University of Iowa signee Tyler Linderbaum discusses how wrestling made him better at football at the 2018 Iowa state wrestling tournament at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
Wrestling wasn't on Tyler Linderbaum's radar when he started high school.
He threw shot and discus and played football, baseball and basketball as a freshman. Then his senior brother, heavyweight standout Logan Linderbaum, graduated to wrestle collegiately at Minnesota State.
Suddenly, Solon needed another heavyweight.
It asked Logan's "little" brother.
"So I’m like, 'All right, I’ll try it, give it a shot,'" Tyler Linderbaum said Thursday at the Iowa state wrestling tournament. "And it turned out pretty good."
Um, yes. Yes it did.
Linderbaum dropped basketball and became one of Iowa's most daunting heavyweights in short order. As a junior, he notched 41 pins and took fifth place at state. This year, he entered state undefeated (34-0) and was one of the Class 2A heavyweight favorites. He pinned his first-round opponent on Thursday and edged his opponent, 3-0, in Friday's quarterfinals. He'll face Clarion-Goldsfield-Dows' Spencer Trenary in the semifinals Friday afternoon.
But beyond producing success on the mat, Linderbaum's wrestling experience helped mold him into a ferocious, four-star lineman and one of Iowa's most exciting signees of the 2018 class.
"Iowa’s staff, they like their wrestlers," Linderbaum said. "Especially if they're linemen."
The Hawkeyes have a track record of recruiting the state's top wrestlers. Just last year, Kirk Ferentz landed the Class 2A and 1A heavyweight champions in Tristan Wirfs and Kyler Schott, who was a preferred walk-on.
Iowa's coaches have publicly stated how much they like football players who wrestle, especially linemen. It makes sense why: Wrestling forces athletes to develop strong hands, balance and quick feet — to improve their ability to gain leverage in a one-on-one matchup.
It's no coincidence that, on the football field, Linderbaum became known for his explosive agility.
Or, looking at it another way: He looks a lot like a wrestler out there.
"Once the football season’s over and we’re out visiting those kids, if they have a wrestling practice, you’d better believe I’m going to be there," Iowa recruiting coordinator Kelvin Bell told the Register last offseason. "I’m going to be there to get a chance to see a kid compete."
Linderbaum's acumen on the mat helped draw the Hawkeyes' attention. Iowa defensive line coach Reese Morgan attended several of Solon's matches and practices last year while he was recruiting Linderbaum.
The Hawkeyes offered three weeks after Linderbaum's fifth-place finish at state, and he committed in May.
Morgan still came to a few of Linderbaum's practices and matches this year, too.
"(Morgan) enjoys it," Solon head coach Blake Williams said, smiling.
After three winters of wrestling, Linderbaum said his hands and feet are noticeably better, and the wrestling mentality — "never quit, never give up" — has helped turn him into a better competitor at the line.
"To me, it’s more just the one-on-one battles," Williams said. "For him, he’s going to have a ton of one-on-one battles over the next four or five years on the gridiron. He’ll be the first to say (wrestling) helped him a lot (with that), there’s no doubt about it."
Bell said Linderbaum's drive to compete in those one-on-one battles is unique. Something you can't project.
"It’s off the charts," he told the Register in December. "That’s what’s going to make him special."
Two other 2018 Hawkeye recruits are also wrestling at state this weekend.
Preferred walk-on lineman Brian Sadler (Jesup) is the Class 1A heavyweight favorite. Fellow preferred walk-on fullback Monte Pottebaum (West Lyon) is considered a legitimate contender at 220 pounds in 1A.
Both pinned their first-round opponents to advance to Friday's quarterfinals.
Matthew Bain covers college football and basketball recruiting for the Des Moines Register. He also helps out with Iowa and Iowa State football and basketball coverage for HawkCentral and Cyclone Insider. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.