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Remember The Wrestler: Robbie McIntire, West Liberty

I know what a lot of people are likely thinking when they read the title of this article considering who it is about and who the author is. I’m sure several have already connected the dots.  “Oh this should be JUICY!” some of you are thinking. Robbie is pretty well-remembered for many wins, but a huge one was a win that he had in the consolations of the 2003 state tournament…against my brother, Justin Swafford. If any of you are expecting any drama in this one, I am sorry to disappoint ya. There is a huge amount of mutual respect between the McIntire’s and the Swafford’s.  If you want to read something interesting from beginning to end, you are in luck. The Robbie McIntire-Justin Swafford rivalry had some interesting components in it that I don’t think people realized. When looking in retrospect and trying to alleviate all biases, it is crazy how time sorted things with those two.

So to those who didn’t see this happen, here’s my take on it…My brother, Justin had an amazing high school career in which to this day, he has a difficult time giving himself any credit for considering the way it ended. He was on the way to becoming a 4 time finalist and by the way it looked his Senior year, he had a shot at being one of the closest guys to being a 4 timer who just barely fell short.  Coming into the year, he placed 2nd as a Freshman, 2nd as a Sophomore and 1st as a Junior. The two years he placed 2nd, the matches were tied until the last minute/seconds. So Senior year came and went for him and sadly for us, he finished 7th. This was something that just broke our hearts.  It became something Justin is notorious and remembered for to many people which is catastrophic… anyone with a grain of sense and a microbe of familiarity of that 2003 class would be ignorant to judge Justin based on that one year, but sadly, that’s what sticks out to some fans when thinking about him. It shouldn’t be.

Our nightmare began that year when Justin lost to his most notorious HS rival, Moza Fay in the quarterfinals. This was a highly anticipated match that was a rematch of the quarterfinals from the year before in which Justin won in a squeaker and went on to win state. Moza won this one, though and went on to win his own state championship.  In the consolations, many people just assumed that he’d skate his way to 3rd place, but he was defeated by Robbie McIntire in the top 8 round. This shocked people, because there’s no denying that Justin was/is a total badass and it didn’t seem conceivable that he’d place anything lower than 2nd or 3rd. A slight majority predicted him to win it over Moza. It just felt like Justin was destined to have a better ending to his career, especially in college. The kid was my hero. He was the hero to a lot of SEI kids… It didn’t and still doesn’t seem plausible that the end of his career (mostly college) would hurt him so much that it became a touchy subject for him for decades, for he was the man and nothing will ever change that.  He should feel proud, always. And if it’s one family that knows this and respects him fully and always have, it’s the McIntire family…

The McIntire’s and Swafford’s knew each other well coming in to that match. When it comes to the McIntire family, we think the world of all of them. His cousin, Toby Lehman is one of my favorite people to run into at wrestling events. Knows his stuff with wrestling, too.  Anyways, people don’t realize this, but Justin and Robbie go wayyyyyyyy back. Literally to the very beginning of Justin and Robbie’s wrestling careers, which began around the time they both graduated from Pampers diapers. Get this… Justin’s first match ever was when he was 5 years old at the Lone Tree youth wrestling tournament. His first ever opponent? 4 year old, Robbie McIntire.  It was also Robbie’s first match ever.  Almost sounds too coincidental to believe, eh?  Check out this display of undeniable wrestling cuteness:



Kind of crazy, eh? Haha, who would have guessed that they would become the hammers they did?

