Coach Shawn Lewis

Govs wrestling coach Shawn Lewis watches a match in this file photo from 2016. Lewis was named a finalist for the NHSACA Coach of the Year on Wednesday.

This week’s Coach Q and A is with Pierre T.F. Riggs head wrestling coach Shawn Lewis. The Governors are scheduled to face the Harrisburg Tigers in their home opening dual at Riggs Gymnasium on Thursday. Start time is scheduled for 7 p.m. CT.

Q: What did you think about the varsity’s performance in Mandan? Likewise, what did you think about how the junior varsity did in Fort Pierre?

A: Overall, I thought the varsity performance in Mandan was very good. We were beat by a super talented Bismarck High team, and we rolled with them every step of the way. We had our opportunities to come away with a team title. We could tell that it was week 2/3 for them, and it was our first matches of the year. We identified some things we need to improve on, and that’s all you can ask from your team. Our goal was not to win the tournament but figure out where each one of us are individually.

The junior varsity squad performed really well at the Stanley County Invite. Coming away with a second place finish was great for them. These kids are one match or injury away from being in our varsity line up on any given day. We were open in about five weight classes, and so the guys did a really good job of competing and making the most of the tournament. Our junior varsity didn’t get very many matches last year, and that is something we are looking to fix: not only getting them matches, but getting them varsity caliber matches, which is crucial in their development. We have some very solid kids that are super talented and just simply cannot make our varsity line up currently. Going to these types of tournaments helps those kids get the mat time that they deserve. These guys do a heck of a job everyday in practice doing everything our varsity kids do. It is great that they get the recognition they deserve.

Q: How do you feel going into the Harrisburg dual on Thursday? How will that prepare the team for the Rapid City Invitational this weekend?

A: I feel good going into the Harrisburg dual. We have had a good week of practice and are excited to wrestle a dual in front of our home crowd. Our kids really like duals and wrestling at home. There is no place like home, and the atmosphere that our community creates in our gymnasium is second to none in the state. Harrisburg is coming in with a solid dual team, and we will have to be ready to go. Preparation for the Rapid City Invite is much the same. We are continually working on our offense and conditioning. That has been the primary focus of our time from the beginning of the season, and that will continue until after Christmas. We will have to be mentally ready, as the field of 40 teams for a 32-man bracket will mean that no match should be overlooked.

Q: What’s it like being able to coach your son Trey? How do you balance being both his coach and father?

A: It has been fun so far. It is way better than being in different states or on opposite ends of the state every weekend and only getting to watch his videos. In all reality, I feel as if each one of the wrestlers in our program are my sons. That is how I try and treat them and, hopefully, how they feel by the time they graduate. The only thing different now is this one gets to come home with me at night. I get to help him with his homework and drop him off at school in the morning. The balance has been something I have worried about in anticipation of for years, but now that it is happening, I shouldn’t have. I have always tried hard to be dad as soon as I walk through the door at home unless I have some parent phone calls to make or other obligations. That part has not changed. Ultimately, I am reminded that this is his athletic experience, and I am simply a facilitator as his coach and a supporter as his father.

Q: What makes wrestling great, in your opinion?

A: I could write you an essay on this question. Wrestling is the original sport. There are stories of wrestling in the Bible. Wrestling is one man versus another man, and after six minutes you find out who wants it more, no excuses. There is nothing glamorous about it. It’s a combat sport. So much goes into wrestling, and one gets even more out of it, if they want. In my opinion, no sport teaches an athlete toughness, desire, dedication, passion, balance, intensity, grit, explosiveness, and conditioning quite like wrestling does. It is the perfect combination of speed, strength, hard work and intelligence. Dan Gable once said, “After you’ve wrestled, everything else in life is easy.” Wrestling also took me personally to places I would have never imagined: graduating high school, college, into education, helped me develop my faith and, ultimately, to be the person I am today.

Q: When you’re not coaching or teaching, what might people find you doing? What are your hobbies?

A: If I am not teaching or coaching, you will probably find me teaching or coaching. I like spending time with my family, going to church, hunting, boating, or doing projects around the house. I am so busy going to all of my kids’ activities on top of my own that most of the time it leaves little for anything else. I very much enjoy umpiring baseball during the summer months.

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