HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. — The idea of being a wrestling coach always resided in the deep recesses of Matt McDonough’s mind.
But, the focus was concentrated on his own goals of state, NCAA and international titles.
McDonough decided it was time to trade center mat for a corner chair. He has transitioned from Hawkeye Wrestling Club member to assistant coach for Wisconsin and first-year Badgers head coach Chris Bono.
“I think, maybe subconsciously, it was always something I wanted to be involved in after I was done competing,” McDonough said during Northwestern’s Midlands Championships on Dec. 28-29 at Sears Centre Arena. “By the end of my college career, it felt like something I wanted to pursue.
“It’s been great. It’s a great town. There’s a lot of support for the wrestling program, moving forward and we’re in a position where we’ve got some guys that we can do some damage, even this year.”
Bono said he reached out to McDonough when he took over in Madison, Wis., replacing former Hawkeye and Cedar Rapids Prairie legend Barry Davis, who resigned at the end of last season.
“Matt brings work ethic, passion and enthusiasm to our program,” Bono told The Gazette. “His connections in Iowa and, of course, the credibility of being a two-time national champ, he is doing a great job for us. Glad he is a Badger.”
McDonough has meshed well with Bono and associate head coach Jon Reader, who moved with Bono from South Dakota State. McDonough routinely manned the corner during Midlands matches and seemed to have a good rapport with the wrestlers off the mat.
The most rewarding part is shaping young wrestlers.
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“Being there for them in their tough losses, best wins and just getting to constantly work with them,” McDonough said. “You look at the specifics. You’re sitting in the corner. You’re being able to do administrative work (and) you’re able to help recruit. A few of those things really make it pretty special.”
McDonough was a three-time All-American, four-time NCAA qualifier and two-time Big Ten champion for Iowa. He was a National Team member and bronze medalist at the University World Championships in 2014. McDonough said it was tough to accept his competitive career was finished.
“I still think about it, but I’ve been told by several mentors, including (Tom and Terry) Brands, that never goes away,” said McDonough, a three-time state champion and four-time medalist for Linn-Mar. “When you’re a high-level competitor, you’re never going to lose that. It’s hard when you think in such high terms about winning and losing to accept what you did is what you did, be happy with it and have contentment.
“The biggest thing is to transfer that to coaching. The next best thing I can do is get guys to the highest level. That’s my mission now.”
Coaching is second only to his family. McDonough and his wife, Cori, have two children. Their daughter, Everly, is 2 years old and son, Logan, is less than a year old. He has balanced roles, needing as much energy to walk into the living room as the practice room.
“It ain’t low in excitement,” McDonough said with a laugh. “You know you’re going home to kids who haven’t seen you all day and they just want to go 100 miles per hour as soon as you get home. I love it. It’s definitely the best thing in my life.”
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