Saul Ervin at the 2021 NCAA Championships (Photo/SIUE athletics)
"Wrestling is a big thing in our family. My dad, brothers, uncles, and cousins all wrestled; it's just what we do" said Saul Ervin, a redshirt sophomore at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Saul, the third youngest of the Ervin family, was born in Morganfield, Kentucky, where he continued the Ervin legacy at Union County High School. He was coached by his father, Robert Ervin, who has won 13 Kentucky state wrestling championships, including six-in-a row since 2016. His accomplishments gave way to his nomination as the 2021 Coach of the Year.
The Ervin family name is synonymous with both Kentucky wrestling and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, a public university located in Edwardsville, Illinois. Robert Ervin competed for the Cougars during the 1985-1986 national championship season. Saul's uncle, Tim Ervin, competed for the Cougars and became a three-time Division II All-American from 1979 to 1981. Finally, Saul's older brother, Isaac Ervin, competed for the Cougars during the 2010-2011 season, where he, unfortunately, suffered a season-ending injury.
"Growing up, there was always a wrestling match going on in my house. I was eager to wrestle because my big brothers were already in the game. I saw them transition throughout the different stages of wrestling and traveled to different places right alongside them" said Saul. His earliest memories warrant "family vacations" to wrestling tournaments around the country, where the Ervin family bond became stronger and the boys became tougher. Saul and his older brother have had a friendly competition going since high school. They were both three-time Kentucky state champions for Union County High School, ranked in the top 10, and mimicked records since their freshman year.
As Saul's older brother graduated and found his new home, it seemed like an obvious decision for him when beginning the recruiting process. "Obviously, I had a little more leniency towards SIUE when it came down to making my final college decision. It definitely had an effect on me; my dad, uncle, and brother all wrestling for the Cougars." Saul didn't make his final college decision until he was on a separate recruiting trip, which was not what he had expected. He called Jeremy Spates, head coach at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, and said, "I want to wrestle for you. These other schools aren't for me. I'm all in. I'm your guy."
Jeremy Spates, an accomplished wrestler himself and in his eighth year as the head coach at SIUE, stated that Saul was amongst the top 20 recruiting class: alongside teammates Justin Ruffin and Aaron Schulist. "I was selling the wrestlers on each other; who they'll be working with and living with for the next five years, and more importantly, for the rest of their lives." Luckily, Spates' plan was successful. Saul explained, "What I love most about SIUE is the guys. With how tight-knit we are, I don't think you'll find that at any other DI wrestling program."
Since making the transition to SIUE's DI wrestling program, Saul has continued to be a "student of the sport." Spates said, "His success on the mat, and all of the work he has put in to have the success on the mat didn't just happen like it does for some. Saul has worked really hard to get to where he is." He has continued to improve his technical side of the sport and is always looking to make adjustments, showing himself as a leader amongst the toughest wrestlers in the country. Saul stated, "If you want to be great on the mat, you have to be great in all aspects of your life. If you're living the right lifestyle, having fun, and working hard towards your goals of being a national champion, good things will happen to you, just like it is for me."
Saul, a lone representative of SIUE at this year's NCAA Wrestling Championships, dropped a 2-0 decision to North Carolina's Zachary Sherman in the opening round of wrestling. He then was taken down, 4-2, in a sudden victory overtime match to Ian Parker of Iowa State to close out his run at a national championship. With those losses behind him, Saul has a positive outlook on his future success at SIUE. "When it comes down to leaving my own legacy here at SIUE, my main goal is to become a DI All-American and bring as many of my teammates along on that journey with me. As for my family's legacy, we've had DII national champions, but I am going to do everything right so I can break that streak and out-do everyone else."
Saul Ervin, a laid-back and free-spirited outdoorsman, is anxiously awaiting his opportunity to finish what his cousins and brothers were never able to do. "When it comes to wrestling, I'm more of a go-with-the-flow and have fun kind of guy, which I think gives me an edge on the rest of the Ervin's. I will solidify not only my family's legacy, but my own."