You would be hard pressed to find a more tenured coach at Buffalo than Reggie Witherspoon but Jim Beichner had been at the school for eighteen years before UB director of athletics, Danny White, let the long time wrestling coach go after this years Mid American Conference championship.
Beichner was brought on to run the program in 1995. He inherited a program that knew little success. Over the previous four years Buffalo had manages only six dual-meet victories and the facilities were severely lacking. His career at UB was marked by a drive to improve the performance on the mat and on to build up resources appropriate for a division one squad.
He succeeded in both regards.
"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." -- Jim Beichner to the Buffalo News
His success on the mat was immediate. During the 1995-96 season he Bulls to a 10-4 dual meet record after they were winless the previous season. UB captured third place in the East Coast Wrestling Association (ECWA) Tournament and sent two wrestlers to the NCAA Championships where they each posted wins, the first-ever tournament wins for UB since its return to Division I. Additionally, Beichner was recognized for his efforts, receiving the New York State Division I and ECWA Coach of the Year awards, in addition to Amateur Wrestling News Rookie Coach of the Year honors.
His best season might have been 2010 when UB finished 3rd in the MAC and sent six wrestlers to the NCAA championships. But since that season UB is 8 and 25 and has finished sith out of six and seventh out of eight in the Mid American Conference tournament.
2011 was marred by the expulsion of UB star Desi Green who was suffering substance abuse problems he was unable to overcome. That loss was a big part of the 7-14 season that snapped UB's run of six straight winning years. This past season despite a decent roster UB won just one dual match, making it the worst year of his tenure by far.
Beichner is a Western New York wrestling institution. He was first induced to the Cassadaga Valley Hall of Fame in 1982 followed by the Eastern Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1993 and the Clarion University Sports Hall of Fame in 2000 and finally the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame in 2004. Beichner was also an organizer for the Takedown for Cancer event, which was put on in honor of the late Jeff Parker who lost his battle with cancer in May 2010. Beichner helped raise $98,000 over four seasons.
By releasing the second "face of the program" coach at UB Danny white has signaled that he intends to drive programs which fall short of what he thinks they should be. While wrestling is a Niche sport it's one in which the Mid American Conference is a powerhouse. There is a lot of opportunity for Buffalo to make a name, nationally, in their conference if the right man is in charge of the program.
That man very well could have been Beichner, who like Witherspoon was living his dream and doing it in a community which was in his blood. White seems to be a guy who sets his sights high and takes his shot. When I talked about Whites Big Gamble with Witherspoon the obvious point was when you go all in you look like a genius or you end up looking like a goat. White is going to own the success of Basketball and Wrestling.
It also might be a harbinger of things to come for other programs. The five year extension for Quinn does not mean the same thing to Danny White that it would have meant to Warde Manual.