Legendary wrestling coach to retire at end of season
Bert Ernst, co-head coach of the Williamsville East varsity wrestling team, will coach his final dual meet against Williamsville South at 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 27, at East.
The meet will also serve as the inaugural “Williamsville Wrestlers Takedown Cancer” event to be held annually for each East and South dual. Donations will be taken at the door to benefit the University at Buffalo’s Takedown Cancer event, with proceeds going to Carly’s Club and the Jeff Parker Foundation. A check will be given to UB coach Jim Beichner by the Williamsville East and South Wrestling Booster Clubs. Ernst is a breast cancer survivor and UB wrestling alumnus.
Overcoming breast cancer and recent surgeries on his knee, hip and triceps led Ernst to his decision.
Ernst said he will continue to work with East wrestlers during the spring and summer and will help out at practice next season until he leaves for Cornelius, N.C., where he and his wife bought a condo.
Ernst’s coaching career began in 1967 at Buffalo State College, where he started the wrestling program and was coach for the next five years. After he left Buffalo State, he was an unpaid assistant coach for three years at the University at Buffalo.
At the high school level, he was head coach at Williamsville North, Cheektowaga and Kenmore East and then went back to North as an assistant coach. For the past nine years, Ernst has served as an assistant and co-head coach at East. Many of Ernst’s wins came with assistant coach Dave Rogers.
Ernst isn’t sure how many wins he has attained in his coaching tenure but thinks it is more than 300. He has many coaching memories, but one that stood out was in the late 1980s, when North beat Sweet Home to win the section title and finish undefeated.
Before coaching, Ernst was a former standout on the mat. He went 78-3 in four years at Williamsville Central Schools and was a two-time Section VI champion.
Ernst started college at the University of Illinois but then transferred to UB, where he went 44-4. As a senior, he won the Intercollegiate Interstate Individual Invitational at 190 pounds, one of four UB wrestlers to accomplish the feat.
Ernst has been inducted into the Williamsville South Wrestling Hall of Fame and as a wrestler into the Western New York Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
“This is the greatest sport ever,” Ernst said. “It’s been a blessing in my life.”