Lyle William Neville, 83, peacefully passed away at his home in Chandler, Arizona, on August 5, 2020, surrounded by his loving family. He was born on June 20, 1937, on the Neville homestead farm, in Benkleman Township, Cheyenne County, 18 miles southwest of St. Francis, Kansas; one of eight children born at this farm site to Monta Alice (Thompson) and George Neville. Lyle was the last surviving member of his prairie farming family.
While his family mourns the passing of their patriarch, his friends, former students and so many others mourn the loss of an irreplaceable man. Lyle was very special; a kind, humble and gracious person, with a natural ability to make everything better. Lyle was a stranger to no one, a trusted friend to everyone and was loved by all who knew him. His generosity of his time, attention and sincere interest in others was immense.
After eight years of elementary school at rural school district #9 (referred to as “Neville School”, where his mother taught school, and named in honor of his fraternal grandfather, who had donated a plot from his homestead ¼ section of land), Lyle graduated from Cheyenne Community High School in St. Francis, in 1955. He was President and Salutatorian of his Senior Class, member of the National Honor Society, 1st Team center of the All Northwest Kansas Football team, Co-Captain of wrestling and football and Homecoming King. He graduated from the University of Colorado in 1959 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Secondary Education, Deans Honor List. In pursuit of his continuing education over the next 40 years, Lyle also attended the University of Kansas, Wichita State University, Kansas State University (Hays), and Western State College (Gunnison, CO).
On July 23, 1961, he married the love of his life, Bonnie Lou Coons, in Goodland, Kansas. Last month they celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary. A testament to Lyle and Bonnie’s lifelong love for each other was their amazing relationship formed and maintained with family and so many wonderful friends.
Lyle was a championship high school and college wrestler. As a high school wrestler at St. Francis, Lyle was special; he was one of Kansas’ first 3-time Kansas State Wrestling Champions (1953, 1954 & 1955), he placed 3rd in State his freshman year (1952). Lyle and his high school teammates won four consecutive Kansas State Team Championships, under two legendary coaches (a total of six consecutive years, 1951 through 1956). In addition to wrestling, Lyle was a 3-year football letterman and four-year letterman in track, where he ran the middle distances, relays and threw the javelin.
At the University of Colorado, he continued his storied wrestling career as a collegiate three-year letterman (freshmen were not eligible to participate at the varsity level). He was Big-7 Conference Champion at 137 lbs. in 1957, and took 4th Place in Big-8 tournament in 1959. While team leader at CU, Lyle competed in the NCAA Championship Tournament in 1957 and 1959. His amateur freestyle career was highlighted as Champion of AAU Rocky Mountain Tournament in 1956 and Runner-Up in 1958. He was Champion at the 1956 U.S. Olympic, Rocky Mountain District Tournament in Sterling, Colorado, where he was awarded tournament trophy for quickest pin in 13 seconds. He went on that summer to compete in both Freestyle and Greco-Roman in the 1956 U.S. Olympic National Finals in Los Angeles, California.
For 35 years, Lyle excelled in his high school coaching and teaching career. He was beloved and honored by thousands of former athletes and students. He always led by example and was such a great mentor to all. Out of college in 1959, Lyle was hired as a P.E. teacher, varsity wrestling coach and assistant coach in football and track in Sterling, Colorado. The following year he began a 10-year reign (1960 – 1970), as the head wrestling coach at Colby High School in Colby, the center hotbed of northwest Kansas wrestling. While at Colby, Lyle coached 12 Kansas State Champs and 20 other wrestlers to 2nd through 4th Place finishes. In addition to his primary duties as a P.E. and social studies teacher, he also assisted coaching in football and track.
In 1970, Lyle moved his young family to Hutchinson, Kansas, to accept the varsity wrestling coaching position at Hutchinson High School. While at the helm, he led his championship team for 24 seasons (1970-1994). Under his leadership, HHS won two Kansas Wrestling team titles in 1973 (5A) and 1981 (6A). His teams had 21 years in Top-10 Kansas State finishes in 34 seasons. In addition to the two team titles at HHS, his teams (Hutchinson and Colby combined) accomplished 2nd Place (three times – 1963, 1980 & 1982), 3rd Place (four times – 1966, 1974, 1979, 1983), 4th or 5th Place (four times), 6th – 10th Place (eight times). During his long tenure of employment with Hutchinson Public Schools (U.S.D. 308), Lyle also assisted in coaching football and track, and was in charge of the District’s Driver Education program for decades. The family often heard stories and memories of the young people of Hutchinson, learning how to drive in this well-attended summer program from the 1970’s to the 1990’s.
