WEBSTER CITY - It was a good problem to have - choosing between football and wrestling.
But in the end, Connor Larson went with his gut and, believe it or not, a prep career-ending loss played a big part in his decision.
Larson, a Webster City senior, signed a letter of intent this week to play football at Grand View University in Des Monies beginning in the fall. He received a scholarship to join the Vikings as a tailback.
DFJ photo by Troy Banning
Webster City senior Connor Larson (7) runs over Waverly-Shell Rock’s Colin Wiltse in the open field last fall. Larson signed a letter of intent this week to play college football at Grand View in Des Moines.
"I'm very excited about where I'm going and I'm excited to get (the recruiting process) over with finally," he said. "It's a really good program and I'm excited for the competition."
Larson chose Grand View over Briar Cliff University in Sioux City, Wartburg College in Waverly and Simpson College in Indianola.
"They've gotten so good in a short period of time and that was a huge part of it for me," Larson said. "I also like how they want to play the best people."
The decision to play football instead of wrestle in college actually began to take shape last fall following a 34-28 loss to Grinnell in the first round of the Class 3A state playoffs.
"It really wasn't this year until I decided to play football," Larson said. "Losing to Grinnell in the playoffs really hit me hard and I realized I didn't want it to end."
Grand View has certainly made a meteoric rise up the NAIA ranks in recent years. The Vikings' football program debuted in 2008 and it took just five years to win a national championship when they knocked off Cumberlands (Ky.), 35-23, last season.
Larson knows he's got his work cut out for him, but he's OK with putting in the work necessary.
"I know I've still got to get bigger and faster," he said. "Coach (Mike) Woodley likes how I'm a tough runner and how I don't give up."
Larson finished his prep football career fifth on Webster City's all-time rushing leaderboard with 2,731 yards. He averaged 6.4 yards per carry and lumbered into the end zone 36 times.
He first broke into the Lynx lineup as a sophomore in 2011 as a blocking back and then took over the tailback duties as a junior in 2012. Larson eclipsed 100 yards rushing in 15 of his 20 games as the featured ball carrier and waited until his final game to ramble for a career-high 230 yards in the loss to Grinnell.
His single-season total of 1,596 yards last fall put Larson third on the Class 3A rushing chart. He was fifth in touchdowns with 21.
But Larson had just as much success, if not more on the wrestling mat.
"I can't say I like football more than wrestling because I'm still doing freestyle," he said. "But I've wrestled my whole life and now I want to see what I can do in football."
Ted Larson, Connor's father and the Lynx head wrestling coach, says he didn't care which path his son chose. He just wants him to be happy.
"I wanted him to do what he wanted to do. I didn't want what I do (professionally) to be any pressure on what he does," Ted Larson said. "He's going to Grand View to play football for four years, but the main thing is he's going there to get an education that will last him the rest of his life."
Larson - who wants to study physical education at Grand View - left the WCHS wrestling program with his name all over the record book. He's the program's all-time wins leader with 142 and shares the single-season record for wins of 43 with classmate Dylan Fielder.
One of just three Webster City wrestlers ever to win three North Central Conference titles, Larson is also the program's single-season and career leader in pins.
All of this begs the question: Could there come a day when he wants to try both sports at the next level?
"No," Larson said. "If they allow me to go in (the Grand View wrestling room) every now and then I wouldn't mind that. But I'm done wrestling (competitively)."