MOUNT VERNON — Tristan Wirfs almost didn’t put the “four” in front of his wrestling career at Mount Vernon. Football was taking off, and wrestling demands weight limits, even for the weight called “heavyweight.”
Wirfs had worries about making it down to 285 pounds. He overcame that and won a state title in his senior year.
Baseball didn’t get the year four. It only got a little of year three.
Mount Vernon baseball coach Jeremy Elliott still is salty. Informed that Wirfs at least once considered baseball his favorite sport, Elliott had this response:
“Then why did he quit?” he said with a laugh and some other saltiness.
This was the summer going into Wirfs’ junior year at Mount Vernon. He hit two home runs against Solon. A few weeks before that, Iowa State contacted him during a doubleheader at Williamsburg and football recruiting became a thing and maybe the thing.
This is five years ago. The coach still is salty.
“He was really, really good,” Elliott said. “The ball exploded off his bat. He’s got great hands, great footwork. He was a first baseman. His skills around the bag were really, really high level.
“ ... He could beat the (bleep) out of the baseball.”
During his freshman year, Wirfs saw a lot of fastballs and he mostly launched them for hits. He hit in the .400s.
The Wamac Conference figured out sometime during Wirfs’ sophomore year. The curveball was something he struggled with.
“The word gets out that he’s pretty good and they start throwing him a lot of curveballs,” Elliott said. “He didn’t like that very much at all.”
Elliott wanted to make a pitcher out of Wirfs. So did Cal Eldred. Yes, the former Iowa and Major League Baseball pitcher was around. He was an assistant coach and his son, C.J., who was being recruited by Iowa (where he ended up) for baseball, also was on the team.
“He’s 6-5 and 300 pounds on the mound and he’s throwing fastballs at you, that’s a pretty intimidating thing,” he said. “We tried to get him on the mound and be a pitcher, but he just hated it.”
You’d think baseball would be the one sport where Wirfs didn’t hear “Take it easy, don’t hurt anyone.” It entered his thoughts while pitching.
“When he was letting go of that ball, he didn’t know where the hell it was going,” Elliott said. “He threw close to 80 mph at that point, before he had any skill development on the mound. He didn’t want to do that because he didn’t know where it was going. That was a concern or fear for him, I think, too.”
Wirfs got into the pine tar with baseball. He and teammate Jack Cochran, who had 79 tackles as a linebacker at South Dakota State last season, got all goobered up with the pine tar and “talc,” which really probably was Gold Bond or some other chafing fighter.
“He swung so hard that the bat would come out of his hand,” Elliott said. “The pine tar helped. They pine tarred the hell out of their stuff. It really got to be an annoyance. It was all over the place.”
The sticky mess didn’t matter. Elliott still missed that bat in the lineup. Football waved Wirfs around third and that was going to play out.
“It was disappointing that he didn’t stick it out with us, but I respected his decision, obviously he made a really good one, choosing to get after football,” Elliott said. “He seems like he has a good head on his shoulders and he’s in the right direction.”