Another long-time University at Buffalo coach with Western New York roots has been relieved of his duties. Jim Beichner, a Cassadaga native and the university’s wrestling coach since 1995, was told after the Mid-American Conference Championships at UB two weeks ago that he would not be retained.
Beichner is the second head coach raised in WNY to be released upon conclusion of the winter sports season. Basketball coach Reggie Witherspoon was terminated March 15.
“My supervisor told me the Monday after the MAC Championships were over,” Beichner said via phone from Des Moines, Iowa. “Which is not a good time because we had four guys qualify for nationals. Normally I believe standard procedure would wait until the season’s over. But our season wasn’t over.”
Asked to confirm Beichner’s firing, a spokesperson said the university could not comment at this time.
Beichner informed some of his wrestlers in person before the nationals and others via email because the school was on break. The email, which also went to friends and supporters, was devoid of criticism and bitterness. Instead, it touched upon all the program has accomplished during his tenure.
“When I look back at what we started with, I am proud to say that I will be leaving UB wrestling in much better shape today than when I inherited it 17 plus years ago,” Beichner wrote. “We started with an antiquated facility that looked more like a dungeon than a wrestling complex; we now have the beautiful state of the art Ed Michael Wrestling Complex. I started my coaching career with three scholarships; we are now a fully funded program with 9.9 scholarships.
“My journey started with one coaching position and a $5,000 stipend for a grad assistant; we are now fully staffed with 3 full-time coaches and 1 volunteer. We did not have a wrestling club when I started; we are now a certified USA Olympic Wrestling Training Center. Last but not least, we now have a budget that allows us to travel, recruit and train in a way that is befitting of a Division I program. I am confident that the next coaching staff will be able to hit the ground running and will have all of the tools necessary to take the program to the next level.”
But will there be a “next coaching staff?” Wrestling recently was eliminated as an Olympic sport and it’s not a sport mandated by the Mid-American Conference. Beichner said he inquired and was told the program will not be eliminated.
“I certainly hope not,” Beichner said. “It’s a program that’s been around over 80 years and the alumni base as far as donations and the generosity of our alumni is probably one of the top three programs in the entire division. I certainly hope they would not be considering anything like that.”
Beichner, like Witherspoon, had successes that belie his release. The Bulls qualified four wrestlers into the NCAA Championships, raising to 47 the number who have competed in the nationals during Beichner’s tenure. Seven wrestlers have reached the coveted 100-win plateau during their careers. Beichner was the MAC Coach of the Year in 2010-11 when seven Bulls qualified for nationals.
A two-time All-American while wrestling at Clarion State, Beichner has had widespread influence in the sport. He served as president of the National Wrestling Coaches of America for two years beginning in 2008. The Takedown for Cancer event he helped organize raised $98,000 for cancer research over four years.
“We were able, as a wrestling team, to touch many lives outside of the wrestling arena due to your efforts and support,” Beichner wrote.