Buckeye Gymnastics turns out nationally competitive gymnasts, coached by former Olympians, professional judges and international champions.

Buckeye Gymnastics turns out nationally competitive gymnasts, coached by former Olympians, professional judges and international champions.

It has two facilities totaling 45,000 square feet, in which 3,000 gymnasts, tumblers and cheerleaders are coached by about 100 employees.

But its large gym space, where some of the country's top youth gymnasts effortlessly leap and twist above balance beams, mats and parallel bars, bely the gym's humble beginnings 30 years ago.

David Holcomb opened Buckeye Gymnastics with partner Alan Ashworth in a 4,600-square-foot facility in 1983 with 48 students.

The pair were former Ohio State cheerleaders who coached gymnastics in Columbus in the 1970s, left for a couple years to instruct elsewhere, then returned to central Ohio in 1982.

"The parents of those kids (we coached before we moved) reached out to us and said, 'Please open a gym so our kids have somewhere to go.' So we did," Holcomb said.

As Buckeye got its start, Holcomb taught English at in Worthington and coached gymnasts at other facilities.

"It couldn't pay the rent, but it was a good start," Holcomb said of Buckeye's beginnings. "Three days a week, I was going to another gym so I could get a paycheck."

After two years, Buckeye was finally pulling in enough money and enough students for Holcomb to make it his full-time job. After three years, Gymnastics had outgrown its facility and moved to the Ice Chalet building, a former ice-skating ring behind what is now Roush Honda on Schrock Road.

"I think we were the only facility in America that had a Zamboni parked in the garage behind the gym," Holcomb said jokingly.

Holcomb bought out Ashworth in the late 1990s and moved Buckeye Gymnastics to its current facility on Northgate Way, just east of North State Street, in 2001. The building was expanded to from its original 15,000 square feet to its current 21,000 square feet when Holcomb found that Buckeye again had outgrown its space.

"We are (now) six times the size of our original building," Holcomb pointed out.

Holcomb said Buckeye focuses on meeting the needs of students of varying interest in gymnastics.

Buckeye provides classes for children from age 2 through age 18, from preschool age in which students are being taught to learn as well as the basics of gymnastics through high school age in which student are being taught to compete at the elite level.

At the older age levels, students train as much as they are interested, Holcomb said, from students who enjoy gymnastics on a recreational level and train for two to three hours one day a week to students who are home schooled to allow them to train for 25 hours a week.

About 10 percent of the schools' gymnasts, cheerleaders and tumblers compete, from gymnasts who are competing at the beginning recreational level to gymnasts who earn spots at national competitions reserved only for those who have dominated the national scene, Holcomb said.

In his 30th year of operating Buckeye Gymnastics, Holcomb said he's now teaching children of former students, and he's able to enjoy his role as he walks the gym floors and occasionally subs for his coaches.

"I got to be the head coach and super strict for many years," Holcomb said. "Now, I get to do the fun stuff."

As Buckeye Gymnastics celebrates its 30th anniversary, Holcomb said he's unsure of where the gym will go from here, though he said the gym has as strong of a program as its ever had.

Holcomb also knows one thing: "Eventually, I'll get third generation (students), and I'll get my athletes' grandkids, and that's when I'll retire," he said with a laugh.