2020 DFJ MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: TYLER OLSON
LYNX 3-SPORT STAR HAS THE ‘IT FACTOR’
WEBSTER CITY — Marty McKinney has got a good Tyler Olson story, one that typifies the Webster City junior’s competitive nature.
Olson was locked in a bags — you may call it cornhole — battle with Bub Goings, who just happens to be the father of his girlfriend, Tatum. Bub pretty much took it to him that day in the driveway, and losing isn’t exactly something Olson is accustomed to.
So what did he do? He went home and studied the game. He watched YouTube videos. He practiced.
And when the rematch occurred? Let’s just say Olson didn’t lose again.
“The thing about Tyler is he’s good at everything he does,” McKinney, the Lynx head boys’ basketball and assistant football coach, said. “He’s got so much ability and he can do whatever he wants.”
Olson laughingly disputes McKinney’s account of how his battles with Bub went; he says he never remembers a single loss. Still, that’s awfully high praise for a teenager, and yet it’s accurate. Whether it’s on the football field, basketball court or baseball diamond, Olson almost always stands out. Ever heard of the “it factor?” That’s Olson.
“Some kids, from the time they’re in Little League and no matter what they look like, they’re in the right place at the right time and have the ability to make plays in whatever sport they’re in,” WCHS head football coach Bob Howard said. “Tyler is one of them.”
A strong work ethic? Check.
God-given talent? Check.
But what about mental toughness? Take it away, Adison Kehoe.
“There’s a lot of God-given ability and a lot of talent with a kid like Tyler, but he also embodies what talent can do when you add believing in yourself,” Kehoe, the Lynx head baseball coach, said. “He’s not a hoo-rah guy, but he never frays away from the opportunity or moment whether it’s on the football field, basketball court or baseball diamond. The moments can sometimes get the better of the athlete, but he defines the moment. You don’t see that everyday.”
For all of those reasons, and because he put together a junior season that was simply staggering in terms of statistical highlights and achievements, Olson is the 2020 Daily Freeman-Journal Male Athlete of the Year.
Olson is just the third non-senior to claim the award since its inception in 2014, joining former WCHS star Gavin Dinsdale — the only multiple-time winner in 2015 and 2016 — and 2017 winner Logan Peters of South Hamilton.
“Winning this means a lot, it’s an honor,” Olson said. “There aren’t many people that can do this, but I wouldn’t be in this position without the teammates I have. You’re only as good as the team behind you, so I give a lot of credit to them too.”
There were numerous outstanding candidates during the 2019-20 school year, but Olson stood head and shoulders above the competition, much like he did during whichever sport was in season.
He was a Class 3A first-team all-state defensive back following a football season in which he led the state, all classes, with 12 interceptions — tied for the fourth-most in a single season in the history of Iowa’s 11-man game. And he’ll enter his senior season later this month with 14 career picks, just 10 away from the state’s all-time record of 24, held by Blake Bayer of Albia (24, 2013-15).
Olson had at least one INT in eight of the Lynx nine games in 2019. Three times he collected multiple picks, capped by a three-INT show in a 34-0 rout of Boone in the season finale.
Basketball probably ranks No. 3 of the three sports he plays, and yet he was still a second-team all-North Central Conference selection after he led WCHS in points (12.6 per game), rebounds (5.9) and steals (2.0). Hoops isn’t exactly a weak link; just ask South Central Calhoun, a team he put up 33 points, nine rebounds, seven steals and five assists against in a 78-73 WCHS win last December.
And then there’s baseball. When it’s truth serum time, that’s the sport that truly makes Olson stand out. The proof was in the number of college scouts that ventured to Lynx Field to watch him play throughout the summer months.
An all-state right-handed pitcher, he went 6-1 with a 1.22 ERA and 72 strikeouts — the fifth-most in the state, regardless of class — in 46 innings of work. He also led WCHS offensively with a .440 batting average and 20 RBIs in pushing the team to a second straight conference title.
The NCC doesn’t give an MVP award, but if it did? Olson, a unanimous first-team pick, would have likely received every vote.
“I’ll just say that I wouldn’t have had to argue very hard for that,” Kehoe said.
But Olson doesn’t consider himself just a baseball player, or just a football guy. And that’s precisely why he’s so good at every sport he plays.
“I would say I’m an athlete,” he said. “When it’s football season, I play football.
“The whole year was a little surprising, but that’s what you shoot for. You don’t go into it expecting to do was well as you do, but once you do it multiple times, you do start to expect it.”