Robbie and Justin met up probably 20 times over the years and the match at state was the one win he had against Justin and holy cow did Robbie ever want to win that one. And you know, there is something I have always wanted to make clear to people.  Whenever someone brings that match up to me, 90% of the time they either say or imply that the match was a fluke or that Justin just simply “choked” in which they receive an unexpected response from me.  Did Justin wrestle one of his better matches in that one? Absolutely not. He was essentially wrestling with a broken heart.  But he was still him.  He wasn’t a lifeless choker out there.  He still had that balance and crazy-intuitive mat-awareness. With that said, the fact that people just assumed that the match was simply a choke job by Justin indicates to me that Robbie McIntire is one of the most severely underrated wrestlers I’ve ever followed and did not receive anywhere NEAR the credit he deserves.  I watched Robbie since, well his first ever match. We always knew what he was capable of or where his ceiling was if he put everything together. Robbie wrestled a PHENOMENAL match against Justin at state.  I mean, he was straight-up elite. If he wrestled like that every match, he could beat anyone there. And we always knew he had that in him. We witnessed flashes of it several times… He just had a tendency to be streaky sometimes.  I saw him wrestle some matches where he didn’t perform well.  However, we also saw matches where he was better than anyone in the gym and those matches often got overlooked.  This kid was INSANELY talented. And hell, he was well-accomplished. He placed 3 years in high school and every year he was in a tough bracket.  Did Justin wrestle a bad match? Yeah…not his best. But that doesn’t take away the fact that Robbie wrestled like a guy who looked like he could scrap at the D1 level in that match.

We didn’t hear about this at the time, but Robbie actually gave Moza Fay a helluva match at districts coming into that tournament. In his career he defeated 3 state champs: Travis Eggers, Justin Swafford and Justin Brown. Robbie McIntire…. legit. 

I remember the moment that match got over with. It was torture for me to watch someone that I have a closer bond with than anyone else in the world have his world crushed before your eyes.  I was crying before the match even ended and when it did end, I immediately looked at the West Liberty crowd to find Robbie’s uncle Toby to congratulate him on what was surely one of the best state wrestling memories in West Liberty state wrestling history.  First face I saw was Mick Wiele and holy cow was he happy. The entire crowd was just elated. Overcome with joy. And this didn’t upset me at all, for I took it as a compliment.  If they didn’t have a tremendous amount of respect for Justin, they wouldn’t have been that happy.  If I were a non-biased spectator, it probably would have been a cool thing to witness. I found Toby, who was overcome with joy,  and shook his hand and congratulated him and his response kind of indicated to me that there was a bit of relief lingering within the over-whelming joy…Relief that there were not going to be any sour grapes between our families and that I wasn’t going to go off and act like a drama queen and bash Robbie on the message boards because like I said; our families have a tremendous amount of mutual respect for each other. Toby wanted to make sure that I told Justin that regardless of what happened there, he was still one of the best wrestlers in the entire Auditorium. That meant a lot. This was a great moment for them.  I am happy they got to experience something like that, for they were deserving of a cool moment like that.  I wish it wouldn’t have come at the expense of Justin, but it’s cool, nevertheless that they got to see Robbie operate at the elite level that he was always capable of. 

Who could possibly dislike Robbie McIntire if they know him? Great person. Great family.  And a funny note about Robbie. When he finished his questionnaire, he messaged me and told me that he sent it and warned me that I may have to spend a couple hours proofreading it due to so many spelling errors.  Haha, so I open the Word Doc and he had better spelling and punctuation than 90% of the questionnaires I receive.  Haha, when I told him this, he said, “yeah, please don’t tell anyone that I’m not stupid.”  And I promised him that I wouldn’t.  Sorry Robbie. 🙂 Very proud to put this one together. 


Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

My dad started taking us to Moscow Wrestling Club when I was about 4 years old and my brother Paul was 6 years old, I think. I don’t think I got to wrestle live in practice the first year going over there, but being in that room with that many studs from the area got it going for me. Watching really good wrestling done the right way by some of the best wrestlers from the entire area along with some awesome coaching… It just really got me hooked on the sport. Randy Marolf’s operation was top notch. I think the next year I got to start actually wrestling live and going hard. It took me a while to become good. I don’t think I won many matches the first couple years. I definitely had a losing record the first couple years. After a few years at Moscow, we went a separate way.  We had quite a few West Liberty guys at Moscow and it was getting to be quite the battle and heated rivalry at the high school level between the two primary clubs, Wilton and West Liberty. I was still young and don’t know how it went down, but my dad and some other West Liberty parents started our own youth wrestling club in West Liberty.


