Niagara County Community College Wrestling Coach
Eric Knuutila tirelessly served the Niagara County Community College (NCCC) athletics department for 38 years as the architect of one of the most successful collegiate wrestling programs in the country.
Originally from Ithaca, NY, Knuutila attended Corning Community College and the University at Buffalo. In 1973, Eric was named head coach of NCCC’s newly created wrestling team, and over the next 38 years built the program into the wrestling capital of Western New York.
During his tenure, Eric coached 502 wrestlers. He was selected Region III Coach of the Year 13 times, and in 1990 was named the National Junior College Athletic Association’s (NJCAA) Man of the Year. Under his guidance, the NCCC program produced 35 NJCAA All-Americans, 101 Region III champions, and four national champions, including Niagara Falls native and former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Rashad Evans.
Knuutila’s impact on athletics at NCCC stretched beyond the wrestling mat. Eric was also a coach on the golf staff for 16 years, and in 2006 NCCC finished their season ranked 6th in the nation.
Throughout his wrestling tenure at NCCC, Eric was, and still is, active in promoting and growing the sport of wrestling on all levels – kids, high school, collegiate, and international. He coached many Junior College National Wrestling teams, Junior Pan-Am Games, and traveled on international cultural exchange trips as a category 2 wrestling official of the United States Wrestling Officials Association. He founded and ran the Amplitude Wrestling Club, which subsequently merged with the Buffalo Blizzard Club to form New York Super Six, in which he is still active. He has been part of Section VI Kids Wrestling and is still involved in an advisory capacity. Eric served Western Region Wrestling in the Empire State Games for over 30 years. He was also a charter member, and is still active, in the WNY Wrestling Coaches’ Association, the Wrestling Review of WNY Section VI High School Ranking Committee, and the prestigious Ilio DiPaolo Scholarship Committee.
Eric demands respect and believes that the key to building successful wrestlers is building better human beings. His hands-on approach to coaching produced lasting personal relationships with many of his former wrestlers; who have long considered him a father figure, and credit his rare ability to inspire as the reason for their success.
Knuutila is second among NJCAA wrestling coaches with 369 wins. When active, he was ranked as high as 7th among all wrestling coaches in wins. He is a member of the NCCC Hall of Fame, the Region III Hall of Fame, the New York State Collegiate Hall of Fame and the NJCAA Hall of Fame. In 2010 he was inducted into the New State Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.