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Wirfs, A Big Man In The Community And On The Field
Mount Vernon Standout Gets His Start With Iowa
By Sean Moore/Sportscast Media
Photo By Danny Davis/Sportscast Media
Tristan Wirfs is a big man. At 6’ 5”, 315 pounds the Mount Vernon product and current University of Iowa offensive lineman towers over his former teammates and coaches at today’s Mustang walk-through like The Mountain at a Game of Thrones convention. It’s smiles and high fives all around – with some of the smaller players having to test their verticals to reach that high – as they make their way over to greet him. While the 2017 Mustangs are off to a great start behind the leadership of senior quarterback, Drew Adams, it’s clear from this reunion that the big guy is missed. His physical presence is unmistakable, but that doesn’t tell the whole story of Wirfs’ success.
Ask Mount Vernon head football coach Lance Pedersen what impresses coaches about Wirfs and he’ll start by telling you how athletic he is. “Tristan is very mobile and quick for his size. He has great feet, active hands, and very good balance,” says Pedersen. “Tristan was an early Division I prospect with his size, but as he grew into his size he became more athletic. Tristan caught the eyes of a lot of college coaches right away, not just in the Midwest, but as a national prospect.”
Wirfs, along with quarterback Drew Adams, running back/safety Jack Cochrane, and others, led Mount Vernon to back-to-back appearances in the UNI-Dome in 2015 and 2016. He’s collected a wealth of high school football honors along the way, including First Team All-State and Des Moines Register Elite 8 selections as a junior and as a senior. He was a U.S. Army All-American in 2017, and turned the heads of coaches and scouts from many top tier programs with his play against top seniors across the country at the All-American Bowl in San Antonio in January. Offers from big time programs across the country rolled in, but Wirfs stayed true to his commitment to Kirk Ferentz and the Iowa Hawkeyes.
At Iowa, Wirfs has drawn early attention as a true freshman poised to contribute right away. The red shirt was tossed down the laundry chute in the third game of the season against North Texas with Wirfs seeing playing time on the field goal and offensive units late in the fourth quarter. By all accounts, Wirfs is adjusting well to the speed and physicality of Division I football. Physically, he is ready to go toe to toe with Big Ten defensive linemen and linebackers. His biggest challenge may be moving from left tackle over to right tackle. “You put down a different hand and have to learn different angles on your pass sets,” says Pedersen. “Tristan is very coachable. He wants to learn and he will put in the extra time necessary to learn new things.”
It’s that combination of size, athleticism, and coachability that makes Wirfs a unique athlete with almost limitless potential. Wirfs has excelled not only on the football field. He’s seen success in multiple sports in high school. A four-sport athlete in football, track, wrestling, and baseball, he’s made history in most of them.
Early on, Wirfs found that size and strength alone could only get you so far on the wrestling mat. He posted a 10-27 record as a freshman. He quickly committed himself to improving his technique and blossomed over the next three years as a result. Under coaches Vance Light and Aaron Truitt, he proceeded to qualify for the state tournament the next three years in a row, winning a Class 2A State Championship as a senior. That year, he had to cut over 35 pounds just to be eligible to compete at heavyweight. Let’s add “disciplined” to his list of intangibles.
To say that Wirfs has excelled in the track and field arena is an understatement.
In his high school career, he placed at the Drake relays 5 times in the shot and disc, including 2 shot put titles and a discus title. He won the state shot out title twice and the state discus title three times. HIs willingness to be coached, and to apply his strengths every day in a disciplined manner made all the difference.
He’s an outstanding role model as well. To kids, he’s like an ice cream truck on a hot summer day. They flock to “Big T” and he responds like an NFL superstar. He’s always got a massive smile and a pat on the head ready for them. He’s developed a special relationship with sixth grader, Kalen Light, son of Coach Light.
Wirfs has been a source of strength for him as his mother, Marsha, continues a lengthy battle with cancer. Kalen and Tristan could often be found “wrestling” in between rounds at wrestling tournaments – the 285 pound heavyweight usually ended up getting “pinned” by his 60 pound friend after a good tussle. He may still have a ton to learn about playing tackle in the Big Ten, but he already has fan relations nailed down. Wirfs plans on majoring in elementary education at Iowa. Wherever his football career takes him, his biggest impact may be made once his playing days are over.
You don’t have to look far to see where the discipline, coachability and willingness to work hard come from. “Tristan is an amazing young man who was brought up by an amazing mom. She has worked extremely hard to provide for Tristan and (his sister) Kaylia. She’s instilled these values in him,” says Pedersen. He’s right. Sarah Wirfs, Tristan’s mom, is a force in her own right.
Last Saturday, with the game in hand late in the fourth quarter, most Iowa fans sat back and began celebrating a win over North Texas. Those of us in Mount Vernon were anxious to see how Wirfs would handle his first collegiate action. After getting his feet wet on the extra point unit, he entered the game at right tackle on the next series. He showed his athleticism on the first two plays, successfully executing his reach blocks. On the third play, Wirfs drove a defender 10 yards off the ball. I have a feeling we’ll be seeing a lot more of that over the next four years.
Perhaps more importantly, the eyes of kids like Kalen Light, will be following Wirfs as he follows his Hawkeye dream. We should all have a role model with his character. There’s more to being a big man than size. Tristan Wirfs seems to be getting bigger everyday.