MANHEIM, Pa. – In the fall of 1997, first-year head coach Lonnie Morris was just getting the Johnson & Wales University wrestling program off the ground. This August he will receive the sport's highest honor when he is inducted into the National Wrestling Coaches Association Division III Hall of Fame.
The ceremony will take place on August 3 at the NWCA Convention in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Joining Morris in the class of 2019 are two former student-athletes – John Gemmel (Ithaca College) and Tim Jacoutot (The College of New Jersey) – as well as three other coaches: Phil Grebinar (Worcester Polytechnic Institute), Leo Kocher (University of Chicago) and Donny Wichmann (Augsburg University).
Twice, including this year, Morris has been named NWCA National Coach of the Year and he has been named regional coach of the year seven times. His squads have won 349 dual meets, which moved him into the Top 50 Duals Win list for all divisions. The wrestling program has also shown a commitment to academics with 50 Scholar-Athlete Awards and the 2011 Team Academic National Championship.
During his tenure, Johnson & Wales has produced 34 regional champions and 28 All-Americans. In 2018, Jay Albis became the Wildcats' first national champion when he claimed the title at 125 pounds. He repeated that feat in 2019.
This season also saw JWU record its best showing at the NCAA Championships with a third-place finish. The Wildcats have been in the top 10 four times in the last six seasons.
Over the last three years, the Wildcats have become the dominant program in the northeast. Johnson & Wales captured its third NCAA Northeast Region title in a row and its fourth during Morris' tenure. JWU set a Northeast Region record by scoring 187 points and became the first New England school to send nine wrestlers to the NCAA Championships.
In addition to its success at the NCAA Championships, Johnson & Wales has become one of the top dual meet teams in the country. JWU has won a school-record 23 dual meets each of the last two seasons and captured the last three NEWA Dual titles. This season, JWU got its first win over Wartburg College on its way to becoming the first New England team to make the finals of the NWCA Division III Multi-National Duals.
A native Rhode Islander, giving back to the wrestling community is also very important to Morris. He and his team are very active in the community service field with over 200 hours spent helping Beat the Streets Providence and conducting many clinics at clubs and high schools throughout the northeast.