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In Play with Craig Mattick: Lincoln McIlravy

Lincoln McIlravy
David Guttenfelder
Lincoln McIlravy (top) is among those joining the Sports Hall of Fame. AP - -USA's Lincoln McIlravy (top), a native of Philip, takes down Nigeria's Ibo Ozito during their 152-pound match. McIlravy won by injury default.

Lincoln McIlravy has a resume that features five state high school championships, three NCAA titles, and a bronze medal in the 2000 Olympic games - all in wrestling. Like Randy Lewis, he's an Iowa alum, and is considered one of the best pure wrestling talents in South Dakota history.


Craig Mattick: Welcome to another edition of In Play. I am Craig Mattick. Today's guest, one of the all-time greats in South Dakota. His success not only on the high school level but in college and eventually in the Olympics, representing our country. Five high school wrestling titles in South Dakota, three NCAA National Championships, and of course the bronze medal in 2000 at the Sydney Olympics. The Philip Scottie and the Iowa Hawkeye. He's the great Lincoln McIlravy. And Lincoln, welcome to In Play.

Lincoln McIlravy: Hey Craig, thanks for having me on. I appreciate that.

Craig Mattick: Wrestling was such a large part of your life. 1988, you're an eighth grader, your first title for Philip, and then all the way to winning Olympic bronze 12 years later. How did you avoid burnout for such a long period of time?

Lincoln McIlravy: It's really something I never had a problem with. There were parts of wrestling that ... You get a little tired of maybe the weight maintenance or weight cutting and some of that types of stuff. But overall, I was really in love with the sport and wanted to accomplish something big. And so I never really felt as if I was experiencing any burnout. I was mostly excited about the opportunities that were in front and the hope and the ability to improve. Wrestling, it's limitless the amount of things you can learn and apply. I was too busy trying to learn and apply things to feel any burnout.

Craig Mattick: How did you get started? You put all of the success with your brothers, a couple of brothers, who got you started into wrestling?

Lincoln McIlravy: I've got two older brothers and an older sister. And they didn't have girls wrestling back then, but my older brothers wrestled. And when I was five years old, I started. And basically, it was just like you hop in the car and go to wrestling practice. I don't remember thinking about do I want to do this or not want to do this, they just did it. It was something to do in the winter, and in South Dakota. I think at that time it was maybe a couple practices a week and the whole season was just a couple months long. Things have really become a lot more structured and more intense in the last 30 plus years. But great experience for me starting out that way.

Craig Mattick: Sure. Well, Philip High School, you're an eighth grader and you win the state title at the 98-pound weight division. What was going through your mind at that time, here as an eighth grader, you've won a state title?

Lincoln McIlravy: Well, I think ... My dad had a great philosophy and a great approach to wrestling and it was really just this whole idea of one match at a time and even breaking it down further than that one point at a time. And you break it down into the little things and you take care of those and the big things take care of themselves. And even at that age, I had aspiring goals to become a National Champion and a World Champion, an Olympic Champion. And so even as big of an accomplishment as that was at the time, it was really, in my mind, just a stepping stone. It was really a great win and it was really exciting, but always looking forward to what was next in the hopes of becoming something really great.

Craig Mattick: Well, you became just the second wrestler in South Dakota history to win at least five titles, a high school career record of 200 wins and 25 losses. That 200th victory was your senior year championship match, going for your fifth state title, all of that put together.

Lincoln McIlravy: I guess I never really thought about that, in terms of the number of wins, or I wasn't so much excited about any records that I was able to achieve in terms of numbers or the number of take-downs or things like that. It was just really, again, it was just more about what's next, what's out front and how can I get better and better at this. But looking back, 225 matches is a lot of matches in high school. Of course, I had six years of it, so that helps. But that's an awful lot of matches.

Craig Mattick: You devoted yourself to wrestling year round really early. What were those off-season workouts like? And who coached you? And who kept you levelheaded during that off-season time?

