Hengstler-Ranweiler Awards: Sam Haas
Lac qui Parle Valley teacher and baseball coach Bart Hill had Eagles senior sports star Sam Haas as an elementary student. He recalls a young boy who was up for anything.
"During recess, they'd be on the playground and it didn't matter if it was kickball or jumping rope, kids would be saying, 'Hey Sam, come over here with us,' " Hill said. "It didn't matter what the game was or who they were, Sam would join them. He'd do anything and he was good at it, but he would never show anybody up. He's one of the most humble kids I've ever met."
But it's hard to ignore Haas' ability to stand out once he was on a football field, a baseball diamond, or on a wrestling mat. And because of all those abilities, Haas is one of the West Central Tribune's 2012 Hengstler-Ranweiler Awards winners, joining Hancock three-sport star Kendra Schmidgall.
Haas is a consistent three-sport performer who will end his high school career -- he leads his Eagles into the Class A baseball tournament on Thursday -- with 12 letters.
He comes by his love of sports via a mentor, his older brother Seth, a sophomore at North Dakota State.
"Growing up with Seth, we pretty much did everything together," Haas said. "If we had down time, we'd get out the bats and balls and play baseball, or we'd throw the football, and we were always wrestling each other."
Six of Sam Haas' varsity letters were earned during a varsity wrestling career that began in seventh grade.
Haas was selected All-West Central South Conference five times, and he's among just 66 Minnesota wrestlers who won more than 200 career matches. He won 202 matches, 85 by pin, and he made five trips to the state wrestling tournament. He won three section championships, finished second twice and third once. This winter, he placed second at the state meet, and he was fifth as a junior.
"I have had the privilege to work with Sam the last five years," said Dawson-Boyd/LQPV wrestling coach Ross Jurgenson. "He consistently has a positive attitude and a determined work ethic. He is always striving to make himself better and encouraging his teammates to do the same. He is instrumental in our team's success and is always willing to wrestle the other team's toughest opponent, even if it means jumping up a weight class."
As a three-year starter in football, Haas was usually the best all-around player on the field. He rolled up 2,285 yards and 18 touchdowns in his Eagles career, and he ran for 1,178 yards and 10 scores last fall. He also caught 25 passes for 439 yards and 5 TDs in his career, and he also was one of the Eagles' top defensive players, making 174 solo tackles and assisting on 223 stops.
"He was a varsity wrestler as a seventh-grader and you could just tell the athletic ability he had," said Eagles football coach Mark Bjornjeld. "In football, he just has a lot of natural instincts and he understands the game really well. He's always aware of his surroundings and the situation and it allowed him to make a lot of phenomenal plays; there were so many I can't even remember any that stand out."
Baseball is the sport in which Haas will continue his athletic career in college. He will enroll at Southwest Minnesota State and play for Mustangs baseball coach Paul Blanchard, a man who knows his baseball: His father, Johnny Blanchard, played for the New York Yankees, and Paul played and coached in college at the University of Minnesota before becoming Mustangs' coach in 1996.
Blanchard was watching Hill's Eagles play in a game, scouting another player, when he noticed LQPV's center fielder.
"He asked me, 'Hey, who's your kid in center field,' " Hill said of his conversation with Blanchard about Haas. "I told him that he was just a sophomore, and he said he couldn't really even talk to him yet. But I told him that I'd let (Haas) know you're interested."
Blanchard had plenty of reason to follow Haas. Entering the state tournament, Haas is hitting .447 with a .895 slugging percentage. He has 26 runs batted in, he's scored 26 runs, and he has 5 home runs, 9 doubles and 5 triples. An arm issued curtailed his pitching appearances, but he was 2-1 in three starts this season with an 0.37 earned-run average.
And Haas does it all with humility and a concern for his team and teammates first, all three of his coaches said.
"I knew I had a lot of talent, but my dad (Steve) told me to keep lifting weights and to keep working harder," Haas said. "And I try to be humble about it and lead by example."
Haas had a tough decision to make when it came to his college career since he likes all three sports equally well. But he had concussion issues and he said he didn't want to risk it by playing football. Wrestling in college is very time-consuming. Blanchard had his man. And a good one, at that.
"He's a great team player," Bjornjeld said. "It was never me, me, me with him."
"He is truly one of a kind," Jurgenson said.