116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — Rick Larew is the boys’ soccer coach at Iowa City Regina.
When it comes to his work with first-team all-state forward Alec Wick, though, that title isn’t the most accurate description.
“I’ve never talked to him for a minute about how to play soccer,” Larew said. “Not once. I’ve talked to him about leadership on a regular basis.
“I can’t make him a better athlete. He’s just an incredible kid. But, I can help him in terms of ‘how do you help other young men become better?’ He’s really stepped up to that.”
Developing leadership is not a unique storyline with Iowa high school boys’ soccer teams this spring. After the 2020 season was canceled, every team is relying on seniors and juniors who were sophomores and freshmen the last time they stepped on the field.
Perennial powerhouse Regina is no different.
“A bunch of these kids have done no soccer for almost two years,” Larew said.
The Regals have three seniors, six juniors, 13 sophomores and 13 freshmen on the roster this spring. Of those three seniors, only two were on the team in 2019. That includes Wick, who totaled 31 goals that year as Regina won its third straight Class 1A state championship.
Now, scoring goals isn’t all he’ll be asked to do.
“He’s helping these young people learn how you do things right,” Larew said.
At Regina, doing things right starts with fitness and fundamentals. Wick and fellow senior Danny Nicpon, a midfielder, have to help Larew and his staff deliver that message for the Regals to continue their traditional success.
Along with those three straight titles, the Regals have the longest active state tournament streak with 12 consecutive appearances. They’ve been to the finals eight times since 2009 and won Class 1A’s top prize all eight years they’ve appeared in the title game.
In a year that is especially tough to predict, Wick and Regina know they’ll have plenty of attention because of that pedigree.
“There’s nothing given to us,” Larew said of his message to his young players. “There’s nothing preordained that we’re going to win a single game.”
That’s why, in a program that Larew has built on the basis of hard work, he and his staff are working to develop new pieces to take some of their opponents’ attention away from Wick.
Wick scored 51.6 percent of the team’s goals on an 18-6, upperclassmen-dominated team. In one of the ultimate team sports with little scoring, you can’t simply count on individual statistics being consistent year-to-year.
“He’s obviously a marked man,” Larew said. “We’re going to have to find some other people who can score to take the pressure off of Alec because that’s just too much to ask of him.
“The last time he played, he was surrounded by seniors. A very solid team. He certainly scored, but there were a lot of other weapons that were clearly identified.”
Larew said he was “devastated” that last year’s seniors didn’t have the opportunity to win a fourth state championship.
Wick of course will want to make it three-for-three, but he actually already took advantage of the return of sports with another state title this fall — in football. The Gazette’s area offensive player of the year caught 75 passes for 1,401 yards and 16 touchdowns. He set a Class A state championship game record with 226 yards receiving in Regina’s 52-28 win over Grundy Center and closed his football career with a state record 242 career catches.
Football is his sport of the future, too. He’ll walk on at the University of Iowa this fall.
First, though, he’ll look to add to his career total of 46 goals.
“He’d be a plus no matter where he went to school, in whatever sport,” Larew said. “He’s a competitor. He’s talented, all of those things.
“The key thing from my point of view is he’s just a fine young man and a leader.”