Head Coach, National Champion, Olympian, Army Airborne Ranger, Vietnam Veteran
The quest for excellence resonates in all aspects of J Robinson’s life and is defined by the J7: Discipline • Dedication • Sacrifice • Hard Work • Responsibility • Accountability • Service. These values form the foundation that fuel Robinson’s work ethic, competitive fire, and expectations.
J Robinson led the University of Minnesota Wrestling as Head Coach from 1986-2016. Under his leadership, Gopher Wrestling demanded an environment of excellence that saw the Gophers rise to elite status in college wrestling. Robinson's teams claimed the first three national championships in Minnesota history while the four-time National Coach of the Year helped develop 61 All-Americans, 14 individual national champions, six Big Ten team titles, 30 individual Big Ten champions for 47 individual titles and 6 National Dual Meet Championships. All told, Robinson's wrestlers have amassed a total of 117 All-America honors, including a NCAA record 10 All-Americans during the national championship run in 2001. His .752 winning percentage is a program record, and his 405 dual meet victories stand as the best mark in Minnesota wrestling history.
Robinson's efforts have not gone unnoticed by his peers in the wrestling community. In June of 2005, Robinson earned the ultimate honor as he was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. He was named the 1998 and 2001 Dan Gable Coach of the Year by Wrestling Insider News (WIN) Magazine and earned the National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) Coach of the Year award in 2001. Robinson also has earned Big Ten Coach of the Year honors eight times in his career, more than any other coach in the conference's history.
Prior to taking the head coaching position at Minnesota, Robinson served as an assistant coach at the University of Iowa from 1976-84. During that span, the Hawkeyes won seven NCAA, and eight Big Ten crowns. He served as an interim head coach during the 1983-84 season and led the Hawkeyes to Big Ten and NCAA titles. Regarded as one of the top coaches in the country by student-athletes and peers, Robinson has also been involved in coaching on the national and international level. He served as an assistant coach on four consecutive U.S. Olympic squads - 1976, 1980, 1984 and 1988 - and was the head coach for the United States at the 1983 Pan American Games.
As a wrestler, Robinson proudly represented the USA in his goal to wrestle at the pinnacle of all athletics, competing in the 1972 Olympic Games held in Munich, Germany. Named to WIN Magazine's All-Olympic team of the century, Robinson captured four individual National Titles during his amateur career, two in freestyle and two in Greco-Roman and competed on two USA World teams, placing fourth in the world in 1970 and fifth in the world in 1971.
Robinson earned his bachelor's degree from Oklahoma State in 1969, before beginning his service in the military. While at Oklahoma State, he was in the ROTC program and left as a Distinguished Military Student, Distinguished Military Graduate and was offered a Regular Army Commission as a Second Lieutenant in June 1969. Robinson then attended Airborne and Ranger School (Honor Graduate), as well as Jungle Warfare School, before beginning his tour in Vietnam. In late 1970 through early 1971, Robinson was attached to the United States Military Academy in the Athletic Department. In February of 1971, he left for Vietnam and was assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade and served the remainder of his tour with the First Cavalry Division.
In 1978, Robinson took his desire to work with aspiring athletes into the domain of summer camps and established the largest wrestling camp system in the nation. J Robinson Intensive Camps are regarded as one of the most challenging and effective camps offered to wrestlers, with Robinson personally on hand at every Intensive Camp leading and motivating young athletes. More than 35,000 campers have experienced the challenging physical aspects of camp, but more importantly, gained instrumental life lessons taught at camp. Gratifying testimonials sent in from camp graduates attest to the significant impact camp has had on developing life changing habits that continue to impact their lives both personally and professionally.
Robinson’s ongoing support of the armed forces servicemen and servicewomen stationed overseas has evolved into two goodwill tours to Iraq and Kuwait in 2009 and 2011 respectively. Both tours emphasized Robinson’s desire to represent the state of Minnesota’s gratitude for their service in conjunction with conducting combatives training seminars for over 1,000 military personnel and motivational seminars for over 3,000 US, Coalition and civilian personnel.
Robinson’s quest for excellence is summed up in a simple philosophy: It is not what you say that counts, it is what you do. Authentic and true to his beliefs and standards, Robinson welcomes open and lively discussion on topical issues and events.