Basalt football’s Thomas Wirth signs with Oregon’s DIII Willamette University | AspenTimes.com

Basalt football’s Thomas Wirth signs with Oregon’s DIII Willamette University

For the better part of four years, and especially the past two when the Basalt High School football team won back-to-back Western Slope League titles, the offensive line has been the heart and soul of the program.

And among the three senior linemen this past season was Thomas Wirth, who will take his talents west late this summer when he begins playing for Willamette University, an NCAA Division III school in Salem, Oregon. Wirth signed his letter of intent on Thursday in Basalt.

"Ever since I started playing football in third grade it's been my top priority as far as looking at colleges," Wirth said of his desire to play football after high school. "I think it's a cool state. It's a little bit like Colorado, except it's going to rain a lot more. I'm going to bring a rain coat."

Wirth, who also was a standout wrestler for the Longhorns, played on both sides of the ball for the football team. He said the Bearcats are looking at him as a possible lineman on either side of the ball as well, along with plugging him in as a fullback or H-back.

While not the biggest of players — he was only listed as being 5-foot, 5-inches and 200 pounds on MaxPreps as a senior — he's made up for it in the way he plays.

"I can't be happier for him and his family. He's an extremely hard worker and I'm glad he found a home," Basalt football coach Carl Frerichs said. "It seems like it's a great school as well. More importantly, he found a great place to keep playing football and get a great education. He's one of the hardest working kids we've had."

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Wirth said he had dozens of schools reaching out to him, and slowly whittled it down to the final two or three schools before deciding on Willamette. The Bearcats, who are coached by Glen Fowles, won only a combined five games the past two seasons but have periodically had strong seasons in the past. They won a combined 15 games over the 2012 and 2013 seasons.

"I appreciated his journey because he started over a year ago and worked with communicating with all the coaches," said Kerry Wirth, Thomas's mother. "I'm disappointed it's so far away — 18 hours by car. But we are saving our points to fly back for a couple of football games."

Wirth plans to major in exercise science at Willamette and hopes to someday be a college football coach. He'll report to camp Aug. 10, with the Bearcats set to play their first game of the 2018 season Sept. 1 at Simon Fraser in British Columbia, Canada.

BHS football will get its first taste of 2018 when it starts spring camp in the coming weeks. The Longhorns are scheduled to host Paonia in a June 7 scrimmage.

acolbert@aspentimes.com