Rob Wanous may be a bit undersized to play outside linebacker, but that doesn’t prevent him from walloping opposing ball carriers.
The 170-pound senior leads the Brainerd Warriors in tackles (124) and has blocked a punt, recorded two sacks, recovered a fumble, forced a fumble, broken up three passes and intercepted a pass. He recorded 13 tackles in the regular-season finale against Sauk Rapids and 12 in the first round of the playoffs against Cambridge.
Wanous plays on all special teams and helped Brainerd to a share of the Central Lakes Conference championship, its second in two years.
“He’s just a guy at the heart of so many big plays,” Warriors head coach Ron Stolski said. “He’s made a number of big plays throughout the season.”
Wanous and outside linebackers coach Deryl Ramey go back and forth about Wanous’ weight.
“He can’t weigh 175 soaking wet,” Ramey said, “but he’s a strong kid. He’s good in the weight room. He’s tough. He’s smart. He’s playing at a very high level. He’s done quite a remarkable job as far as getting ready for the season. He really prepared himself well.
“The only problem he’s had is he can’t gain any weight. It’s kind of a standing joke he and I have. He says he eats like a horse, but can’t gain a pound. He’s playing way undersized at a tough position. His success is because of his determination and because he plays smart.”
Wanous, who also wrestles for the Warriors, insists he tries to bulk up during football season.
“Since I’m in wrestling (Ramey) kind of jokes around saying, ‘If you’re cutting weight right now you’re getting ready for wrestling,’ but I tell him ‘I can’t gain a thing and I’m eating like crazy,’” Wanous said.
He’s a key member of a defense that’s allowing 12.4 points and 223.4 yards per game. Brainerd has held four opponents to 10 points or less, with one shutout. Only one opponent has gained more than 267 yards.
“I think a lot of kids stepped up this year,” Wanous said. “Our cornerbacks are both sophomores, our inside linebackers are reading pretty good, our defensive line is going strong, too. And, I think I’ve done a pretty good job turning (ball carriers) inside, at least the coaches are liking that. It’s been a pretty solid defense this year.”
Wanous, who played on special teams last year and was a third-string linebacker, has worked hard at reading what offensive linemen are doing in order to recognize the direction a play is headed.
“Coach Ramey has really stepped up and said ‘Read your reads and it will bring you right to the ball,’” Wanous said, “and that’s what I’ve done and it’s worked out pretty good.”
As an outside linebacker Wanous has many responsibilities on every play.
“Some of them are to make sure the flow doesn’t go outside, keep it inside,” he said. “Contain so the linebackers can scrape up underneath. Make sure I get my reads down for passing and running. That’s the key, just keeping them inside.”
Other notable efforts:
• Nick Welch, football, rushed for 251 yards and three touchdowns against Cambridge.
MIKE BIALKA may be reached at email@example.com or at 855-5861.