MJE L HWR ElyriaCoachingHire ArmandoTorresHeadshot1

Since it was officially announced back in January that Elyria’s longtime coach Erik Burnett would be stepping down as head coach following 25 years at the school, there’s been intrigue on who his full-time replacement would be.

While Burnett reiterated that he’d still remain involved as part of the staff this year and would be coaching in some capacity, the Pioneers will turn to a familiar face to lead their program forward.

On Oct. 5, the Elyria Board of Education approved the contract of former Elyria, Eastern Michigan and Cleveland State wrestler Armando Torres.

“We are looking forward to having Armando lead the Pioneers,” Elyria Athletic Director Heather Beck said in a statement. “He’s had some amazing coaches over the years and he knows what it takes to lead a program. Many of our coaches are returning to the staff and Erik Burnett will be here to assist as needed.”

Torres was a state runner-up during his days at Elyria High and also earned All-American honors twice at Fargo.

After spending the majority of his career with Eastern Michigan, Torres transferred back home to wrestle for the Vikings for the 2018-19 season, leading the team with 27 wins and one of two individual NWCA Scholar All-Americans at CSU that year at 133 pounds.

Scott Mahoney/smahoney@MorningJournal.com Elyria senior Armando Torres, right, tries to take down Avon Lake's Zack Klima in the Division I, Lorain Sectional 120-pound championship on Saturday. Torres won by pin fall in 3:55.
Scott Mahoney/smahoney@MorningJournal.com Elyria senior Armando Torres, right, tries to take down Avon Lake’s Zack Klima in the Division I, Lorain Sectional 120-pound championship on Saturday. Torres won by pin fall in 3:55.

Now Torres gets another homecoming, as he fills the shoes of the man he once wrestled under.

“Getting back in the building and being around a lot of the guys is a big, comfortable factor,” Torres said. “A lot of the coaches here were people who coached me as well. I think the familiarity of the people around the school and around the wrestling program makes you feel at home and gives you a better understanding of the things that are going on. It’s been an awesome transition into being back and being somewhere I’m familiar with and comfortable, and really know what this program is about. It really gives me a piece of mind.”

Erik Burnett couldn’t be prouder of Torres coming home to coach Elyria, coming full circle after a close relationship between Torres and the Burnett family.

“It’s a wild perspective,” Burnett said of Torres taking the position he held for a quarter century. “I started working with Armando when he was a young kid. He started coming to my dad’s practices when he was a youth wrestler and then I did more work with him in junior high and high school. We have a long history and it’s a wild perspective to watch him grow into the person he’s grown into and interact with wrestlers and as a coach and person. It’s almost surreal.”

Not only that, but there’s been a buzz for the return of one of Elyria’s own.

“It’s really cool. I hope he’s excited about this as we are,” Burnett added. “Our coaching staff and our community, our administration and our school, everyone’s excited. He’s hit the ground running and is doing a great job. He’s got a strong wrestling background and an all-around good person. He’s ready for this.”

“He’s organized and his people skills are really good. They’re paramount to being a coach I feel like. Armando is going to do very well, I’m confident with that.”

Having Burnett around to learn from is a “huge factor,” according to Torres as he tackles his first high school head coaching gig.

“Me and Erik have had a relationship in my time wrestling under him and his dad that really grew over the years,” he said. “He’s been in my corner outside of wrestling for life. He’s a mentor of mine. For him to still be around and being able to ask him questions and pick his brain about the important things to have a successful high school program is huge. He know I trust him and I believe he trusts me as well, so it’s going to be a lot for me to learn but I’m excited to work side-by-side with him in that realm.”

As for what Torres is looking to bring into the program and put a stamp on it, he doesn’t see anything that would blow up the culture already established.

“It’s not going to be anything giant because the tradition and culture is here,” Torres explained. “It was already built here by Erik through his tenure here, and that’s a thing that the coaching staff understands. In that realm, I’m just going to try and keep that going and put my own little twists on things, which will be more apparent in the wrestling room.

“I think overall, you’re going to see a lot of the same wrestling out of our guys, the same type of leadership and communication between the coaches and wrestlers and parents. All of those big things are what I’m going to keep trying to keep building on and continue. So that tradition keeps continuing to carry but also put my little spin on things.”

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