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Nebraska assistant Tony Ersland named Purdue head wrestling coach

Hawkeye to Husker to Boilermaker: New Purdue head wrestling coach Tony Ersland
Photo courtesy of University of Nebraska, used with permission

Tony Ersland, who wrestled at Big Ten mat power University of Iowa and has been on the coaching staff at University of Nebraska for the past eight years, has been named head wrestling coach at another Big Ten program, Purdue University, the West Lafayette, Ind.-based school announced Friday.

Ersland replaces Scott Hinkel, who resigned as the Boilermakers’ head coach in early April after seven seasons at the helm, and, before that, 14 seasons as an assistant coach at his college alma mater.

"We had many qualified candidates, but in the end it was clear that Tony had emerged as our No. 1 choice," said Morgan Burke, Purdue athletics director. "He presented a comprehensive plan for moving our wrestling program forward both in the Big Ten and nationally. His resume as a coach and as a student-athlete is impressive, and it is clear he knows the look and feel of a championship-caliber program. I congratulate our search team, led by Calvin Williams, for selecting an outstanding head coach."

Williams, Purdue’s associate athletics director, weighed in with his assessment of the school’s new wrestling coach.

"Tony has been associated with winning programs and has significant experience in the Big Ten Conference," said Williams. "He brings a level of maturity and focus that will be conducive to taking our wrestling program to the next level. We believe very strongly that he is the right choice for Purdue University."

A major theme of Purdue’s official announcement of Ersland’s hiring appeared to be his Big Ten experience garnered as a staff member at Nebraska, and, prior to that, at Northwestern University, as well as an Iowa Hawkeye wrestler.

Most recently, Ersland had served as an assistant coach at Nebraska for the past eight seasons. In that time, the Huskers had tallied a 102-41-2 dual record, placed among the top-20 teams at seven NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships, and could claim 17 All-American wrestlers.

At Northwestern, Ersland was the head assistant wrestling coach, as well as a coach and board member for the Wildcat Wrestling Club, from 2000-2005. Prior to that, Ersland coached at two Mid-American Conference schools, Northern Illinois University, and Central Michigan.

In addition to his collegiate coaching experience that goes back to 1997, Ersland coached the Cyclone Wrestling Club affiliated with Iowa State in Ames, Iowa, where he worked with NCAA champs Trent Paulson (157 pounds) and heavyweight David Zabriskie along with other NCAA qualifiers and All-Americans.

A native of Humboldt, Iowa – hometown to early 20th century professional wrestling champ Frank Gotch – Ersland wrestled at University of Iowa for coach Dan Gable at 177 pounds. Ersland also made his mark in the classroom, as a four-time Academic All-Big Ten selection, and winner of Iowa wrestling's J. Donald McPike Award, given to the senior on the team with the highest grade-point average.

Ersland faces many challenges in his new job. During the 2013-14 season, Purdue placed eleventh out of twelve programs in the team standings at the 2014 Big Ten Conference Championships. Not a single Boilermaker wrestler made it to the conference finals. Purdue had two automatic qualifiers for the 2014 NCAAs: Cashe Quiroga at 133 pounds, and Braden Atwood at 197.

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