Olson has some college interest from football coaches, but he concedes his future is probably on the baseball diamond. And maybe more than any WCHS player over the past two decades, he has a legitimate shot of playing at the next level. And at the high next level too.
“The big difference between Tyler and other high school players … if I put a golf ball on the outside part of the plate and told him to try to hit it, I think he’d hit it eight times out of 10,” Kehoe said. “You don’t see that a lot at the high school level. His command is second to none and it’s pretty to watch.”
An Olson pitched game always starts with him testing the home plate umpire. His first pitch is usually a fastball, low and outside. If he gets the call, he’ll put the next pitch even further outside. And if he gets that call too, let’s just say the opposition is in for a long and frustrating evening.
“You’ve got to have the mindset before the game that you’re going to go out there and strike out 21,” Olson said nonchalantly, like it’s an actual possibility. “I got into each game thinking I’m going to strike everyone out and if I don’t, that’s on me. But you can’t win every single game, I know that. You’re going to lose some.”
With Olson, that’s a rare occurrence. He’s been on the hook for losses just twice in his career.
What is so encouraging to his coaches is that they all say he’s going to be even better during his senior season. Like any young kid, there was a time when Olson took his talent for granted and perhaps didn’t work as hard as others. But with maturity, those moments are in the rearview mirror.
He’s bigger and faster now than he was when he collected 12 INTs last fall. He’s a lot less prone to bouts of frustration on the basketball court. And Kehoe says his fastball, which already reaches the mid 80s, could be four to five mph faster next summer.
“Ever since football was over last year, he worked through the winter in the weight room and he’s put on 10 to 15 pounds,” Howard said. “I think he’s noticeably bigger and stronger than he was. He certainly had a great junior year and that’s exactly what we want as far as multiple-sport kids.”
What does all of that mean for the 2020-21 school year? Don’t be surprised if Dinsdale has company as a multiple-time winner of this award 12 months from now.
•The Facts — A state-leading 12 INTs, tied for the fourth-most in a single-season in 11-player history … 33 tackles … 10 receptions for 157 yards and 2 TDs … Class 3A 1st-team all-state defensive back.
•Aug. 30, 2019 — Tyler Olson opened his junior season with 2 INTs in a 33-20 win over Gilbert. He intentionally batted down a potential third pick on a deep throw on fourth down.
•Sept. 13, 2019 — Week 3 in a 48-32 win over Waterloo East, 2 more INTs for Olson, bringing his season total to 5 early in the season.
•Sept. 20, 2019 — Facing highly-ranked Algona, Olson had 1 pick and also caught a pair of TD passes.
•Oct. 18, 2019 — Week 8 against Dallas Center-Grimes, the only — REPEAT, ONLY — game all season in which Olson didn’t collect at least 1 INT. He made a season-high 71⁄2 tackles though.
•Oct. 25, 2019 — INT Nos. 10, 11 and 12 came in the regular season finale against Boone. No. 10 tied Dylan Steen for the Lynx single-season record, and No. 11 gave Olson the record all to himself.
•The Facts — Led WCHS in points (12.6), rebounds (5.9) and steals (2.0) per game … Second on the team in assists (3.4) per game … 2nd team all-North Central Conference.
•Dec. 10, 2019 — Olson erupted for a career-high 33 points to go along with 9 rebounds, 7 assists and 5 steals in a 78-73 road win over South Central Calhoun.
•Jan. 24, 2020 — In a 67-58 double-OT road win over St. Edmond, Olson produced a double-double — 23 points and 11 rebounds.
•Jan. 31, 2020 — Another strong effort, 18 points and 6 caroms, in a 57-46 win over Hampton-Dumont.
•Feb. 20, 2020 — Olson closed out the regular season by torching Boone for 15 points, 5 rebounds, 4 steals and 3 assists in a 61-51 win for the Lynx.
•June 15, 2020 — Opened the season with a complete-game, 2-hit, 13-strikeout gem in a 4-0 win over Hampton-Dumont.
•June 22, 2020 — Against Clear Lake, Olson fanned 11 in a complete-game effort the Lynx won, 8-1.
•June 30, 2020 — A sub-par performance on the mound by Olson’s standards, but he provided the game-winning hit in a 6-5 triumph over Nevada.
•July 8, 2020 — NCC title on the line and Olson was superb. Over 62⁄3 innings, he limited Humboldt to 3 hits and struck out 13, as the Lynx won their 2nd straight league crown, 5-2.