Lincoln McIlravy: I did devote myself to wrestling early probably in ... I played a little bit of football in seventh and eighth grade and then really devoted myself to wrestling year round after that. And so there was the regular wrestling season. And then in the off-season my parents were willing to take us to wrestling camps and wrestling competitions all over the country. And so really it was just a matter of putting together that schedule in the off-season, what camps can we go to, what tournaments can we get to. And then it's like how do you get ready for those because there's not a whole bunch of other guys training for those events. And so travel to find workout partners and anyone locally that would work out in the off-season, helped us out and grateful for anybody that did. Because it was tough to find workout partners in the middle of May. People just aren't thinking wrestling as much.

Craig Mattick: But you got to work on your technique, you got to work on new moves. Was that important for you during the off-season?

Lincoln McIlravy: Yeah. That was a big thing for me. When I was a kid, John Smith, who coaches at Oklahoma State now, won the World Championships in 1987, won the Olympics in '88. And as I watched his career, even as I was younger, but he would spend each year and try to develop one or two new skills. And I thought that's really important to always be building on whatever skill you had, but to develop something completely new over the course of the year, because it does take time to get the feel for it and then to ultimately get the confidence it takes to execute the new skill in a match situation. And so I learned that from him as just pick a new skill that can really add to your style and spend even up to a year trying to really master that skill. And over the years, you end up with a pretty broad scope of effective skills that you're comfortable with using in match settings.

Craig Mattick: The boot scoot technique I'm told was one of your top repertoires. What was the boot scoot technique? And what it did for your success?

Lincoln McIlravy: That's a duck under technique where you go ... The offensive guy goes all the way down to his inside hip and lands on butt and then bounces back off, that is you're pulling the guy over the top. It requires your opponent to really be pushing in and to have ... Well, not to get too technical, but not to be posting on your shoulders but to be laying the forum on top of your shoulder or maybe grabbing the back of your neck. That opens that up. And it's a technique that was really effective for me at some key times and always towards the end of match is when my opponent was tired. And it was a neat technique because not a lot of people were doing it at that time. And it looked ... Looks like ... Well, it happens quick. And kind of like, "What happened there?" And I learned that at a wrestling camp up in Bismarck, North Dakota. And I learned from Mark Reiland, who was a National Champion here at Iowa, I think in 1991 maybe.

Craig Mattick: Do you see it performed today?

Lincoln McIlravy: I think people do still use the thing and they probably expounded on that. And I've seen people do variations of it and probably doing it better than I ever did.

Craig Mattick: Your titles, you won at '98 at 112, at 125, but then that junior year you bumped it to 152 and you stayed there for your junior and senior year. How difficult was it jumping from 125 to wrestling at 152 your junior year?

Lincoln McIlravy: Not too bad because if I remember right, I wrestled maybe 132 and maybe 143 in some off-season freestyle tournaments. I was growing into that as I was going. And I would say there was a point in my career, maybe after my sophomore year, which would've been that 125 year, that I consciously said, "Rather than spending a whole bunch of time trying to cut weight, I'm going to try to apply my time and effort to learning wrestling skills." And so I did cut less weight the last couple years and tried to spend more time developing skills, learning techniques, because those would be valuable for my whole career. But cutting weight's just a short term potential gain, maybe get some advantage from it for the weekend in front of you, but it has nothing beneficial long term. That's a really great question you asked there. And I think part of it, I cut less weight going forward from there and tried to focus more on learning and mastering skills.

Craig Mattick: The less you have to get on the scale on Monday morning, the better, right?

Lincoln McIlravy: I think so. So many things that are valuable in wrestling, strength, conditioning, flexibility, balance, skill, the mental ... There's all these things you could be spending time on, but we tend to spend a lot of time just on an exercise bike trying to burn calories and sweat.

Craig Mattick: 1988 to 1992 you win five wrestling titles. You were sandwiched between Kirk Wallman who won six titles and his brothers Cory and Troy who each won four titles a piece. A McIlravy-Wallman match just didn't come together but it was so close. One or two weight classes apart, couple of years apart. Oh, would that have been a good match.