Do you have any family who wrestled or wrestles currently? Parents, children, brothers, etc.? How did they do?

My brother Paul wrestled with me growing up and through high school. He wrestled a few years on varsity and I think he was pretty close to getting out of districts one year. My son wrestled for a few years, but he told me he wasn’t enjoying it a year or 2 ago. Maybe he will come back to it.


What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

After the first couple seasons, flopping around out there and losing all the time, it did really start to click for me and I finally came around. I qualified for AAU state every year from 3rd grade on. The best I did at AAU State was 3rd. My dad doesn’t let me forget it, either. We never went anywhere to not win, but he always tells me “for a guy that you never thought knew anything about wrestling, I coached you to your best state tournament finish.” I think it was pretty stacked in our area around my weight for you never knew who you were going to run into. You had; Chad Beatty, Ryan Morningstar, Justin Swafford, Kyle Anson, Cody Smith and I think I had some Mack Reiter run-ins. There were lots of others. My parents never let me dodge any competition. If they thought there was going to be a good, tough match at a certain tourney, that’s where we were going. I think one weekend in 7th grade we went south somewhere for a tournament and I got 4th in a 4-man bracket. That was a quiet ride home. Justin (Swafford) might have that wall chart somewhere because I’m pretty sure he went home with it that day.


What was your record in HS?



How did you place at state every year?

Freshman: 6th

Sophomore: Qualified and didn’t place.

Junior: 4th

Senior: 8th


What were some of the most notable adverse challenges or moments you experienced in wrestling and how did it turn out?

I think the biggest adversity I faced was my sophomore year. Early in the season, I wrecked my shoulder pretty good wrestling Gannon Hjerleid from Wapello. I tried to continue in that match, but that thing just wouldn’t work right. It was the worst feeling. Just thinking my whole season was over. It was bad. I didn’t wrestle another match that year until sectionals. Another thing is that I didn’t keep my weight under control while I was on Christmas break. I tried to cut it all back off at the last minute and almost didn’t make weight. I remember being a few tenths over that morning and I didn’t want to run to get the rest off. We shaved my head in the bathroom. I thought that would do it. Nope. It turned out that I had to run. I came into my senior season with another banged up shoulder from football season, my shoulders were junk and they didn’t hold up well.


How would you describe your wrestling style?

I would say physical, aggressive, etc. I really went for the Iowa style. I wanted to keep the foot on the gas and never let up.


How many guys in high school did you go back and forth with or exchange wins with?

Freshman year  was Andy Roush. Also Freshman and Sophomore year was Gannon Hjerleid. Junior year, I think Moza Fay got the best of me 3 times.


Who was your most influential coach?

Every coach I had made an impact on me. I started with Randy Marolf, my dad, Nick Marin and Pete Robles came in before I got to high school and were there all the way through. Morgan Deprenger, Brandon Hudson, Jesse Lira, Tommy Ruble, Aaron Griffith, etc. I appreciate everyone of them for all their time they put in and everything they have done for me.


Was your team competitive in HS/college?

Yes, we won a lot of tournaments in high school just couldn’t get over the hump to get to the state duals and were not too far off from some hardware a couple times at the traditional tournament, I think.


Who was your most influential wrestler that you looked up to growing up?

There were so many when I was young. I grew up watching the West Liberty guys; Chad Morrison, Nick Marin, Ben Scorpil, Tommy Ruble, etc. Getting closer to high school, I watched Keith Pearl, Jeff Wiele, Travis Mauer and Aaron Griffith go through. And obviously all the Iowa guys. Iowa City was right down the road so we got the chance to be there a lot.


Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

Man that is tough  because there are so many that have been really good. I think there were five or six 4 timers right around my class and another was full of three timers and three time finalists.


Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

I have enjoyed listening to the Cometcast and watching the Esmoil brothers the last few years as well as the rest of the West Liberty guys. Spencer Lee and Alex Marinelli are my favorite Hawks.


