(Glenview Lantern) For the past 47 years, Glenbrook South has hosted a holiday Wrestling tournament.
Each season the Titans, along with several other local wrestling teams, can count on spending a day or two of their holiday season competing at GBS.
While the tournament certainly hasn’t gone unchanged over years — with the constant shifting of coaches, athletes and the number of teams competing — there has been one aspect of the event that has remained a constant for nearly as long as the tournament itself.
The name attached to it.
The Rus Erb Tournament, as it would come to be known, is named in honor of a former GBS assistant wrestling coach, football coach and math teacher; whose legacy what cut short after a fatal heart attack in 1971.
But prior to his death, Erb played in key role in building the Titans’ wrestling program from the ground up.
GBS’s original athletic director, Walt Sherman, started the holiday tournament once the school finally had a senior class in 1964.
Rather than continue to travel to Waukegan every year, Sherman was hoping to develop a tournament that the school could come to be known for.
As part of the building process, Sherman hired Bill Fuller — an All-American wrestler from the University of Iowa — to lead the program, and Erb to serve as an assistant.
“He was a lieutenant kind of guy,” Sherman remembered. “You told him what the job was, and what we had to do, and he took care of getting it done.”
Erb came from the Rockford school system, where he had originally earned his coaching experience.
With Fuller coming in fresh out of college, Erb’s presence on the staff allowed the Titans’ wrestling program to reach its true heights.
“He was a real help to me in that he had a lot of experience with kids and with coaching,” Fuller said. “He was a great help for a young kid like myself who was just starting out.”
Fuller would go on to become the athletic director at Glenbrook North in the coming years, with Max Farley eventually taking over as head of the program.
Farley welcomed Erb’s presence in the program, relying heavily on his assistant coach.
Early on, Erb was responsible for the bout cards during the holiday tournament, figuring out which wrestlers would compete against each other.
Later on, he would help re-design the entire tournament into a form much closer to the way it is run today.
“He made up this 16 team wrestling tournament with wrestle-backs,” Farley said. “Being a math teacher he loved working with numbers.”
Erb loved scoring so much, he was in charge of it not only for the GBS tournament, but for the state tournament and even the national tournament during a year in which the meet was held at Northwestern University.
His impact on the local wrestling scene was endless, which is the reason why it was decided that the tournament would continue in Erb’s death.
Prioir to passing, Erb also had the chance to coach his son, Bruce Erb, in both football and wrestling before he went on to play at the University of Illinois and, prior to that, coached the defense for GBS’s first ever conference championship football team.
Fuller remembers Erb as a healthy man who practiced what he preached, and set a fine example for those around him. For that, he will always be grateful.
“He was a fine man, very Christian, very down to earth,” Fuller said. “I never head him swear, never saw him take a drink. And he was that way with the kids and he was that way with all the other teachers in the building.”