Tristan Wirfs has showcased plenty of impressive feats of strength and completed several noteworthy accomplishments as an Iowa player over the last three seasons. His latest and greatest achievement: being named the Rimington-Pace Offensive Lineman of the Year.
Wirfs is the first Iowa player to win the award since another dominant Iowa tackle with a mean streak, Brandon Scherff, who won the award in 2014. Overall Wirfs is the 8th different Iowa player to be named Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year since the award was created in 1984. With Offensive Lineman of the Year honors, Iowa is now tied with Ohio State for the second-most wins in the award's history. Only Michigan (9 winners) has more than Iowa and Ohio State. Overall, Iowa, Ohio State, and Michigan have won almost 2/3 (27) of the 35 Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year awards that have been handed out. (FUN FACT: only seven Big Ten schools have won the Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year Award since its inception over 30 years ago -- Iowa, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Penn State, and Minnesota.)
Wirfs has been setting records and turning heads since he arrived in Iowa City before the 2017 season. Wirfs became the first true freshman to start for Iowa when he entered the starting lineup in Iowa's sixth game of the year, against Illinois. He's been a fixture in the starting lineup ever since, starting 32 of the next 33 games.
He made noise in the offseason when his incredible display of strength in the hang clean during Iowa's spring practices went viral.
The best thing about this video other than @TristanWirfs74 being an absolute freak is the atmosphere and energy in this team. The @HawkeyeFootball Culture is everything here. We want those who are going to add to and strengthen this culture! #IowaEdge pic.twitter.com/PuvVA3KqkA— Tyler Barnes (@TylerBarnesIOWA) March 13, 2019
Wirfs did four reps of 450 lbs in the hang clean -- and made it look easy. He broke the previous Iowa record of 443 lbs, held by -- who else? -- Scherff, Iowa's most recent winner of the Offensive Lineman of the Year Award. #FarmStrong isn't just a hashtag or a catchy slogan around here.
Wirfs entered the 2019 season with considerable NFL Draft buzz; he did nothing to diminish that buzz during his junior season. While Iowa's offense -- and the offensive line in particular -- struggled to maintain drives and score touchdowns, their problems were almost never the result of Wirfs' play, which was consistently excellent. He provided a consistent dominant presence on the edge. He also showcased his versatility this season, thanks to an unfortunate injury to his tackle partner, Alaric Jackson. Wirfs has primarily played right tackle at Iowa, largely because Jackson is much better as a left tackle than a right tackle. When Jackson went down with a knee injury and missed three games, Wirfs slid over to left tackle -- and didn't miss a beat.
It's hard to measure offensive line play in stats, but what stats are available suggest that Wirfs was very, very, very good this year.
Top Big Ten OL grades this year according to @PFF— Blair Sanderson (@BlairRIVALS) December 2, 2019
1. Tristan Wirfs, Iowa 90.4
2. Tyler Biadasz, Wisconsin 86.7
3. Rashawn Slater, Northwestern 85.4
4. John Michael Schmitz, Minnesota 83.5
5. Wyatt Davis, Ohio State 81.5
6. Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa 81.3
7. Doug Kramer, Illinois 79.2
Wirfs made Pro Football Focus' All-Big Ten team this year; they had his pass blocking grade at 87.8 and his run-blocking grade at 88.1, both significant improvements over his play a year ago. They also had him credited with just four pressured allowed in Big Ten play for the entire season. Wirfs was basically an impregnable wall, on either the left or (more commonly) the right edge of Iowa's line.
It's been a joy to watch Wirfs maul hapless defenders for the last three seasons and especially this year, as he took his game to new, even more dominant level. Congratulations on being named Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year, Tristan.
P.S. If you haven't read Marc Morehouse's exhaustive -- and very good -- coverage of Wirfs' path to Iowa, well, this would be a great time to do so.