Lyle was inducted into the Kansas Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1995 and the National Wrestling Hall of Fame (Lifetime Service to Wrestling Award), in 2004. Kansas Wrestling Coaches Association honored him as “Coach of the Year” in three different decades (1978, 1981 and 1993). He was elected two times as President of Kansas Wrestling Coaches Association, two times, Secretary-Treasurer, and was a charter member.
In his entire coaching career, he led individual wrestlers to State Titles (25 times), including his oldest son, Brad, in 1980 and his nephew, Jim Coons, in 1981, 1982 and 1983. He coached athletes in the State Tournament to 2nd Place (20 times), 3rd Place (25 times) and 4th Place (18 times) including his son, Lane, in 1982. He also coached his son, Morgan, and his daughter, Monee, was a varsity wrestling cheerleader. His wife, Bonnie, was the biggest supporter of all. Wrestling was always a family affair for the Nevilles.
Lyle was also a huge force in establishing the Kansas Youth Wrestling. In 1971, Bill Carroll, the Executive Director of the Hutchinson YMCA, approached him to start a kids’ program. The first season, 15 boys joined the Hutchinson Youth team and they participated in three tournaments--Andale, Colwich, and Douglass. The team grew immensely over the next few years as the entire youth wrestling movement took off in Kansas. By the third season, the Hutchinson Youth Wrestling Team grew to 70 boys. Lyle started the first Hutchinson Youth Wrestling Tournament. The first tournament was held in 1975, with about 300 participants. The next year, the tournament was moved from HHS to the Hutchinson Sports Arena and drew nearly 600 participants as more and more communities had started youth wrestling programs. The Hutchinson YMCA Invitational Tournament continued to grow in size and many years it exceeded 1,000 youth wrestlers in a one-day tournament. Lyle was involved in coaching the YMCA program until 1981. Many outstanding volunteers helped and assisted him in youth coaching and with his tournament efforts over the years, including many of his varsity wrestlers and assistant coaches: Gary Travis, Dan Powers, Mike Juby, Mark and David Sandoval, Jim Coons, Tom Coons, Brad Neville, Mike Vierya, Bob Mauck, Mike Baker, Mike Garcia, and many others, maintaining sound coaching staff and fundamentals working with the youth of Hutchinson. It was this spark of exposure to the sport of wrestling that Lyle created which captivated many young boys over the years, inspiring them to practice and compete in an individual sport for the first time, and to come to know and understand the highs and lows of individual athletic competition. For most, this simple rigor and self-awareness helped to develop them into the men that they would become.
Lyle retired from coaching in 1994. After retirement, Lyle worked for 10 years (2005-2015), cutting fairways and greeting patrons at Cottonwood Hills Golf Course in Reno County, Kansas. He was a huge part of the award-winning course and was extremely proud and fond of his time spent out of doors on this uniquely beautiful golf project nestled in one the best natural settings in central Kansas.
Lyle’s greatest of all accomplishments were his family, whom he and Bonnie nurtured, provided for, educated and supported in every way, and the lifelong personal relationships he formed throughout his life. His time at Cottonwood Hills was also one of his proudest accomplishments – in many respects, it may have been his favorite dream come true.
Lyle is survived by: his wife, Bonnie of Chandler, AZ; his three sons, Brad (Dena) of Hutchinson, KS, Lane (Kristin) of Scottsdale, AZ, Morgan (Sandra) of Chandler, AZ; and daughter, Monee of Chandler, AZ; nine grandchildren (each of whom developed and shared a unique bond with their ‘grandad’ or ‘papa’), Cole, Anna, Dalton, Elle, Ayla, Mia, Skye, Eden and Isaac; brother-in-law, Tom Coons (Kathy) of Chandler, AZ; and eight nephews and nine nieces. He will always be missed and never forgotten. The world lost a great man.
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Lyle Neville Memorial Fund
and may be left at the services or mailed to Koons-Russell Funeral Home, 211 N. Main Ave., Goodland KS 67735