Lincoln McIlravy: Well, it probably would've been good for Wallman at that time. Those guys were super tough guys and highly skilled. They took wrestling to a new level in South Dakota, the whole Freeman team. Some of my earlier years they had really great wrestling there and I think brought South Dakota wrestling to a higher level .and they were fun to watch. They were incredible athletes too.

Craig Mattick: Was there any doubt that you were thinking of going to Iowa to wrestle in college? The great Dan Gable was there and he wanted you, there was no doubt you were going to go there, right, Lincoln?

Lincoln McIlravy: I would say for the most part I wanted to go Iowa if I had that opportunity. And I had some relationships, Terry and Troy Steiner, that were at Iowa, they're North Dakota guys. But I'd known them through part of high school. We had some relationships here and as my career progressed it looked like I was going to get an opportunity to come here. But then at the last minute when was right down to recruiting, had quite a bit of interest and go visit several colleges and meet some great coaches and see their programs. And I would say for a minute there ... They were all pretty enticing and they all had great advantages. But ultimately I remember going on my visit to Iowa and we went to a football game and at halftime with a football game, some of the guys on the team said, "Hey, let's ditch the game and let's go work out." And I liked that. Nobody else has done that.

Craig Mattick: The heck with the game, let's go work out. That is awesome.

Lincoln McIlravy: And that's why I ... That's why you go.

Craig Mattick: Your freshman year though, you wrestled at 142, which was 10 pounds lighter than your last two years of high school. What made you go to 142 as a freshman in college?

Lincoln McIlravy: I would say a couple things were a factor there. Number one, opportunity. And number two, that the overall team at Iowa. It was somewhere past mid-season and Coach Jim Zelensky, who was an assistant at the time, came and asked if I'd be interested in wrestling, and I'm coming out of redshirt to compete and I said, "Well, yeah. That'd be great." But Terry Steiner was 150 and that would've been my appropriate weight probably. And I said, "Well, what are you ... I don't really ... There's no spot." And he said ... He put up the numbers 142. He said, "Would you wrestle 142?" And I said, "Well, Troy Steiner, the returning National Champion's at 142." And he said, "Well, Troy said he'd go down to 134." We lived together ...

Craig Mattick: Wow.

Lincoln McIlravy: So I thought, well. We trained together all the time. If he's going to be cutting a whole bunch of weight, I might as well do it too. And I'd been pretty well prepared even though I was redshirting. I felt as though I was ready and jumped at the opportunity and then helped the team was the whole thrust of that.

Craig Mattick: Well, you won the title at 142, National Champion, Gerry Abas, out of Fresno State. You beat him. What was that match like to win the title?

Lincoln McIlravy: That was a pretty wild match. It was high scoring. I think it was 16 to 15 at the end. I think I only led the match once and that was in the last four seconds. It was a wild match. Lot of points, lot of scrambling. He was really quick, he was really good technically. And I was really probably surprised at how quick ... And had great length and leverage and hadn't really wrestled anybody like that at that point in my career, which is weird. I'd wrestled a lot of years but he had a very different feel. I had to rely a little bit on maybe mentality a little bit and conditioning and just that good old South Dakota toughness that you never quit.

Craig Mattick: What was the biggest difference in the workouts in college when you compared it to working out as a Phillip Scottie?

Lincoln McIlravy: My high school coach, Dan Mahoney, he ran tough practices. He really did. And we had a really great team. We had lots of guys placing at state. And so you think we got Philip, South Dakota, small town. And then you go to Iowa, basically the premier program in the world. And it ... You'd think it would be dramatic. And it was. But Philip was really good. We had great practices. People took it seriously. People worked hard. From the flavor of it, it was about ... It was very similar. But you get to Iowa and you're wrestling National Champions instead of maybe just State Champions. And we've got Olympic guys that are working out in the room. You've got World and Olympic Champions and ...

Craig Mattick: Dan Gable's watching you.

