Solon junior Tyler LinderbaumBy Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
SOLON – Opening the season with back-to-back games against highly ranked rivals presented an imposing early-season challenge for Solon.
Consecutive meetings with Mount Vernon and Regina also provided the Spartans with preparation for the rigors of district play.
No player was tested more or came away from those first two meetings more prepared for the remainder of the season than Tyler Linderbaum.
A two-way starter for Solon on the offensive and defensive line, Linderbaum spent the first two weeks of the season lined up opposite a couple of the best lineman in Iowa.
First it was 6-foot-5, 300-pound Iowa commit Tristan Wirfs and Mount Vernon in the season opener.
Then it was 6-foot-1, 275-pound Northern Iowa recruit Jared Brinkman and Class 1A top-ranked Regina.
Tyler Linderbaum. Jackie Blake Jensen/IC Pixx.
“Playing against those two guys, they will make you better, they are great competitors,” Linderbaum said. “They are helping me for district play, going against those guys makes me a better player.”
Linderbaum saw the first two weeks as a chance to measure himself against the best.
Solon head coach Kevin Miller viewed it as a chance for the junior to raise his level of play.
Any way you look at it the first two weeks were a handful for Linderbaum.
“It’s made him better there’s no question about that,” Miller said. “I know he has looked forward to the opportunity to compete against quality players but he certainly isn’t going to back down from anyone.”
Linderbaum is no pushover himself.
Far from it.
The 6-foot-2, 240-pound junior was an all-district performer last season as a sophomore.
Through three games this season Linderbaum ranks third on the team with 12 tackles from his defensive tackle spot, including a team-best three behind the line of scrimmage.
“Tyler is just an athlete that is playing on the line,” Miller said. “He is a very good athlete that has good feet, he plays with great leverage and his best football is still ahead of him.”
Solon (2-1) went 1-1 in its early season non-district gauntlet against neighboring teams that reached the state title game a year ago.
The Spartans followed with a 42-0 win over Keokuk in its 3A, District 5 opener last week.
Like his team, Linderbaum left the tough two-week stretch to open the season better.
“It’s a good challenge,” Linderbaum said. “I like the challenge and they make me a better player.”
Facing elite high school lineman like Brinkman and Wirfs is nothing new to Linderbaum.
The first varsity game of his career came last season against Brinkman and the Regals.
In week two a year ago Linderbaum found himself facing off with Wirfs.
Those first two varsity games were an eye-opener for Linderbaum.
“I knew that was what varsity football was going to be and I just had to adapt to that,” Linderbaum said. “I kind of changed my focus and came to practice and got better after that.”
Linderbaum spent the offseason getting bigger and stronger.
He moved from guard to center this season and helped pave the way for Solon to rush for 228 yards in its win over Keokuk.
“It was a little different,” Linderbaum said of moving to center. “Snapping and moving your feet at the same time was a little harder than guard but I’m adapting. I’ve been snapping before every practice and I think I’ve gotten better.”
The Spartans have another huge test coming up on Friday with a road game against fourth-ranked Washington (3-0).
Linderbaum is hoping the experience from early in the season helps on Friday against a Washington team that leads the state in total offense.
“We found out a lot about ourselves in those first two games,” Linderbaum said. “We saw what we need to improve on and what we are good at and I think we are bringing that to practice now and getting better.”