The 2022 college wrestling national championships are over … but the great...
Ersland is ready to see his five-year plan become a reality at Purdue
(This column appeared in the latest issue of WIN Magazine. To subscribe, go to WIN-Magazine.com or call 888-305-0606.)
By Mike Finn, WIN Editor
When Tony Ersland applied for the Purdue job, the current Boilermaker coach asked for patience before he made any promises.
“I presented a five-year plan,” recalled Ersland. “I don’t believe in quick fixes. When you are going to take a program to a championship level, which is my goal, I don’t think you can do it in a quick fashion.”
Well, season five of the Ersland era will soon be here for the 45-year-old native of Humboldt, Iowa, who also knew that he was taking over a program which had produced just four national champs in its history. The last one was in 1992 by 167-pound Charlie Jones. Purdue has had 53 All-Americans since its inception in 1929.
And Ersland, who is still looking for his first All-American, welcomes the pressure that comes with expectations of his prediction from over four years ago.
“I didn’t come here to take a back seat to anyone,” said Ersland. “It’s a great pressure and what makes me want to get out of bed each day. There is the thrill of, ‘Can we do it a first time?’ I don’t want to lose that thrill. I hope every one of my guys who we recruit feels that as well because when you walk up to a national final, you are going to feel it there. And with success comes even more pressure.”
Ersland has made Purdue more visible during his tenure by sending a total of 21 wrestlers to four national tournaments, including seven last March when the Boilermakers finished in a tie for 28th place. He expects an even higher finish in 2018-19 despite competing in the toughest wrestling conference.
“That might scare some coaches, but you want that level of competition,” he said. “I like being in the middle of the fire and I want to know where we need to be better.”
Ersland credits the university for giving him more resources to compete against some of the nation’s best programs, from improving his travel budget to hiring Amanda Dahl as Purdue’s supervisor of wrestling operations.
He also has reached out to the local community to draw more fans to home meets. Ersland has also educated them on the need for a Regional Training Center, which provides freestyle opportunities and is now a must for Div. I programs wanting to excel.
Ersland certainly viewed success at the highest levels before taking on the Purdue head job, whether it was wrestling under Dan Gable (1994-97) or from his 17 years as an assistant coach at several locations, including at Central Michigan under Tom Borrelli and at Nebraska (1986-94) under Mark Manning.
“Borrelli is fantastic at doing more with less,” Ersland said. “We’ve had to do some of that here at Purdue. You’ve got to be creative and you’ve got to find ways. If I sat around worrying about what I don’t have, we’re not going to get anything done.
“Manning was a great recruiter. And when you talk about the peaking of great athletes and getting athletes to buy into what you are preaching and working hard, you have to start with coach (Dan) Gable. I like to think that all of those things are part of my coaching philosophy. There are bits and pieces from lots of influences.”
The Boilermakers finished 21st nationally in dual rankings, but he knows schools are judged even more at the traditional NCAA tournament … and believes it’s time for the Boilermakers to challenge for a No. 10-15 national finish.
When you check out our preseason rankings, you will find five Boilermakers rated in the Top 20 at their weights, but not one listed among the top eight, which is the finish needed for All-American honors.
While most elite programs remain elite every March, there is always a surprise program in the final standings. There is no reason Purdue can’t be there to make Ersland’s five-year plan come true.