BURRILLVILLE – Burrillville native Brian Allen has walked in more than a few Halls of Fame over the years. He has been inducted into the Burrillville Sports Hall of Fame, the Rhode Island College Athletic Hall of Fame, and the New England Conference College Wrestling Association Hall of Fame. This July, the longtime Johnson and Wales University assistant wrestling coach will be inducted into the National College Wrestling Hall of Fame.
“This was a big surprise,” said Allen. “I was shocked I got in on the first vote.”
Allen explained that, like most halls of fame, it takes a majority of votes by coaches across the country to get accepted. He earned 71 percent of the votes from the coaches association. Allen explained that in addition to helping to build an outstanding program at Johnson and Wales, he has played major roles on various committees nationally, including both the seeding committees and ranking committees over the years. Add to that his being tabbed as National Assistant Coach of the Year twice in both 2017 and 2019, as well as Regional Assistant Coach of the Year six times, including 2004, 2007, 2014, 2017, 2019 and 2023.
His career in wrestling began at Burrillville High, where he was a New England Champion, graduating in 1987. Following that he was an NCAA All American twice, both in 1989 and 1991 and New England Champion all four years while attending Rhode Island College
After graduating from RIC, he began teaching elementary physical education in Providence, where he remains today. He started his coaching career at Burrillville from 1992-1997, and then moved on to coach briefly at RIC where he was assistant coach from 97-98, before being hired as assistant coach at Johnson and Wales. He has been there for 26 years.
Johnson and Wales is now considered one of the top wrestling programs in the country. That is a result of teamwork, says Allen, including head coach Lonnie Morris with whom he was teamed from the start.
“We built this program from the ground up,” explains Allen, 54. “It has been over 20 years of trial and error trying to find out what works best. We have emulated the successful programs from around the country.”
In 2015, the program broke into the top 10 across the country, sending four wrestlers to the national championships, with three making All American. One of the reasons they have attracted so many quality wrestlers, says Allen, is their social media presence, a program he designed and manages.
“Kids nowadays graduate to social media,” he explained. “Our presence there definitely elevated the program.”
That includes everything from Instagram to Facebook, where images and videos of wrestlers abound. Their media earned them best highlight video of the year by the coaches association 2015-2016.
“When that started happening, the floodgates opened up,” said Allen.
The coaching approach also contributes to their success, he says.
“The key was we really listened to our student/athletes,” Allen explained. “We don’t rule by fear. We rule by love. We help each other anyway we can. If a kid calls us up, we’re there for them. We’re not just their coaches; we’re a second set of parents.”
Having achieved the highest coaching honor, what is next?
“Lonnie and I have done everything we’ve wanted to do with the exception of a national championship,” said Allen. “We want to host a national championship in Rhode Island. The last time that happened was in 1992 at the Coast Guard Academy. We put in a bid for 2025 and we got it. It will be at the Amica Center in Providence. That will probably be our farewell song…”
Allen still lives in Burrillville with his wife Melissa and their two daughters, Haley and Riley. He is the son of Bert and Donna Allen of Burrillville.
Editor’s note: The above article has been edited to note that Allen was New England Champion four times in college, and that he was Regional Assistant Coach of the Year six times. We apologize for the errors.