What music would you listen to back in the wrestling days?

A lot of Rage Against The Machine. Some Outkast. Ah man, I don’t remember. I should look for those CDs I had pumping in the Discman.


What was the most upset you ever felt after a loss?

Semifinals at state freshman year. I lost someone I had beaten a few times and never lost to. The match ended with him on his back and I couldn’t get the fall.


If you could go back and change one thing about your wrestling career, what would it be?

Definitely weight management and nutrition. Eating right and treating my body right. I would have been able to focus on my wrestling a lot more, but I spent way too much time just thinking about cutting weight and getting 10 to 12 pounds off that I put on in a couple days.


What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

I didn’t meet the expectations I set for myself in my high school career, but the 4th place finish my junior year was my best accomplishment.


Did you wrestle all year or was it seasonal for you?

I wrestled some outside of the season. I would go to City High and Muscatine and Monster USA Club with Mashek. I would wrestle a handful of tournaments. I should have done more.


How would the guys from your day stack up against the guys today?

Man, a good wrestler is a good wrestler I think it would be pretty even.


Did you wrestle after high school?

No, but I had a good opportunity to go to William Penn, but didn’t end up taking it.


What other sports did you play?

Football, some baseball, raced dirt bikes and rode some bulls in the summer.


What are your favorite sports teams?

Iowa, Cubs and the Bears


What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

I like to hunt these days. It makes for really good days when you are out there watching the sun come up with my son along side me. I enjoy spending time with my wife and kids.


Your Junior year, you wrestled phenomenal. It was the best I ever saw you look… you had a couple matches where you brought things to an elite level you were always capable of. How did you feel about that tournament?

• Wrestling the state tournament that year after I got beat on the winner’s side, I feel like I finally put it all together. There were a few matches there, where I felt like I was wrestling to my potential and I wish I would have found that groove more often in my career. Coming back on the back side of that bracket the match, I wrestled against Justin Swafford and it was probably the best match I put together in my high school career.  I can’t say that’s how that match would have went any other day, especially on the front side of the bracket. Justin came in that year as a 3 time finalist and had a slip up in the quarters after starting out hot against Moza Fay and just had the wind taken out of his sails. So it’s hard to judge from that match. But I wrestled that match with nothing to lose. I would say very few people watching it expected it to go the way it did, but that was the best I ever felt and the best I ever wrestled. The West Liberty section that day is something I will always remember. Then in the 3rd place match I go out and loose by a point to Maury Noonan from Emmetsburg.


How has wrestling shaped you as a person to this day?

Wrestling really toughens a person up shows you how to get through the tough times and helps with times where you need to overcome adversity.


 What do you do now?

I work for a grain company called Rock River Lumber and Grain.


Are you still involved with wrestling?

Not right now.


Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

Keep it fun and don’t wear the weight of the world on your shoulders and put too much pressure on yourself. If you want to reach your full potential, you have to buy into the whole program and life style in and out of the room. I worked really hard in the room and during workouts. I did my own extra stuff in the mornings and on Sundays I put in a lot of time. But outside of that, I wasn’t living the lifestyle that the elite guys were living to get to the level they were at. That’s probably what held me back the most. Whoops.


Any chance we see you wrestle again at an Old Timer’s tournament?

Hahaha man, I would need quite a bit of notice. It would take me a while to get in wrestling shape.


Would you like to give a shout out to anyone you wrestled with, against, coached, etc.?

I’d just like to give all of my coaches a huge shout out for all their time and for everything they have done for me. And a big shout out to the West Liberty community. That’s the best and most supportive community I could have grown up in and I am very thankful for that. Also a huge thank you to my parents who spent so much time and money on me taking me all over the country and giving me the best opportunity to be successful. With out them I would not have accomplished anything close to what I did.


Do you have anything to add? Funny/interesting stories? Trivia? Etc.

Keep up the good work on the page. It has brought back some really good memories, reading and watching the stuff you find.

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