Lincoln McIlravy: And you've got Dan Gable watching you. And somebody gave me some advice when I got to Iowa. They said if you watch Coach Gable, there's three mats in the workout room, he spends 90% of his time on the center mat, just probably ... Unconsciously just ... That's where he stands and what's ... Where he mostly coaches. They said, "You want his attention, hop on that center mat." I spent my whole career front and center. I just took a spot right in the center mat. But not unlike Coach Mahoney, in terms of intensity and work ethic and demanding the most from an effort perspective. We had that in Philip and that I think ... Had great results with that.

Lincoln McIlravy: You've won five state high school championships. You go to Iowa, you win National Championship as a freshman. Sophomore year, you're back in the championship, you move up to 150. And you win the title over Brian Harper of Michigan. Had you had faced each other at all during the regular season?

Lincoln McIlravy: We had wrestled. I think, when I was a freshman, he and I had wrestled. That's been 27 years ago or something. It's a long time ago now. But we had wrestled before and he was a tough competitor. He was a tough competitor. And it was interesting because the weight class that you're ... I shouldn't even admit this, but my side of the bracket was relatively easy compared to the other side of the bracket. And so he came through a really tough bracket to get to the finals. And he's not the guy that I would've picked and before the tournament to have made the finals. But he had really a great tournament and was a tough competitor, no doubt about it.

Lincoln McIlravy: You're a two time National Champion. And now it was a junior, you stay at 150, but you lose in the finals to a guy that I think you faced as a freshman. You'd faced Steve Marianetti a few times during your career.

Lincoln McIlravy: We did end up wrestling four times over our careers. And that match, obviously, was a really big match. I can't remember the score, but I think it was 13 to 10 maybe, something like that. A fairly high scoring match, which 10 ... Typically, I liked those higher scoring matches, but he was mentally ready and he held great position, especially in that match, was hard to score on at the right times. And he did a great job, he really did.

Craig Mattick: Score was 13-10, by the way.

Lincoln McIlravy: Yeah.

Craig Mattick: 13-10.

Lincoln McIlravy: Obviously an exceedingly disappointing moment in my career at that point.

Craig Mattick: What happened in 1996?

Lincoln McIlravy: '96, I had not redshirted yet, and so I actually took a semester off from school, second semester, and put all my efforts into trying to make the Olympic team in 1996. I spent the year training freestyle and I was overseas a number of times at various international events trying to get prepared to try to make the Olympic team in '96.

Craig Mattick: Was it a good decision for you, now that you think about it?

Lincoln McIlravy: I think it was a good decision. It was a good decision in 1996. It wasn't a good decision in 1997. And the only reason I would say that is because by 1997, it had been ... I had been wrestling in college for what felt like a million years and I wanted to just move on to freestyle and move on to my international career. And obviously it was still important to me to be ... To do the best I could in college, but my heart was really in the international style at that point. Coming back from '96, which I had a great year in '96, I did not make that team, but I really developed and got a lot better. And then in '97, I felt like I had slowed down my progress to wrestle college style because it was just like, "This is the last time I'll wrestle folk style," lost the desire to develop my folk style skills. And my heart was, like I said, was really in the Olympic style at that point.

Craig Mattick: Well, you made it to the championship in the nationals that year, your senior year, it's you and the defending champ at 150. And of course it was Chris Bono, who went on to coach up at SDSU. And what an exciting match, it went overtime. Tell me about that match with Bono.

Lincoln McIlravy: It did. And I had been hurt quite a bit of my senior year and hadn't been able to train the way that I would've liked to have trained. And I would say that match was representative of that from a conditioning perspective. I was so tired. And that was the most tired I've ever been in my life, probably. And in wrestling, you always get tired and that's okay. I always like to get tired because I figured I was better prepared than the other guy. And if I was tired, he was probably really tired. But that was a match where I was really tired and I don't think he was as tired as I was. That was a tough day, for sure.

