grow and learn what true family is. — Brad Taylor

I want to thank you for all your years of support for sports and for me and our 2012, 2016 and 2024 Olympic & Paralympic Bids, and also for the bid for the Gay Games. What fun we had. I so enjoyed working with you — and salute all your work for sport — especially wrestling for so many years. Your legacy will certainly continue. — Anne Warner Cribbs

GGWC was a cornerstone of the MMA chapter of my life. A place I could visit on my own time, free from any hard oversight in the form of pay-as-you-go coaches. With leadership figures that legitimately cared about your success. Such a thing is truly rare, putting the athletes goals and desires above your own.. I’m not sure anything will ever be able to replace it. — Adam Charles

Even though I was only able to come to one tournament, it made a huge difference in my life and being able to compete in the sport in a way that made me feel comfortable. — Jim Parrillo

In addition to his work with the GGWC, Dermody has been a part of the Gay Games since competing at the very first Gay Games in San Francisco in 1982. He has been a recipient of the Gay Games’ prestigious Tom Wadell Award, and he is an honorary lifetime member of the Federation of Gay Games.

Roger Brigham, another pioneer in the LGBTQ sports world, has also been a longtime member and leader of the group.

Dermody is also a founder of Wrestlers Without Borders, an international LGBTQ sports organization.

GGWC’s legacy lives on through Wrestlers Without Borders and the other LGBTQ wrestling groups around the world.

To Gene, Roger and the individuals who have lead the organization over the years, your legacy lives on through all of us and the countless people you have touched throughout your life. We salute you!