May 07, 2002 11:00 pm
Rollin Schimmel ().
Rollin Schimmel ().

Rollin Schimmel has wrestling in his blood.

For most of his life, Schimmel has either wrestled or coached wrestling. And now it has paid off for the Eastern Oregon University 1967 graduate.

On Saturday, Schimmel was one of four inductees into the Oregon Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

"When you're involved with something like the hall of fame, you feel good about being honored," Schimmel said. "It gives the sport publicity and lets everyone know the people that are involved with it."

Schimmel spent four years wrestling at Eastern, where he won a national title in 1967 in the 160-pound division at the NAIA National Tournament.

He advanced to the national tournament in 1964-66 at 157 pounds, finishing second in '64 and '66 and fifth in '65. He finished his collegiate career with a 94-9-1 record and won four Oregon Collegiate Conference championships and four NAIA District 2 titles.

After graduating from Eastern in 1968 with a master's degree in education, Schimmel spent 19 years coaching and teaching at Pendleton High School. From 1987-91, he taught and coached at Glencoe High School in Hillsboro before returning to Pendleton as the athletic director from 1991-97. He retired from teaching and, at the time, coaching in 1997.

"I've been retired for four years now (from teaching), but I returned as the head wrestling coach two years ago for Pendleton," said Schimmel, who helped develop Pendleton into a wrestling powerhouse in the Class 4A Intermountain Conference and at the state level.

His only regret during his personal career may have come after his 1967 wrestling title, when he attempted to qualify at the U.S. Olympic Trials in New York City.

"A dislocated elbow kept me out of the finals," said Schimmel of the injury that occurred during a match at the trials. "It was the only significant injury I ever had and it kept me out of competition."

Schimmel looks back on his days at Eastern with fondness.

"We had great fan support. There were several meets we had (in Quinn Coliseum) that were standing room only," he said.

The one that stands out in his mind came when the University of Oregon came to La Grande.

"They were really good, but we won, of course," he said. "It was a full house and there were students patting you on the back when you came off the mat."

Looking back, Schimmel said Eastern and La Grande were a "great place to be. We had a lot going on and I developed sincere friendships. Our team was a very cohesive group and we still stay in touch.

"To attend EOU at that time was one of the greatest times of my life. It wasn't the partying thing, like the college scene of today; we just all did things together. As a team, we won together and suffered losses together. And the classroom experience was very outstanding."

Schimmel also has his name in EOU's football record book.

As a freshman in 1964 he rushed for 270 yards against George Fox University. The total stands as the top rushing performance in Mountaineer history. In 1968, Schimmel was EOU's assistant wrestling coach. EOU claimed the NAIA District 2 championship that season.