Craig Mattick: But you got three National Championships and college is all done, and then you decided to take the next step and try the Olympics again. But it was going to be a couple of years before that happened. Was there any thought of maybe ... You know what, maybe I'm going to hang this up? Or did you go ahead at full board to get to Sydney in 2000?

Lincoln McIlravy: I had in my mind pretty well determined to push hard through the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. Hadn't thought about my competitive career after that. It was really just let's focus on each year as a World Champion. There's a World Cup. There's a World Championships every four years, opposite of the Olympics. There's Pan American Games. Back then there was Goodwill Games. There were a handful of really important events in my career that I was really focused on. And it was like I would never dream of hanging up my boots before I got to those events, barring injury or some unforeseen factor. But I was pretty focused on that and really spent ... The whole time ... I had spent most of my life, previous to that, but at that point I was out of college. No more folk style. I could completely focus on freestyle and its development and travel overseas as needed.

Craig Mattick: A lot of travel.

Lincoln McIlravy: It was really a great time.

Craig Mattick: A lot of travel. The first World Championships you went to Tehran, Iran. You wrestled in Ankara, Turkey. You traveled, I think, even to Canada with the Pan Am games. Here's a kid from Philip, South Dakota, traveling all over the world. How great was that for you?

Lincoln McIlravy: It was really great. And I was very fortunate. Even ... When I was 13 years old, I went overseas for the first time in my wrestling career. I went to Budapest, Hungary, for the Cadet World Championships. And then the next year I got to go to Cali, Columbia. I had several opportunities even before I got to college. But I, of course, got opportunities to go all over the world. Freestyle wrestling, you don't necessarily go to the nicest places in the world. It's not like you go to Switzerland and Hawaii, and these beautiful places. But you go where wrestling is really tough and really great, like Siberia, I've been to Siberia three times. And wrestling's really good there. Those were great experiences.

Craig Mattick: But you had to qualify yet for the Olympics. What was that like?

Lincoln McIlravy: At that time, really just two events qualified you for the Olympics, the US Nationals and then the final Olympic team trials. And if you would ... At that point, if you win the US Nationals, the US Open they called it, if you won that then you got to sit on top and wait for everyone to come through the tournament at the final Olympic trials. I won the US Open and then just had to wrestle two matches to make the Olympic team at that final Olympic trials process.

Craig Mattick: Did you feel a lot of pressure with that?

Lincoln McIlravy: I really didn't. I've had a few times in my career where I've felt a lot of pressure, and those times I've performed really poorly. I had spent a lot of time working on the mental approach to wrestling. And really, if you're not spending your time working on how am I going to respond when it's most important, that's really all that matters. And so I spent a ton of time visualizing and working through the mentality and the approach and how to deal with influences, eliminate distractions, minimize stress and all those things, at the most important times. And there's techniques for that. And there's a million things you can do. And I'd gotten decent at that stuff. I really looked at it as just a great opportunity and the freedom to go out there and perform. All these years I'd been trying to develop to become good enough to get there. And here's my chance.

Craig Mattick: All those things you just mentioned, I assume that's what you're doing as you make the team and while you're flying over the Pacific to go to Australia and the Sydney Olympics. What was going through your mind? Were you constantly thinking about matches? And how you were going to perform? Or who you might be facing later on?

Lincoln McIlravy: At that point ... Of course, at the Olympics for wrestling, there's 20 athletes in each way. Each country can only take one person. It's your number one person and you actually had to qualify, your country, for the Olympics. There's only 20 guys in the weight class at the Olympics. And really, hard to believe, but there's probably two or three of them that are ... You know these are the guys you're probably going to wrestle if you can progress through the bracket. And I'd wrestled all those guys multiple times and was very familiar with those guys. But my wife, Lisa, and our two older kids at the time were three and one and a half, so we traveled over together.

Craig Mattick: Nice.

Lincoln McIlravy: And it was neat to be in Australia, to be in Sydney, the Olympic City at the time. And we were there about a month early for training, so it was really pretty relaxed. Focused on training, focused on peaking and feeling good and staying healthy. And basically the same things you do for all the other major events.

