Iowa Offensive Lineman Tristan Wirfs left plenty of marks in Mount Vernon. Many in town made marks on him too. When you're 6-foot-5 and 320 pounds, it's hard not to make an impact.

The Gazette's Marc Morehouse caught up with Sarah and Tristan Wirfs and many others who helped propel the 2017 Gazette Prep Athlete of the Year forward into a three year starter.

The letter Tristan Wirfs wrote that led to a state wrestling championship

Tristan Wirfs celebrates winning the 2017 Class 2A 285-pound state wrestling championship with Mount Vernon assistant coach Aaron Truitt at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Tristan Wirfs celebrates winning the 2017 Class 2A 285-pound state wrestling championship with Mount Vernon assistant coach Aaron Truitt at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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MOUNT VERNON — Sometimes, all it takes is that one voice in your head. It doesn’t matter who it is.

Tristan Wirfs could’ve skated away from his final year of high school wrestling and no one would’ve shrugged.

He had his football scholarship to the University of Iowa. He was a Hawkeye. That was down there in Iowa City waiting for him.

As you probably have picked up on by now, Wirfs is big. Wrestling is a sport that is cool with big as long as it fits into a 285-pound package. In January of his senior year, he also was invited to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

It was his first bite of big football and he sort of loved it. He weighed in the low 300s.

He could’ve left his size 17 Nike Freeks in the middle of the mat after just missing placing his junior year.

Wirfs could’ve taken his place in the college football world. Everyone who knows about sports would’ve nodded.

Almost as if it was expected.

Except that Mount Vernon assistant wrestling coach Aaron Truitt got a facial tic thinking about an incomplete journey.

 

“When he was a freshman, I told him, ‘It’s not about your freshman year, it’s about February 2017. That’s when the final chapter gets written. And that’s when you look back and know whether or not this was worthwhile for you,’” Truitt said.

Truitt picked up on the town scuttlebutt. Why cut weight that Wirfs is only going to need six months later? Truitt picked a pretty great time to speak his mind.

“He was on the homecoming court. And they list their little spiels and he had three years of wrestling listed in his bio,” Truitt said. “I happened to be at the end of the field and he walked by. ‘Hey, they messed up your bio.’ And he goes, ‘What do you mean?’

“I said, ‘You concentrate on football, and when that’s done, we’re going to sit down and have a talk.’ I said, ‘If you can honestly tell me it’s not working for you, I won’t bother you.’ I said, ‘Let’s sit down and have a good talk.’”

Wirfs went on a visit to Iowa City that weekend. You know how Iowa football feels about wrestling. You know how head coach Kirk Ferentz feels about wrestling. Legendary Iowa wrestling coach Dan Gable has been an honorary captain twice for Iowa football games.

“He talked with the coaches,” Truitt said. “He talked to the Paulsen twins (from Moville and senior offensive linemen for the Hawkeyes). These guys are all former wrestlers. He got their feedback. They were in the same boat he was in. He came back from that game, I can’t remember which one it was, and he said, ‘I talked with everybody and they all say I have to wrestle. I’m going to regret it if I don’t.’”

So, then, a few weeks go by. Wrestling season is nearing.

It’s October. Wirfs is a celebrity judge for Mount Vernon’s chili cook-off. Sarah Wirfs would often tell her kids to write down their thoughts to see how they looked on paper.

“I saw him that day and he said, ‘Hey, did you check your mail?’ I said no,” Truitt said. “So I went home and checked the mail. He’d written me a letter.

“It said, ‘You told me four years ago February ’17 would be when the final chapter is written. That’s what we’re going to do. I’ll make it. I’m coming out. We’ll figure out the weight thing,’” Truitt said. “He said, ‘I made that promise to you four years ago, I’m going to hold up my end.’

“Obviously, it was a pretty awesome ending.”

Wirfs capped a 25-3 season with a Class 2A heavyweight state crown. He beat Atlantic’s John McConkey in a tight 3-2 with a monstrous takedown.

None of it was easy. Not one second of it.

Wirfs made the 285-pound weight limit once before Christmas. This bought him a two-pound allowance for the rest of the season. Doesn’t sound like much, does it?

Here’s an insight to Wirfs’ approach:

Truitt talked about when Wirfs returned from the Army Bowl in San Antonio. He was a respectable 300 pounds. He had wrestling in the back of his mind.

“We didn’t know what he’d weigh when he got back,” Truitt said. “We thought it would take a week or two to get back down to weight. We saw him on a Wednesday. I asked him what the plan was, how are we going to get you back down to weight?

“He said, ‘We have a meet tomorrow, don’t we?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ He goes, ‘Do they have a heavyweight?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ He said, ‘I’ll make it tomorrow.’”

Being big helped here.

“He was a big enough body and could sweat enough that he could lose 14 or 15 pounds in a practice pretty easily,” Truitt said. “Basically, in one day, he lost 15 pounds so he could make weight for the next dual meet.”