Little Rock has reached another milestone in the process of adding wrestling as its 15th intercollegiate athletic program with Director of Athletics Chasse Conque announcing the hiring of Neil Erisman as the program’s first head wrestling coach.
Erisman brings to Little Rock an impressive career both as a competitor and coach at the Division I level, encompassing two of the nation’s top programs in Oklahoma State and North Carolina. During his coaching career, Erisman has mentored 20 NCAA All-Americans and four NCAA individual champions.
“Today starts a new chapter for Little Rock Trojan Athletics with the hiring of Neil Erisman as our first head wrestling coach,” Conque said. “We had tremendous interest in the position and we feel coach Erisman is the right person to lead our program at Little Rock. Neil brings a deep understanding of the sport, a passion for leading young men and a commitment to doing things the right way, giving us great confidence that bright days are ahead for Little Rock wrestling.”
“My family and I would like to thank Chasse Conque, Chancellor Andrew Rogerson, and the UA Little Rock community for welcoming us to the Trojan family,” Erisman said. “I am very excited for this opportunity, and I’m looking forward to getting to Little Rock to begin my work as the Trojans’ first head wrestling coach.”
Erisman has spent the past four seasons at the University of North Carolina where he has played a key role in helping the Tar Heels improve on the national stage. In his four seasons in Chapel Hill, Erisman has helped guide UNC to an overall record of 41-28, finishing third in the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2015-16 and 2017-18.
During his time in Chapel Hill, Erisman has mentored four ACC individual champions and four NCAA All-Americans, highlighted by the 2017-18 season when Troy Heilmann (149) and Ethan Ramos (174) both claimed ACC titles. Heilmann then went on to place fourth in the NCAA Championships in Cleveland with Chip Ness (184) placing seventh, earning the duo All-America honors as the Tar Heels tied for 20th, their highest finish since placing eighth in 1995.
The Tar Heels also produced a pair of ACC champions in 2015-16 in Evan Henderson (149) and Ethan Ramos (174) with Joey Ward finishing seventh in the NCAA championships at 141. In his first season in Chapel Hill, Erisman worked closely with Ethan Ramos, who finished second in the ACC at 165 before placing sixth at NCAAs.
Additionally, Erisman earned a reputation as a top recruiter, helping North Carolina post top-10 recruiting classes in his first three seasons.
“I have been privileged to spend four seasons at the University of North Carolina, working with my great friend and head coach Coleman Scott,” Erisman said. “I want to give a very special thank you to coach Coleman Scott, Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham, Vince Ille, the Tar Heel coaching staff, and the entire support staff for their constant support during my time at UNC. Chapel Hill will always hold a special place in our hearts and is a place we were proud to call home.”
Prior to his time in Chapel Hill, Erisman spent one season as the assistant wrestling coach at Stillwater High School in Stillwater, Oklahoma. He helped guide the Pioneers to the 2014 Oklahoma 6A state championship while also being named the 2014 Oklahoma High School National Team Coach.
Erisman’s coaching career began at his alma mater, serving as a graduate assistant coach at Oklahoma State from 2011-13 under legendary coach John Smith. One of his main priorities was helping with the development of the Cowboys’ freshman wrestlers while helping continue the tradition of Oklahoma State wrestling.
During his two years as a graduate assistant, OSU placed sixth at the 2012 NCAA Championships, followed by a Big 12 championship in 2013 while finishing second at the 2013 NCAA Championships.
Erisman put together a stellar collegiate career in Stillwater, compiling an overall record of 92-36 and was a four year letterwinner for the Cowboys from 2007-11 under coach Smith. He was the 2011 Big 12 Champion at 157 pounds after placing second in 2010 and third in 2009, being named an Academic All-Big 12 selection in 2008.
A native of DeSoto, Kansas, Erisman compiled a 150-5 prep record at DeSoto High School and was both a state and cadet national champion. He earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration from Oklahoma State in 2011. He and his wife, Kelli, have three children – Duke, 6, Oakley, 5, and Zane, 1.
Erisman is now tasked with the challenge of beginning to compile the Trojans’ first recruiting class, leading up to the program’s inaugural season in 2019-20.
A press conference to formally introduce coach Erisman will be held in the coming weeks.