Austin Blythe’s dance with the University of Iowa began about a year ago, when he received an offer to play football for the Hawkeyes.
Yes, Blythe, 6-foot-3, 280 pounds, grew up in Williamsburg, about a half hour west of Iowa City. His parents, Curt and Mary, took him to Hawkeye football games and wrestling meets pretty much all of his life.
But no, it wasn’t as easy as you’d think to say yes to the Hawkeyes. It’s a life decision, and Blythe wanted to explore all of his options.
After all, he was a second-semester sophomore when this started. He had offers from Iowa State, Stanford, Kansas, Kansas State, and Wisconsin.
“Some people were like, ‘man, why don’t you just commit now,’ ” Blythe said. “People think it’s an easy decision, but it’s really not. It’s where you’re going to be living the next four years. I just wanted to be sure that Iowa was the right fit and I now know that it is the right fit.”
The Williamsburg all-stater and two-time state heavyweight wrestling champion for the Raiders ended it Monday during an unofficial visit to Iowa City. He asked offensive line coach Reese Morgan if he could visit an offseason running and lifting session Monday, the last before the Hawkeyes break for finals.
“I wasn’t planning on committing, but later in the week I decided enough is enough,” Blythe said. “I think it’s time I made the decision. It’s one that was made a long time ago, I think, I just wanted to be sure I was making the right decision.”
The next decision question for Blythe was football and/or wrestling? He is believed to be the first freshman finalist in the heavyweight division in state history. He’ll go for his third straight Class 2A title next February. He also plans to go for the crown at the USA Junior Nationals in Fargo, N.D., later this summer. A national crown is very much the goal.
Blythe will be all football at the UI.
“I might be able to be good or decent in both,” he said, “but I don’t think I could be great in one if I did both.
“I chose football because I love everything that goes along with football. I love the preparation and everyone working toward a common goal. I’m not saying they don’t do that in wrestling, but just working within the team. I love that part about football. I love everything else that comes a long with football.”
The next next question for Blythe, after picking Iowa and football, is what postion?
As a defensive tackle last fall, he had 40 tackles, including 18 for loss. But he was a 2A all-state offensive lineman as a guard and, in college, could perhaps project to center, where his wrestling skills, such as handfighting, would help him excel.
“I think I’ll be playing offense for the Hawkeyes, and they said either guard or center,” Blythe said. “Wherever they put me, I think it’d be a fit. I play guard now. I think I could be good at center because with wrestling, I’m good with my hands and feet. I think I’m going to start doing some reps this spring and summer at center, just in case it works out there.”
As far as playing weight goes, Blythe believes whatever weight he puts on through maturity and within the frame of the program should work. He doesn’t have a specific goal.
“I think I’ll put on a couple pounds and, hopefully, lean my body out and gain a little bit of muscle mass,” he said. “I think I could play anywhere the coaches think I can play.”
The last decision might be a major. Right now, Blythe, who carries a 3.6 GPA, is thinking engineering. But, he’s got some time to nail that down.
There’s one decision that he’s sure about.
“I’m feeling really good about it and I think it’ll stay that way,” Blythe said. “I won’t go through this again. I took the time to make the right decision and yesterday felt like the right time to tell them.”
Blythe is the third prep to commit to the Hawkeyes for the 2011 class.
Marcus Grant, WR, 6-3, 190, Lawrence Academy (Groton, Mass.)
JaCorey Shepherd, WR, 5-11, 170, Horn High School (Mesquite, Texas)
Austin Blythe, OL, 6-3, 280, Williamsburg High School
(The kid Blythe is wrestling below, Adam Praska, is between 6-5 and 6-7, 280-ish. Blythe handed him his only loss at the state tourney.)