Hall of Famer Ann Wetzel dies

Ann Dietrich Wetzel died earlier this month at the age of ninety-two.

Wetzel was born in Pittsburgh and grew up in Philadelphia. She played tennis at the University of Pennsylvania, leading the Quakers to an undefeated season in 1951 before graduating with a degree in education the following year.

Learning squash in Norm Bramall’s women’s program at Cynwyd Club after graduation, she quickly became one of the finest players in the country. She won four Pennsylvania state titles, eight Philadelphia & Districts, one Connecticut states title and one Wilmington Invitational. One of her most memorable wins was breaking future Hall of Famer Betty Howe Constable’s record six-year unbeaten streak in the 1959 Pennsylvania states. She played on Team USA’s Wolfe-Noel squad in matches against Great Britain.

Famously a bridesmaid but never the bride, Wetzel lost in the finals of the National Singles a heartbreaking six times in the 1950s and early 1960s. Showing true grit, she captured the 1964 title to finally break through, beating future Hall of Famer Jane Austin Stauffer in the finals 16-15, 15-11, 15-11. At the time she was a mother of four.

Wetzel was a brilliant left-waller in doubles. She won the National Doubles in 1952 (with Anne Mattson), 1956 (Barbara Clement), 1959 (Sylvia Simonin) and 1964 (Stauffer). Only one other person in U.S. squash history has ever captured National Doubles titles with more partners.

Off the court, Wetzel was a pioneering force in collegiate squash. She was Penn’s first women’s team coach, starting a club program in 1968 and serving as varsity coach from 1974 to 1992. She compiled a 154-116 record, coached numerous All Americans and Team USA members like Karen Kelso and was a beloved mentor to hundreds of young women. (Wetzel also served as the women’s tennis team coach at Penn for three seasons in the 1970s as well as the university’s club badminton squad.) Wetzel helped launch the women’s collegiate association in 1973 and grew and sustained the game throughout her two decades at Penn.

Wetzel was one of the most honored women in American squash history. In 1972 he was awarded the Achievement Bowl, US Squash’s oldest award, for substantial and notable contributions to women’s squash. In 1995 the College Squash Association created the Ann Wetzel Award, which is presented annually to a senior who began playing squash in college and exhibits good sportsmanship and a positive demeanor. That same year Wetzel was in the inaugural class of women’s team coaches inducted into the College Squash Hall of Fame for “leaving a signature imprint on the college game.” Wetzel was inducted into the Penn Athletic Hall of Fame in 1998. In 2003 Ann D. Wetzel was inducted into the U.S. Squash Hall of Fame.

“Ann was an accomplished singles and doubles player at a time when the sport was increasingly open to women’s participation,” said Kevin Klipstein, the president and CEO of US Squash. “Her legacy however rests on her pioneering efforts to start the Penn women’s squash team and co-found the women’s intercollegiate squash association. This example of leadership still serves to inspire generations of young players.”