By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – It was the summer of 2013 and I couldn’t believe what I saw standing near first base.
I don’t remember the exact location of the baseball field, maybe Cedar Rapids, but I do still vividly remember the first time that I laid eyes on Tristan Wirfs.
He was playing first base for the Mount Vernon varsity baseball team as an eighth grader and he played the position well.
But what stood out more than anything was his enormous size.
Even if Wirfs were a senior at the time, he would’ve stood out.
But I remember being told his age and then looking at the Mount Vernon roster and saying, “you have to be kidding me.”
It was no joke.
Tristan Wirfs was for real, and a legend in the making because that same giant first baseman was named the Big Ten Conference’s Offensive Lineman of the Year on Wednesday.
That same giant first baseman is now a junior on the Iowa football team and one of the top offensive linemen in the collegiate ranks, and possibly a high pick in the 2020 NFL Draft should he choose to skip his senior season.
The 6-foot-5, 322-pound Wirfs has 32 career starts in three seasons at Iowa. He was one of six semifinalists for the 2019 Outland Trophy. He also earned honorable mention honors in 2018, and in 2017 was the first true freshman to start at tackle under head coach Kirk Ferentz.
Wirfs is the first Hawkeye to earn the offensive lineman award since Brandon Scherff in 2014. The award for offensive line play was first presented in 1984, with Wirfs being the eighth Hawkeye to earn the honor.
Wirfs was also a multi-sport star in high school, where in addition to his success in football, he won a state title in wrestling as a senior, and he won state titles in both the shot put and the discus as a junior and senior.
Wirfs is unusual in that he is so massive, and yet, highly skilled for his size.
There are other linemen as big, or bigger, than Wirfs, but very few have his size, finesse, coordination and strength.
He is also a legend in the Iowa weight room where his power and strength distinguish him from most others.
You could just tell back on that hot summer day in 2013 that Tristan Wirfs was no ordinary athlete.
He was gifted from a physical standpoint, but also determined to succeed in sports.
He ultimately picked football as his sport in college, and that decision is now paying huge dividends.