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.

Kaylia Wirfs, Tristan's sister, is getting ready for liftoff in life

Sarah, Tristan and Kaylia Wirfs outside Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City. (Submitted photo)
Sarah, Tristan and Kaylia Wirfs outside Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City. (Submitted photo)

MOUNT VERNON — School starts in less than a month. Kaylia Wirfs is still at work on a late-July evening. It’s about 8:30.

“Starting in August, I also will be babysitting,” said Kaylia, 17, who’s Iowa offensive linemen Tristan Wirfs’ sister.

Going into her senior year at Mount Vernon, Kaylia works as a lifeguard at the Mount Vernon pool. She also works at a pet food store in uptown Mount Vernon. She helps a friend who she’s known her whole life. And, soon, she’ll babysit for one of her old Mount Vernon teachers. She’s also been taking classes at Kirkwood Community College.

Bouts of anxiety have led Kaylia to her career path.

“I want to be a counselor or a therapist,” she said. “I struggled with anxiety since I was 8 years old. I’ve been so grateful for all of the opportunities and services that have been presented to me. Those are available for everyone.

“I love helping people, that’s the baseline. I love helping people. It’s my favorite thing to do, and solving everyone’s problems is one of my best things.”

Kaylia heard what she said and laughed.

“I’m really good at it, I’m really good at talking with people,” she said. “Ever since kindergarten, my teachers have said ‘Kaylia, you need to focus on your own work before you start helping others.’

“I still need to work on that because I’m still terrible at it, but I think psychology and the human brain are amazing and I would love to learn more.”

Fourth of July stands out for Kaylia as family fun. Sarah Wirfs, her mom, works at Target. Retail makes weekends and holidays tricky.

“We lit the snakes and always had sparklers,” she said.

The pool was Wirfs central. With daycare just a few walkable blocks away and with Tristan and Kaylia interested in swimming, it was Wirfs central.

“Ever since I can remember, we’d walk to the pool and swim together all day,” Kaylia said. “He would splash me, throw me around. We did a lot of fun stuff. I got dragged to a lot of his stuff, but we made it fun.”

Kaylia is moving forward right now. She’s stuffing everything she can onto her calendar. School starts Aug. 23. It’s her senior year. It’s a good time to reflect on how she got here.

Of course, she’s proud of her mom.

“She has worked so hard for everything we want and everything we need,” Kaylia said. “It’s really amazing. We’ve seen her struggle. We’ve seen her come home from work and she’s exhausted and doesn’t want to do anything, but she still found time to cook homemade meals almost every night. She went to all of our events.

“Yeah, she needed help, but they say it takes a village to raise a family and it really does. We were lucky enough to have our family live all around us. Anytime I needed help, I could call grandma. If I was locked out of the house, about to pee my pants, I knew someone would be around to unlock the door for me.”

Sarah even found time for the kids to have pets. Tristan’s childhood dog was named “Tuff.” The new pup, Juno, a Lab that is very Lab-like (rambunctious), will keep the household active. The cat, Clyde, balances out the rambunctious with that cool curiosity cats have.

“I’m incredibly proud of my mom,” Kaylia said. “Still to this day, she works so hard. She’s always proud of what we do, no matter what it is. She’s an amazing person. She’s THE best mom.”