There was no raining on the parade of accolades for Tristan Wirfs this past weekend.
Mount Vernon resident and Super Bowl winning athlete Tristan Wirfs was honored at this year’s Mount Vernon Heritage Days events.
“It’s awesome to have Tristan recognized and celebrated by this community, as Mount Vernon has been such a big part of his life,” said Sarah Wirfs, Tristan’s mom.
“It feels good, and I’m so excited to be recognized by this community,” said Tristan Wirfs, ahead of the ceremonies on Saturday morning. “I didn’t expect to be in Mount Vernon High School’s hall of fame so early.”
Tristan still can’t believe that he’s been part of a Super Bowl winning team during his first year of National Football League play with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
In the off-season, Tristan has been spending his time in Iowa City training at the University of Iowa’s athletic facilities to keep in shape for the coming season.
When it came to Mount Vernon’s Heritage Days, Tristan said he has great memories of the community festival every year, an event he has attended most of his life.
“My favorite activity at the event has always been the Lions Bingo tent,” Tristan said. “I could spend hours just playing Bingo during Heritage Days.”
Mount Vernon Alumni Association president Andrew Morf noted that the Alumni Association has held a Hall of Fame recognition ceremony for Mount Vernon alumni since 2008, recognizing winners in multiple categories.
“When Tristan anchored the offensive line for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and protected one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game, Tom Brady, and then went on to win the Super Bowl 31-9 against the Kansas City Chiefs, we knew we had to recognize that achievement,” Morf said. “Looking at our bylaws, however, we realized that alums can only be recognized for achievements 10 years after they’ve graduated.”
Morf said the group knew winning a Super Bowl should be recognized and were working at figuring out which category to recognize Tristan’s accomplishment.
The group debated if it should be a recognition for athletic achievement, since winning a Super Bowl really fits Tristan’s accomplishment, or if his community service and helping of others should be recognized, as those are traits he’s continually exhibited even as his platforms have gotten larger.
The association settled on a new award, the Outstanding Achievement award for Mustangs who have gone above and beyond those other categories.
During a video for the award, Tristan named his hero as his mother, Sarah, for the sacrifices she made to give Tristan so many opportunities, even when the family was struggling to pay their bills. Tristan had plenty of opportunities to play as many sports as possible.
Tristan also noted that having a team of 20 other athletes in Mount Vernon he played alongside from the third grade on helped him to find the spots on the team that worked for his athletic prowess.
Tristan remembered when he had earned his scholarship to the University of Iowa, and the support he had from head coach Kirk Ferentz.
“Coach Ferentz has always been supportive, and when I was considering optioning for the NFL Draft, he only gave one spiel to me about staying at the University of Iowa, and after that, he made sure Mom and I had all the information we needed to move forward with that decision,” Tristan said.
Dennis Jordan, with the Mount Vernon Alumni Association, noted how much of Tristan’s success was due to Sarah, who Tristan mentioned more than 10 times in the video. He asked Sarah to stand and be recognized before the award was handed to Tristan.
After the awards ceremony, Tristan moved onto photo opportunities with fans and attendees and then to head the Mount Vernon Heritage Days parade.
Saturday evening, the accolades of Tristan Wirfs continued with former coaches, role models and teammates taking the Mount Vernon Heritage Days stage to speak about Tristan’s accomplishments over the years.
Kent Musmueller, Tristan’s middle school baseball coach recalls the day in practice when Tristan hit a baseball from home plate at Davis Park into the middle of the adjacent shallow end of the Mount Vernon Pool.
“He’s doing that as a fifth grader?” Musmueller noted. “That’s when I knew Tristan was going to accomplish big things in his athletic career.”
Lance Pedersen, head football coach of the Mount Vernon Mustangs, noted the playoff game the team had against Williamsburg years ago, when they were down by 21 points. Tristan’s pushes on the offense that game turned the score around for the Mustangs and kept the team’s play-off chances advancing.
“The thing I remember most about Tristan, though, has always been his smile,” Pedersen said. “It was a smile everyone in this state got to witness when he was a player with the Hawkeyes, and 100 million people got to witness that beaming smile the night of the Super Bowl.”
Ryan Whitman, track coach for Mount Vernon, remembered Tristan could always be counted on to give the school 20 points in any meets he was throwing in, as his prowess in field events was on clear display.
“His record in shot put, with a 57-foot throw, is going to stand at this school for years to come, and he’s one of only five students in the state of Iowa who has a throw of over 195 feet in the discus,” Whitman said. “The thing I’ll remember most, however, is how great of a teammate he was to everyone on the track team.”
Aaron Truitt, Mount Vernon High School wrestling coach, noted that one of the things he remembered is a joke the two had – where Tristan would ask where Truitt was going to be traveling to today, as the coach would get thrown around the mat by Wirfs so much he should earn frequent flier miles.
“I also remember his great heart and being one of the most humane people,” Truitt said.
Truitt remembered a point in February 2017 when Tristan’s record was 10-27 in wrestling, Tristan was debating if he’d return to wrestle for the season.
When Tristan made that decision to honor his commitment for wrestling.
Former Iowa Hawkeye Levi Paulson noted that his first interactions with Tristan were in 2014 and 2015, when they were both in high school sports, and as such were sometimes competitors.
“I always dreaded going to an event and throwing shot put if I saw Tristan’s name, as there was a good chance I wasn’t taking first place in that event,” Paulson said.
Paulson also remembers giving Tristan guidance when he was grappling with the idea of returning to wrestling his senior year, after committing to the Hawkeyes.
“He messaged me on Facebook, and asked for advice on what he should do,” Paulson said. “I told him he should definitely go back out for wrestling, if the only thing he was worried about was cutting 30 pounds. That’s a drop in the bucket and he could lose that easily.”
Tristan competed, winning a state championship.
Paulson, who played alongside Tristan as a part of the Hawkeyes football team, recalled that Brian Ferentz was trying to get Tristan to be strong off the line in his reps during a practice. The first two reps he had on the day upset Brian, who threw his hat and went into a tirade.
The next rep was the one where Tristan got off the line and lifted the other player roughly 12 inches off the ground and laid him flat on his back.
“That’s when we knew Tristan was going to be a big deal,” Paulson said.
Paulson also noted Tristan’s dedication to his family and friends was a tremendous deal even in college.
Ed Timm, Tristan’s baseball coach and fellow shotput nerd, noted many of his interactions with Tristan were discussing shot put statistics and performances.
The duo were shot put nerds so much that Timm recalls getting a text from Tristan 2 p.m. Super Bowl weekend this year when Ryan Crouser broke the world indoor record on shot put throws.
“I was trying to get Tristan’s head back in the game that was ahead of him and that being where he should be focusing, but in his defense, that throw was one of the most unreal things to watch,” Timm said.
Timm noted back in high school, Tristan had two goals in his life – winning a Super Bowl championship and winning an Olympic gold medal.
“He’s already halfway to those goals right now,” Timm said.
Timm gave Tristan some advice from the Heritage Days stage, however – don’t ever let himself be defined by the accomplishments he’s set.
The last person to speak was Tristan’s uncle, Rich Wirfs, who noted that on the rare occasions that Tristan would have overnights, he’d need to have his mom’s Target shirt to sleep peacefully.
Tristan took the stage to offer a few more words on the day.
“It means a lot to me to see so much of the community of Mount Vernon out here to celebrate me,” Tristan said. “This town will remain my hometown forever, and I’ll think of it fondly. From the times I got kicked out of the pool as a little kid, to when they were cheering me on in my first Super Bowl. Your support means a lot to me, and I’m grateful to have it.”