Craig Mattick: In pool play you beat wrestlers from Turkey and Nigeria in advance to the knockout round. How long did you have to wait before the knockout round began?

Lincoln McIlravy: I think it ... I should know that, but that's been ...

Craig Mattick: Couple days?

Lincoln McIlravy: 23 years ago now, so I can ... I'm not sure, but it was a two-day event. And so maybe two matches the first day, and ...

Craig Mattick: Knockout round the next day.

Lincoln McIlravy: Three the second day.

Craig Mattick: Sure.

Lincoln McIlravy: Something like that.

Craig Mattick: Well, you beat a guy from Moldova in the quarter finals of the knockout round. What was that match like for you?

Lincoln McIlravy: Again, I should remember that. I've never really watched any of those matches.

Craig Mattick: Really?

Lincoln McIlravy: Throughout most of my career, I would watch my matches to try to learn what I could learn. And I really never watched any of those Olympic matches because in a sense, what's the point? I was done.

Craig Mattick: Sure.

Lincoln McIlravy: I really don't recall exactly what ...

Craig Mattick: But you won and went on to the semi-finals.

Lincoln McIlravy: Thanks.

Craig Mattick: And of course that was ... And that was the tough one. That was the tough match. The guy from Canada and he wins the match in sudden death. What happened in that match?

Lincoln McIlravy: Actually I was ahead by a point with not a lot of time, maybe 20 seconds or something left. And he scored a take-down, so then it was tied 3-3. And then sudden victory, overtime, the next point wins. And obviously he was able to score and win there. He and I have wrestled six times over our careers and we each won three matches. And that's one I wish I would exchange for another one that he could have won some other match that would've been a nice one to win. But he was very tough. He was a World Champion, he was an Olympic Champion that year. And that was his day that day.

Craig Mattick: You moved on though to the bronze medal match. Was your preparation any different knowing that gold was out of your reach and bronze was going to be what you wanted to get?

Lincoln McIlravy: That was a really tough match from ... In my career, I'd never been in that position. Not to say I'd never wrestled for third before, because I had. But that was basically my last match, and the culmination of my career, everything I had trained for, every workout, everything I'd done for 20 some years was now not available. And so it was really hard to get motivated to go out and wrestle for third. But it was a good lesson for me in a sense because sometimes we don't get to pick our situation, but we do get to pick the amount of effort and try that we put into stuff. And that's really what my dad just said. He said, "You have to go out and give it your best. And a bronze today doesn't feel good at all, but over time it'll feel better than fourth, for sure."

Craig Mattick: Beautiful.

Lincoln McIlravy: And that was true. That's a true statement. Really hard to put that in perspective though at the time. You hate to call it a failure to go win an Olympic medal, but it's the greatest failure of my wrestling career.

Craig Mattick: Sure.

Lincoln McIlravy: Was to get third.

Craig Mattick: And defeated Sergei Demchenko of Belarus. You won that match 3-1, those last seconds of the match had to ... Were there any crying? Was there any tears after knowing that that was the last time that you would wrestle?

Lincoln McIlravy: Yeah. And really it wasn't because I was done with wrestling, although that would've been sad, but I was just really just focused on the whole idea of that ... At that time I just felt like I blew it. And I really didn't have the passion, or whatever you'd want to call it, or the desire, to continue wrestling. At that time you could make a living in wrestling if you're the best guy in your weight class. But it wasn't that great. Now these guys ... And I'm happy for them, but some of these guys are making a lot of money. There's reason to stay in it, which is great.

Craig Mattick: Sure.

Lincoln McIlravy: At that point it's like now we have a family and I'm 26, which is the tail end of most careers at that point anyway. And it was just time to move on.

Craig Mattick: People will also remember in the 2000 Olympics, people might remember Rulon Gardner of the US, he got gold, beating the Russian, Aleksandr Karelin, who had ... Karelin hadn't lost a match in 13 years. That was a pretty electric news during the Olympics, wasn't it?

