Lonnie Morris started the Johnson & Wales University wrestling team in 1997 with just four student-athletes. Going into his 23rd season, Morris has transformed the Wildcats into one of the top programs in the country.
In addition to his coaching duties, Morris serves as the coordinator of athletics fundraising. He also has oversight of women's lacrosse, men's lacrosse and women's rowing.
Morris had earned virtually every coaching accolade possible, but he added two more prestigious honors in 2019. During the National Wrestling Coaches Association convention in Fort Lauderdale, he was elected to the NWCA Division III Hall of Fame. That came on the heels of being named the NWCA Division III National Coach of the Year.
Earning Coach of the Year was more than warranted given all the Wildcats' success in 2019. Backed by school & New England record nine national qualifiers, JWU placed third at the NCAA Championships. Senior Jay Albis repeated as the national champion at 125 pounds, while also earning Most Oustanding Wrestler at the championship. Bobby Jordan and Khamri Thomas earned All-America honors with third-place finishes. JWU dominated the NCAA New England Regional for the third year in a row, winning with a record 187 points.
History was made in 2018 when Jay Albis captured the program's first national championship, winning the title at 125 pounds. JWU finished sixth after sending a program-best seven wrestlers to the NCAA Championships. The Wildcats ran away with their second-straight NCAA Northeast Regional with nine of 10 wrestlers earning All-Region accolades. In December, Johnson & Wales also ascended to the top spot in the National Poll for the first time in program history. Johnson & Wales career record in dual meet stands at 349-140-4.
Johnson & Wales made the podium for the first time at the 2017 NCAA Championships with a fourth-place finish. All five of the Wildcats who advanced to the national championship earned All-America honors, including Stephen Jarell and Albis, who finished second. Thanks to 19 pins, the Wildcats outpaced Ithaca to capture the second NCAA Northeast Regional title in school history. All 10 wrestlers earned All-Region honors - marking just the second time any team had accomplished this feat - and JWU sent a then school-record five wrestlers to the NCAA Championship.
The 2015-16 campaign was another successful one for the Wildcats as Joey Gaccione became the 16th All-American in school history when he placed eighth at the NCAA Championships at 149 pounds.
Recognition for the program is not limited to just on the mat. For the last two years, the Wildcats have earned the Gold Standard from the National Wrestling Coaches Association in their Best of Brand competition. The Best of Brand "Gold Standard" competition is the highest award given to the program which most effectively built their brand utilizing technology throughout the year.
Throughout his tenure as JWU mat boss, Morris has been recognized numerous times by his peers. He was named the NEWA Rookie Coach of the Year in 1998 and was the Coach of the Year in 2000, 2004, 2007, 2014 and 2017. He was also honored with the 2017 and 2019 National Coach of the Year Honors.
During Morris’ career, the Wildcats have captured the Pilgrim Wrestling League title 11 times (2000, 2002, 2005-2012 and 2017) a league which has now been disbanded and won the team's first-ever NEWA Conference Championship in 2007. Johnson & Wales has won the NEWA Duals seven times (2002, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2017, 2018, 2019).
Every season the Wildcats are ranked among the nation’s best on and off the mat. In 2011, his Wildcat squad was crowned as the National GPA Champions. The 2006-07 squad vaulted up to number three in the national rankings in December of 2006.
Johnson & Wales’ success is not limited to the regular season as the Wildcats contend every year at the NCAA Tournament. The 2014 team finished eighth at the NCAA Championships, the highest finish at that time in school history.
As to be expected, Morris’ wrestlers have earned national acclaim as well. During his head coaching tenure, Morris as accumulated 28 All-Americans, 50 Academic All-Americans and 34 Region Champions. Johnson & Wales has had an All-American each of the last seven seasons and 13 out of the last 15 years.
JWU Hall of Famer and current assistant coach James Gilbert was Morris’ first All-American in 2002. In 2002, Jay Albis produced the best finish in JWU lore when he won the 2018 NCAA National Championships at 125 lbs.
Morris was a prolific wrestler during his career at Rhode Island College. He was an NCAA Div. III Wrestling All-American, two-time New England champion and earned All-New England honors four times in the heavyweight weight class from 1990-94.
Morris is one of a select group of Rhode Island College wrestlers to accumulate 100 or more wins during his career. He graduated from RIC in 1996 with a degree in physical education. He was named to the NEWA Hall of Fame, the 2006 RIC Hall of Fame and the 2011 Rhode Island Wrestling Hall of Fame.
Morris resides in Barrington, RI with his wife Katherine. He is the proud father of two daughters, Cortney and Taylor, and son Jack.