GOOSE LAKE, Iowa — Tristan Wirfs took two steps back. He braced for contact.
The Northeast High School defensive end took two steps forward. He stopped.
There would be no pass block responsibility for the Mount Vernon left tackle on this play. It repeatedly occurred during a 61-14 Mount Vernon win Sept. 23.
It was good for the Mustangs. It wasn’t great for Wirfs, an Iowa commit, and his development.
“It’s happened a couple times,” Wirfs said. “I don’t know what it is.”
High school teams don’t have an answer for a 6-foot-5, 315-pound offensive tackle who is the most athletic player on the field. Wirfs can do a handstand. He can two-hand dunk a basketball standing under the rim.
One of the few times a Northeast player goes for a pass rush, Wirfs locks his arms on him and shoves him back about 4 yards.
Wirfs admits it can be a little hard to improve when opponents don’t engage him. So what does he do?
“I try to focus on what I have to do to be as technically sound as I can,” Wirfs said.
Wirfs wants to be challenged. He wants to work on his pass blocking this season. His hand placement wasn’t always sound in past seasons.
Wirfs spends plenty of time working with the Mount Vernon staff. They began with basics to build him back up.
“He started off last year a little too wide,” Mount Vernon coach Lance Pedersen said. “He is working on getting it out. His hands are getting a lot better as well.”
Pedersen’s work with Wirfs is twofold. He’s trying to help Wirfs become the best player he can and position himself for collegiate success while also trying to get the most out of him for the Mustangs.
It all comes together in technique work. Pedersen used to work Iowa football youth camps. A lot of the offensive line fundamentals his staff uses are rooted in what the Hawkeyes teach.
“(Iowa offensive line coach) Brian (Ferentz) is going to have some higher expectations and (Iowa coach Kirk) Ferentz will as well,” Pedersen said, “but I think we are starting to hopefully prepare him. We are giving him the best opportunity for us, but also help them in the future.”
Not every defender is avoiding Wirfs. He was quick to bring up Mid-Prairie’s Levi Duwa, a fellow Iowa commit.
“He didn’t hold out,” Wirfs said. “He came right at me. It was great.”
It also helped Wirfs and Pedersen better assess Wirfs’ pass blocking.
“That’s definitely gotten a lot better,” Wirfs said.
Wirfs is more likely to get engaged in a run play. Teams will overload defenders to his side, even if Mount Vernon lines up with a tight end on the opposite side.
On what became a 92-yard touchdown run, Wirfs worked to the second level. The play was designed to go to the right, but running back Jack Cochrane was about to cut back left. Wirfs saw it so he sealed off a safety. It’s the final key block to ensure Cochrane can find the end zone.
“I knew Jack likes to bounce around so I tried to do my best to cut him off so Jack would have an open lane to the left,” Wirfs said.
With one play Wirfs showed why opponents may be hesitant to always engage him and why he’s U.S. Army All-American Game selection.
It’s a good problem to have, even if it makes his game nights a little boring at times.
“It’s truly amazing what he can do,” Pedersen said. “I think he just has excellent feet, great hands. He is weighing in at 315 right now, but he moves like you can’t believe. He really is the complete package.”