By Cynthia Wang
February 19, 2004 10:00 AM

The Bachelorette’s Meredith Phillips has chosen her two finalists – so what better way to celebrate than letting the brokenhearted dumpees lick their wounds on national television? ABC did just that, rounding up all 21 of them for Thursday night’s special, “The Men Tell All.” And while finalists Matthew Hickl, 28, and Ian McKee, 29, are left to compete for Meredith’s affection next Wednesday, runners-up Chad Schlee, 32, and Lanny Lawrence, 26, spilled their guts to PEOPLE about their experience.

Hometown and current residence: Buffalo, N.Y.
Occupation: Pharmaceutical sales … once

How did it feel to be eliminated right before the final episode?
I thought I would make it into the final two, and when I didn’t, I was devastated. But I also know she’s got something even more special with these two guys, so you know, as much as it hurt me, I didn’t want it to keep going if it wasn’t right.

Are you friends with Ian and Matthew?
Without a doubt. I definitely got to know Matthew more than Ian not because of anything with Ian; he’s just more of a private person. What they are portraying of him on TV is an accurate portrayal. He’s got a mysterious and intriguing side to him, while Matt and I sat down in the house a lot to have heart-to-heart talks about how he was feeling about Meredith.

What about Meredith? Are you still open to be friends with her?
Yeah. Seeing her here today for the reunion, it was tough. but I could also tell she was happy, and she always has a special place in my heart. Whoever she chose, if they get married, I would love to be invited to the wedding.

What is special about Meredith?
Meredith makes you relax immediately when you meet her. She’s genuine, she’s real, she makes you laugh, but if she doesn’t like something, she’s not afraid to step up and say, okay, this shouldn’t be happening. She’s got a huge heart, and you can tell she was in this for the right reason.

How has the single life been since the show?
The show opened my eyes to a lot of different things. I hadn’t met that special person and I thought I met that person on the show, so she definitely sets the bar high and it’s going to be tough. But when I do start dating again, I won’t compare anyone to Meredith. Meredith is someone that had qualities I really liked, but it wasn’t meant to be. She is going to have a piece of my heart, but someone else will complete me.

Current residence: Aubrey, Texas
Occupation: Stallion and breeding manager

So, do you cook now?
I still don’t cook! I didn’t find a passion for that at all.

What did you like about Meredith?
She is an impressive girl. I don’t know whom she’s with but she’s going to make someone happy. She’s a great girl and I hope to remain friends with her.

Were you close to Matthew or Ian? Who do you think is the best match for her?
I got to be close to both of them, to tell you the truth. Matt is one of the better people I’ve ever met. He’s very sincere, very straightforward and Christian-oriented and just a real genuine, sincere guy. So, he definitely would make her happy. Ian is kind of exotic. He was born and grew up in Brazil and is a very interesting person and down to earth, pretty laid back. I think she likes that, too. I really have no idea. I can see it working with either one.

What was up with your mom and the grilling she gave Meredith. Was that fair?
It was definitely my mom, but she would never do that to a girl she just met. But she knew in her mind she had just one window … so she wanted to find out Meredith’s answers to some of those questions.

The women in the audience love you. So will it be easy to date again?
It’s exciting but a little scary, too, just from the responses that I’ve had now. It’s crazy. It’s going to be overwhelming. They tried to tell me it would be like that, but I don’t think anyone can prepare you for the way it is.

More on The Bachelorette:
• What’s in the Stars for Virgo Meredith?
Countdown: Two Men and a Babe