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.

For Tristan Wirfs, the 'Mount Vernoning' started while he was in day care

A photograph of a young Iowa offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs is seen next to markings of his growth in height on the wall at his mother Sarah Wires' house in Mount Vernon, Iowa, on Friday, July 5, 2019. Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
A photograph of a young Iowa offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs is seen next to markings of his growth in height on the wall at his mother Sarah Wires' house in Mount Vernon, Iowa, on Friday, July 5, 2019. Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

MOUNT VERNON — Lori Thomsen has run a day care out of her home for 34 years, her husband, Bill, said. He had to think about how many wrestling families his wife has watched over the years.

“I mean, I’ve never thought about it that way,” Bill Thomsen said. “We had a kid who’s a senior this year (Noah Erickson). I don’t know how many wrestlers. Probably six or seven, with Justin’s kids and everyone else.”

(For the record, Lori Thomsen guessed seven or eight.)

Thomsen is a former Mount Vernon head wrestling coach. He’s mentioned twice in Mount Vernon’s “State Champion Coaches Hall of Fame.” Thomsen, a 1972 Mount Vernon High School graduate, led the Mustangs to a state duals championship in 1988. He also guided the girls’ track and field team to a title in 2009, scoring the most points for a Class 3A team in state meet history.

Iowa offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs was drafted into wrestling in the Thomsens’ living room. Sort of. When Sarah Wirfs was sending her kids, Tristan and Kaylia, to Lori Thomsen, so was Mount Vernon head wrestling coach Vance Light. His son is Justin.

“So, Justin Light, they’ve gone to the same sitter as the Lights since they were born,” Sarah Wirfs said.

“Vance always said I was going to be his heavyweight,” Tristan said.

“Oh my gosh, he said that since you were 7 years old,” Sarah added.

Bill finally retired at Mount Vernon after teaching and coaching in Mount Vernon schools for more than 30 years.

He taught Wirfs in fifth grade.

“Tristan was always fun. He was always a competitive young man,” Thomsen said. “We used to play devilish Four Square against each other. He was always fun to watch. He also was one of those kids who’d never wear pants outside in the winter. He always had to wear shorts and they always had to be gym shorts. He was a tough kid, really hard-nosed about things like that.”

Yes, Lori’s day care had a bunch of wrestling families (currently sometimes heavyweight assistant coach Justin Dix sends his kids to the Thomsens), but it wasn’t one of those East German sports farms from the ’70s.

Bill’s biggest contribution?

“I help out by staying out of the way,” Bill said.

There are hikes and adventures, sometimes in “The Triangle,” a patch of grass with streets wrapped around it in front of the Thomsens’ home.

Every day in the summer includes a trip to the swimming pool, where, coincidentally, Kaylia Wirfs is currently a lifeguard. It’s a short walk and as good as it gets for kids in high summer.

“She does that still today,” Thomsen said. “She takes the crew to the pool. They get pool passes, all of that stuff.”

They’re still doing it. They still love kids and love being around them, Bill said.

Tristan Wirfs still stops in and says hello.