Solon's McIlravy brothers go with basketball

Sons of Hawkeye wrestling legend choose their own path

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SOLON — Lisa and Lincoln McIlravy built a barn recently on their property outside Solon, a replica of one Lisa had growing up in South Dakota.

It’s a beautiful structure that features a loft dedicated to the athletic passions of their children. Wrestling mats are nowhere to be found, which strikes you as odd, almost stunning.

Lincoln McIlravy is one of the most well-known and successful wrestlers in University of Iowa history.

The 41-year-old was a three-time NCAA champion, four-time finalist, Olympics qualifier and former assistant coach for the Hawkeyes.

But on this particular day, his oldest sons, Streeter and Sterling, are getting photos taken of themselves playing on the loft’s wooden basketball floor. It’s a half court, 80 feet by 80 feet, complete with a free-throw lane, 3-point arc and plexiglass backboard.

“We go up there every day and shoot,” Streeter McIlravy said. “It’s nice. Keeps us busy and out of trouble, I guess.”

Quite frankly, it’s hard to imagine these two polite and well-spoken young men ever getting into trouble. Homeschooled by their mother, with younger siblings Stetson and Sayler, the McIlravy boys are hoopsters, not grapplers.

Streeter McIlravy is one of the Wamac Conference’s top players, a senior forward for Solon averaging 20.7 points a game. Sterling is a junior guard who also starts for the Spartans.

So how in the world did the children of a wrestling icon end up playing what some wrestlers mockingly refer to as “pumpkin ball?”

“My dad always said I was too smart to wrestle,” Streeter said with a grin.

“Basketball, I’ve just kind of grown into it,” Sterling said. “It’s probably the fact that I had an older brother who started playing. I wanted to follow what he did. We get along very well, never get into big fights or anything.”

Streeter and Sterling actually were gymnasts growing up, attending national tournaments and everything. “Mommy And Me” classes with Lisa at the age of 18 months got them started down that path.

But Streeter, who is 6-foot-2, began to grow out of the sport, literally. By seventh grade, he was looking for something else to do.

Basketball happened by chance.

“I guess I just figured ‘Well, I’m kind of tall, so I might as well try this,’” Streeter said. “I think it was my sophomore year when I realized ‘I’m kind of good at this, so I really should start to practice and pursue it.’ So last year and leading into this year, it’s been kind of fun stepping up and helping the team and everything.”

Despite issues with his knees and ankles, McIlravy has emerged into a player who will play college basketball at some level next season. He’ll study business wherever he winds up.

He and Sterling already help out the family’s property business by taking care of invoices and doing website work.

“I went to one wrestling camp and played dodgeball the whole time,” Sterling said. “I must have been 7 years old. Dad never pushed it. I’ve got three siblings, two brothers and a sister, and none of us wrestle. He never pushed it or anything, just supported whatever we wanted to do. He did his stuff in life, and I think he wanted us to choose our path.”

“I never really got into wrestling,” Sterling concurred. “When we were younger and everything, we’d go to camps and stuff. I’d drill with Streeter, but he was always bigger and stronger than me, so it was just never fun.”

Sterling’s main sport actually is golf, which is why there’s a putting green in the barn loft, too.

“Dad just said if you find something you want to do, I’ll do everything I can do to help you,” Sterling said.

“As a parent, it is your responsibility to provide opportunities for your children in whatever they pursue,” Lincoln said. “We let them choose. They have gravitated away from wrestling, and that’s fine.”

He was asked if there is a tiny piece of him that wishes one of his boys had picked wrestling.

“Not at all,” he said. “Wrestling was the passion I had, but I wouldn’t ever force that on them ... It’s fun to watch them. They play well together. They each have their own style of play, but both of them are effective.”

This is the first season the brothers have been on the same team. Solon is 4-3 heading into the post-holiday portion of its schedule.

The Spartans play Tuesday night at Benton Community.

“They are products of their environment,” said Solon Coach Jason Pershing. “They come from a great family, are incredibly hard working. Gym rats.”

“It’s been fun,” Streeter said. “We practice together all the time, work out and stuff. It’s fun to have him out there. I guess I’m a little harder on him just because he’s my brother. But he’s young and he’s learning, and that is kind of fun to see.”

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