Lincoln McIlravy: That was monumental. People will never forget that. And Greco-Roman was before freestyle in the tournament, so I think we had just finished working out at the Olympic Village and walking back to the rooms and somebody said Rulon Gardner just won the gold and beat Aleksandr Karelin. It was ... We thought ... That was just unheard of.

Craig Mattick: It's right after the Olympics, it's 2000, the year 2000. Where were you living at the time? And what was going to be the next move by Lincoln McIlravy?

Lincoln McIlravy: We were living in Iowa City and training mostly here, in Colorado Springs. And my whole life I figured go win Olympic gold medal and then coach wrestling at a high level college wrestling somewhere. And at that time I was one of the assistants at Iowa here. But I had basically been focusing on my own competition and performance. At that point I was ready to transition into coaching and look for eventually a full-time division one head wrestling job.

Craig Mattick: Another question that I asked before, what was it like after retiring from wrestling, that very first day you didn't have to step on a scale to check your weight?

Lincoln McIlravy: Well, I still have nightmares that I'm four pounds over with 10 minutes to ... Before weigh-ins. And it's you're not going to make it kind of thing.

Well, it felt ... Part of it felt good to not have to go through the same things. But it had been my life for so long, so it felt strange. And as a wrestling coach I was still very active and still wrestling with the guys and things a lot at that point. Certainly felt good to not have to cut a lot of weight. And I wasn't cutting a lot of weight at that point, really. But it was bittersweet. I really wanted to accomplish something that I didn't do. And so had I won, I think it would've been a great feeling to not have to work out or not have to manage weight and that kind of things. But as it was, it was so fresh in my mind. It wasn't this celebratory retirement. It was more like, "Dang. That's over. And I can't believe I messed it up," at the time.

Craig Mattick: Sure. Do you have the bronze medal hanging up in the house somewhere?

Lincoln McIlravy: No. Well, it is in the house. It's not hanging up. I think it's in our safe somewhere.

Craig Mattick: It's safe. Sure. You have four kids. Did any follow dad on the wrestling mat?

Lincoln McIlravy: Four kids, three boys, one girl. And really they've all done the things they chose to do. None of them wrestled. They've been in basketball and golf and music and jazz and theater and all kinds of stuff that they're passionate about and talented at. And I think that's great because I didn't know anything about any of those sports or any of those activities so we could just go and watch and enjoy it.

Craig Mattick: Well, now you and your wife, Lisa, you formed a company and you were building hotels, a lot of them in Iowa and Nebraska. How did that come to be?

Lincoln McIlravy: Well, when I ... We decided to be done with wrestling in 2003. Just really decided to start a business, work on business, work ... I'd be a more available for family. Division one college wrestling coaching is very ... They have ... I think somebody asked Tom Brands how many hours a week he puts in and he said, "You don't count the hours, it's your life. That's all you do." And it is. And I really wasn't willing to do that. We started a business in 2004 with one hotel here in Iowa City area. And you realize that anything you want to do well takes a lot of time, whether it's coaching, wrestling, or being involved in a business, or whatever. It takes a lot of time to do business well, as does really anything you want to do well.

Craig Mattick: I like the name of your company. Tell us all about it.

Lincoln McIlravy: Serve 20:28?

Craig Mattick: Yes.

Lincoln McIlravy: We've changed the name of the company, I think, in 2017. It had a different name before that. But we went through a little bit of a rebranding and a name change and we really wanted it to be about ... We went to Matthew chapter 28 and ... Or chapter 20 verse 28. And it's where Jesus came not to be served but to serve. And so we said we can take that real simple truth and let's name the company that, Serve 20:28, and that's what it's about, serving others. Serve your guests, serve your community, serve your team and serve the nonprofits and the things that we can make a difference in. Let's be servant leaders. And so we did that. And our people really embraced that. And it's been ... Not just the name change, but overall, the whole direction of the company, it's been a really neat thing to see and had great buy-in and people have gotten on board with that.

