If Colman Ermi was a wrestler’s future opponent, the worst thing that foe could do was try to scout him, since it was nearly impossible to figure out the “Ermi style.”
That’s because there was none, which made the Bordentown Regional High School senior very unpredictable, very dangerous wrestler during his senior year.
“He’s crafty,” Scotties coach Mike Gill said. “It’s not conventional. It’s not the picturesque, rulebook wrestler where one move translates to another move. It’s a different style every time. It’s unique. It’s something where you don’t really know what you’re gonna get until it happens. He can wrestle the same match 1,000 times and the result might be the same but the approach to that result may be different every time.”
In other words, if an opponent saw Ermi do one thing on Wednesday, he might not have seen it when they meet on Friday.
“It’s hard to match somebody’s style, especially when their style constantly changes,” Gill continued. “His style constantly changes so it’s hard to find the right word or adjective or right way to describe a style that’s constantly adapting. If something doesn’t work there’s somewhere else to go and that’s something big for him.”
What’s truly amazing is that guys who wrestled against Ermi every day say the same thing.
“Even in practice some of my teammates tell me it’s hard to wrestle me because there’s so many different things I do in different positions,” said Ermi, whose senior season ended with a loss in the District 22 consolation bout. “Like when I’m throwing myself over the top or grabbing an ankle or sprawling out hard and cross facing.”
Ermi pretty much kept everyone guessing, which is an ability he discovered by accident a few years ago.
“I just started getting into weird positions and I realized I liked wrestling out of that,” Ermi said. “It makes it more fun wrestling like that, and I think it makes it more fun to watch.”
Ermi became especially enjoyable to watch the past several years. After a youth sports career that included baseball, basketball and football, Colman switched gears in 7th grade and opted for soccer and wrestling.
Soccer was his fun sport that got him in shape for wrestling, which he began to take seriously after 9th grade.
“I had a tough freshman season and that just made something switch on in my head because I wanted to get better,” Ermi said. “I didn’t like losing. Right after freshman season, that’s when I started wrestling at clubs. It’s (since) thinned out a little during the season but I was doing a lot last summer and after last season, and I still go to Shore Thing (in Lakewood).”
The work paid off. Ermi won 26 matches as a sophomore and 27 last year, when he took third at districts at 113 pounds and won a first-round regional match. This year, he finished 30-8 after learning how to not over-think things.
“He stayed focused but at the same time he wasn’t over-thinking,” Gill said. “That’s one of the hardest things at any level, high school or college. You have to stay focused and in that mindset but not over-do it to the point where you’re limiting yourself.”
Ermi went to work on that and this season prepared himself the right way.
“He got into the zone and you could see that kind of switch flip in his head, but at the same time he knew where he was at,” Gill said. “He wasn’t overthinking every little thing where ‘If I do this wrong or I do this right.’ It’s just go out and see what happens.”
The results were quickly apparent, as Ermi took second at 120 pounds in The College of New Jersey Tournament and followed that by winning the Collingswood Tournament.
“That really set the tone for me because last year at TCNJ I lost my first match,” he said. “Taking second at that tournament gave me a boost at the beginning of the season that made me want to keep going and win a tournament, like Collingswood.”
Gill feels that Ermi’s new way of doing things did not made him a completely different wrestler, but it led to improved results. Matches that may have been losses last year became wins this season. What would have been a 3-pont decision last year may have led to bonus points via major decisions, technical falls or pins.
“Last year you couldn’t say the same thing,” Gill said. “He opened up and expanded leads instead of just being satisfied with the lead. It’s how large he can make the margin.”
Coming up through the ranks, Ermi was aided by the leadership of previous standout wrestlers like Billy Moore and JaJuan “Tiki” Hayes, who finished 8th in the state last year.
“They taught me how to keep my head in my matches and keep my mind sharp right before matches and after,” Ermi said. “If I lose, come back out, cheer for my teammates. If I win, get up, cheer for my teammates. My freshman and sophomore years I let my losses get the better of me.”
He also let his nerves get the better of him prior to competition.
“I used to get all tense before my matches and I’d go out and wrestle all nervous at first,” he said. “If I got the first takedown it would help, if I got taken down it would put me in a kind of bad mindset. This year I took a different approach. I put my earplugs on before matches, went out, listened to music. I just chill out and then I go out and wrestle a tough six minutes.”
Ermi, who credited his parents, Chris and Jen, for being there every step of the way when it came to his working on wrestling, is hoping to continue the sport in college and has looked into Muhlenberg and York.
It’s a tribute to how far he came after entering Bordentown as an unpolished gem.
“He was raw as a freshman,” Gill said. “The toughness was there but I would say the wrestling IQ wasn’t. When you’re wrestling IQ meets your toughness and you can elevate both at the same time, that’s what you’re seeing now. That toughness is there, and now he understands positions better, he understands angles a little better.”
Most importantly, Ermi understands that whatever situation he is in, he has a way to battle out of it.