photo courtesy of Laken Detwiler
The Lindenwood wrestling program was established in 1991, and was an NAIA program until the 2013-14 season. During their time in the NAIA, the Lions won five team National Championships, with Jimmy Rollins’ program putting up two individual National Champions in its time in NCAA Division II. Lindenwood has sent 32 National Qualifiers to the NCAA Division II National Championships, with 18 of those qualifiers returning to St. Charles, Mo., as All-Americans.
“We are fortunate to have a tremendous history within our program,” Rollins said. “What we pride ourselves on is looking at each recruit and student-athlete as a member of our family. We are going to support our wrestlers and give them all the resources they need academically and athletically, and we are going to be behind them holistically in all aspects of life both while they are here at Lindenwood and after they graduate and go into the world.. We have the best seat in the house in each of our guy’s corners to watch them work for and reach their goals.”
Rollins enters his fifth year at the head of the Lion program, after five years as an assistant for Lindenwood. He has been a part of the programs for both NCAA Division II individual champions that have come through the Lindenwood room, with Terrel Wilbourn taking the 157 title in 2016 and Carlos Jacquez winning at 125 in 2019.
Seven starters return for the Lions in 2020-21, with four of them having previous All-American honors and five total as National Qualifiers. Tanner Hitchcock (133), Colby Smith (141), Gavin Londoff (149) and Abner Romero (174) all return to the Lion lineup as All-Americans, highlighted by Smith’s undefeated season in 2019-20 leading up to a two-seed at the 2020 NCAA Division II Wrestling Championships.
The Lions will gain experience off of redshirt years from Londoff and previous 197 starter Colton Clingenpeel, and will add to their roster with more than a dozen recruits. The incoming Lindenwood wrestlers come to the Lions from New Jersey, California, Missouri, Illinois, Iowa and Indiana. In all, Rollins will look for a roster of just under 45 for this season.