Craig Mattick: That's awesome. How many hotels, motels, have you been involved with over the years?

Lincoln McIlravy: We've ... Good question. We've had up to five at one time. Have three today. Have sold a couple. And we had a couple under development before COVID hit and we backed off of those. And so we've just ... The market's a little different, the industry's a bit different than it was before. And so we're just regrouping. I would say the economic climate's not that favorable for hotel development right now with just with demand being off a little bit. Supply was up quite a bit before 2019. And now interest rates were pretty high. And so the whole thing is a little bit less favorable than it was at one time. We're just sitting on the sidelines and just trying to do the best we can with what we have. It's a little bit like wrestling for third place somewhere. You really don't want to be there, but you're there. Give it your best.

Craig Mattick: You're in the National High School Hall of Fame, the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, the South Dakota Sports Hall of Fame, the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame. You always had a goal in wrestling. What is your goal today?

Lincoln McIlravy: Wrestling goals are easy because it's a date. It's like you can go up to the calendar and scratch on a calendar, this is the State Tournament or this is the Big 10 tournament, and you have a specific goal for a specific date. And I think with life and with business, you don't have these big preparations for a single event, that just doesn't exist. Life just is so much more fluid than that. It's just not these carved in stone dates that you get ready for. You have it, you perform, you win or you don't, you learn from it, you move on, get ready for the next one. In a sense, you always are doing that, but we don't have as definitive of goals in business as we did. Obviously, in wrestling it was very specific. You could write them down and check them off if you did it or not. And in business, we have more broad goals. I would say we have ... We focus more on values and beliefs now than accomplishments, if that makes any sense.

Craig Mattick: Last one for you, Lincoln. What do you remember the most of all those times on the wrestling mat? Whether it was practice back in Philip, with the mats that are a lot different today than they were when you were wrestling. They're a little softer today, I think, when you ... Before you got out of wrestling. But all that time on the mat, whether it was practice or matches, you sit back and think about your career. What do you think about? What first comes to mind?

Lincoln McIlravy: What I would say ... And this is a strong encouragement to coaches out there, and parents, throughout my career, I remember a small handful of things that were said to me by people who were important to me at times in my life when it meant a lot. Now that all that is to say that when I was very young, maybe five or six, I asked my dad, "How far can you go on wrestling?" And he said, "You could be an Olympic Champion." And I said, "Well, that's what I want to be." And that night when I went to bed, he said, "Goodnight, champ. This is something you can do." I believed that. I don't know why I believed that. I had no idea what it entailed at that point. When I was in eighth grade, we ... The very first couple weeks of the wrestling season, I had ... When I was in seventh grade, I was 21 wins and 20 losses, so I was pretty average.

And as an eighth grader, I remember wanting to do a lot better, had committed over the summer. But our coach, Dan Mahoney, in the conditioning session, he looked at me, he said, "If you keep that up, you're going to win a State Championship." And he probably meant four years later. I don't know what he meant, he didn't say. But I believed him and it meant a lot to me. And when I got to Iowa, Coach Gable, after one of the practices, he looked at me and he said, "You could win four," which of course I didn't as it turns out, but I was close. I think the encouragement is to coaches ... The things you say to the athletes, they'll remember it for life, a lot of times, good or bad, so make it good.

Craig Mattick: If you like what you're hearing, please give us a five-star review wherever you get your podcasts. Programs such as this are only possible through the continued support of our listeners like you. For South Dakota Public Broadcasting, I'm Craig Mattick. Join us again on the next episode of In Play.

Nate Wek is currently the sports content producer and sports and rec beat reporter for South Dakota Public Broadcasting. He is a graduate of South Dakota State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism Broadcasting and a minor in Leadership. From 2010-2013 Nate was the Director of Gameday Media for the Sioux Falls Storm (Indoor Football League) football team. He also spent 2012 and 2013 as the News and Sports Director of KSDJ Radio in Brookings, SD. Nate, his wife Sarah, and two kids Braxan and Jordy, live in Canton, SD.