Erin Vandiver has been involved in girls’ and women’s wrestling since the sport’s early days.
She has played an integral role in its ongoing momentum at the high school, national and international levels.
Now, as the new head coach of Gannon University’s women’s wrestling team, she will enter the collegiate realm looking to lead the Golden Knights to new heights, while continuing her mission of introducing wrestling to young people and reinforcing the sport’s future foundation.
Gannon Director of Athletics Lisa Goddard McGuirk was ecstatic when announcing the hire of Vandiver in June.
“As a coach, Erin has achieved so much and has had an immense impact on the sport of women’s wrestling,” Goddard McGuirk said. “Erin’s coaching and leadership experience at the highest level, combined with her commitment to student-athlete development, was impressive.”
Vandiver has been focused on the sport since the days when she was Erin Tomeo, the only girl on Grove City High School’s wrestling team. As a coach, she has focused on the positive impacts that the sport can have on young women, their education and their futures.
She started competing as a youth, and because there weren’t girls scholastic wrestling teams, she wrestled with the boys at the high school level from 1997 to 2001. She held her own, becoming the first girl to place in the District 10 championships.
“That was challenging for sure,” she said.
Very few collegiate opportunities were available then for female wrestlers who were college-bound.
“When I graduated high school, there were five colleges in the U.S. with programs,” she said. “Now, there are more than 150.”
Vandiver attended Lock Haven University from 2001 to 2002. There was no women’s team, so she trained with the men’s squad. She competed in USA Wrestling events with the Sunkist Kids wrestling club and qualified for the U.S. Senior team that wrestled in the World Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria.
Throughout the past two decades, she has competed in a series of national and international events and later coached with Team USA at many high-level events, including the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games.
In 2017, she moved back to the high school level. Vandiver founded the girls’ wrestling program at Wyoming Seminary in Kingston, Pennsylvania, and led them to national and international success.
The next logical step for Vandiver was becoming a head coach at the college level, where the sport is blossoming. She saw Gannon as an ideal spot. The Golden Knights placed 10th at the NCWWC National Championships last year and had four All-Americans. Plus, she is familiar with western Pennsylvania wrestling, a region that she notes is rich with world-class talent.
When she discusses her aspirations for the Gannon program, she talks just as much about the student-athletes’ excellence in the classroom and beyond college as she does about their success on the mat.
"We need to set those goals that scare us a little bit ... but really push us to be our very best versions of ourselves.”
- Erin Vandiver
“My goal at Gannon is for these girls to come together and show so much passion for the sport that their success comes out both on and off the mat – with national champions, All-Americans, Academic All-Americans and job placement when they graduate,” Vandiver said. “We want them to have an overall excellent college student-athlete experience, so they keep wanting to come back and give back, and we create a tradition here.”
Vandiver plans to continue to help build the sport in the Erie area in addition to guiding Gannon’s team. She will serve as the director of women’s wrestling at the Erie Sports Center, and she plans to work closely with the Wrestle Like a Girl Foundation.
At Gannon, her goals for the team will be lofty. She’s thinking about national championships – for wrestlers and the team.
“We need to set those goals that scare us a little bit, that make us a little nervous but really push us to be
our very best versions of ourselves,” she said. “So, we’re going for the top.”