NWCA Honorary Lifetime Member, Coach Earl Fuller Passes
Courtesy of RIT Athletics – Link
ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Legendary RIT coach Earl Fuller passed away, Thursday. He was 98 years old.
Fuller served the RIT community for nearly six decades, including 46 seasons as wrestling coach and 15 as men’s golf coach.
“Earl Fuller’s love for RIT and his student-athletes will be long remembered and forever felt in the hearts and minds of anyone who crossed his path,” said Executive Director of Athletics Lou Spiotti, Jr. “He leaves a legacy that few people in this profession, or any for that matter, can match.”
Fuller took the reins of the wrestling program prior to the 1948-49 season as only the fifth coach following the team’s inception in 1927. He went on to mentor eight wrestlers to 10 All-America honors, including three-time All-American and 1983 Division III National Champion (142 lbs) Darrell Leslie, before his retirement in 1994.
Fuller’s teams totaled 24 appearances at the NCAA Division Championships during his career, including three Division I appearances (1959-61) and five Division II showings (1963, 1970-73). Following the advent of Division III in 1974, Fuller’s teams qualified for the NCAA Championships 16 out of the 20 years he was on the sidelines.
Fuller witnessed 15 RIT Invitational, nine state and 18 ICAC champions while six of his grapplers won the 4-I Tournament and 17 carried off top honors in the Niagara District AAU competition.
Fuller remains the winningest coach in program history with 201 victories, including a perfect 10-0 record during the 1953-54 season. Seven of his wrestlers earned RIT Senior Athlete of the Year honors and 26 were inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame.
Fuller was a member of the inaugural class inducted into the New York State Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1977. He was also honored with the first Lifetime Service to Wrestling Award by the Upstate New York chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1996 and received an Honorary Lifetime Membership Award from the National Wrestling Coaches Association in 2005.
In golf, Fuller mentored seven All-Americans while sending teams or individuals to 10 NCAA Championship, highlighted by a fifth-place team finish in 1978. Competing in the fall and the spring, he boasted 23 winning seasons as well as four undefeated campaigns.
He was inducted into the RIT Athletics Hall of Fame in 1979 and was later honored by the Greater Rochester Sports Authority in 2011 with a brick on the Frontier Field Walk of Fame.
“Earl was the ultimate coach and mentor,” continued Spiotti. “His student-athletes admired him and looked to him for guidance and support. He was there for everyone, not just the athletes, and fostered the growth and development of the sport of wrestling in the area and nationwide. Also an outstanding golf coach for many years, he developed many All-Americans and RIT Hall of Famers in both sports. Perhaps less known about Earl were his abilities in the classroom. He was an excellent teacher and held the title of professor, originally starting his RIT career teaching economics, psychology and later physical education.”
Due to the current pandemic, the Funeral will be private for the family. However, those who wish, may livestream the service on Tuesday, July 21st at 11:00 a.m. For more information, visit www.Miller1889.com.
RIT Wrestling Coach Jason Bovenzi:
“I have fond memories of Coach Fuller throughout my career in wrestling. As a local high school athlete, I took advantage of many opportunities to improve afforded by Coach Fuller. As a collegiate athlete in the same conference, I had many interactions with coach and was always impressed by the class and integrity in which he approached all aspects of his coaching. Finally, as the current wrestling coach at RIT, it is evident in every interaction with our alumni that Coach Fuller had a profound impact on his student-athletes and, moreover, his tutelage continues to influence their lives to this very day. While we are saddened by the loss of our legendary coach, we are proud to share in the storied history of RIT Wrestling which Coach Fuller has been such an integral part.”