Following all-conference season, former Truckee great Retzlaff on future, football, COVID-19 |

Following all-conference season, former Truckee great Retzlaff on future, football, COVID-19

FILE — Jayme Nelson (69) and Wulfe Retzlaff (33) gang up for a tackle against Elko during the 2016 season.
Sylas Wright / Sierra Sun |

Truckee football head coach Josh Ivens called him the most physical player he’s ever coached.

Now, several years removed from high school, and at his third college in three years, Wulfe Retzlaff is settling into a role as one of the top linebackers in Division II’s Great Lakes Valley Conference.

After redshirting his freshman season as a walk on at University of California, Davis, Retzlaff made the decision to take the junior college route, playing the 2018 season for Golden West College in Huntington Beach.

He soon turned coaches’ heads at the program, earning his way into a starting role on the Rustlers’ defense. Retzlaff helped lead Golden West to a 6-5 record, and finished the season with the third most tackles on the team.

His play on the field and acumen in the classroom — mechanical engineering major — led him to the Midwest and one of the most highly regarded engineering and computer science departments in the nation, Missouri University of Science and Technology.

“It’s been really interesting seeing a lot of different environments, and coaching techniques. I’ve been picking up on a lot of different defenses, so it’s easier to learn nuances,” said Retzlaff.

“I’m really liking it at Missouri, because I was able to find a balance between both athletics and academics. And it’s better than the team environment at Golden West, because people are playing together, not for themselves.”

In many cases at the junior college level, athletes are often concerned about their own play rather than the team’s, in an effort to get noticed by a larger school.

Retzlaff said that while it’s nice to have added perks like improved weight rooms, and team gear such as Miners sweat pants and jackets — which weren’t afforded to him and teammates at the junior college level — there’s an added expectation of playing at Missouri University of Science and Technology.

“If you come to weights with the wrong shirt on, you could be running extra after practice,” he said. “You may get all this extra stuff, but (coaches) are going to make sure you’re on a regimen.”

Playing in the Miners 3-4 defense, Retzlaff was moved from his usual inside linebacker spot to outside. The position change, however, didn’t affect the play of Truckee’s second all-time leading tackler, as Retzlaff went on to record 63 tackles in 11 games last season, thriving in the team’s read blitz scheme.

“It’s very reactive,” said Retzlaff on playing in the Miners’ defense. “There’s a lot of freedom, which makes it nice.”

He went on to finish the year as the team’s second-leading tackler. Retzlaff also finished the year with five tackles for a loss, two sacks, a fumble recovery, and was named second-team all-conference for the Great Lakes Valley Conference.

Retzlaff said the highlight of the season came following a roughly 10-hour bus ride from Rolla, Missouri, to Houston to face Division I FCS school Texas Southern University.

The Miners, propelled by nine tackles from Retzlaff, held off Texas Southern, forcing a late field goal attempt, which missed to secure a 23-20 victory.

“I just remember the atmosphere and going up there,” said Retzlaff. “It was really cool how much team interaction you have on these longer trips.”

The Miners finished the season with an overall record of 7-4 and were 4-3 in conference play. The team was also 5-0 at home for the first time since 1983.

Football, school, and COVID-19

Upon schools announcing plans for students to complete coursework digitally, Retzlaff hopped a flight back home to Truckee.

For roughly the past five weeks, he’s returned to the place where so many highlights were made as a prep player. With a chance to further his academic career, though, and the need to be close to the team and facility, he’s been looking to make his way back to Missouri.

Flight searches at airports in Reno and Sacramento have proved fruitless, and so Retzlaff made a road trip to Southern California, where he’s currently at, in the hopes of securing a flight out of Los Angeles International Airport.

Upon returning to school, Retzlaff is hoping to be able to begin research through the mechanical engineering department, which involves the process of mapping hand gestures in order to tell if an individual is completing a process properly. Retzlaff said he envisions the technology being applied in learning and training fields.

“I’m excited to start,” he said. “I see a lot more applications.”

In the meantime, Retzlaff is focusing on the upcoming season, adapting his routine to life without being able to practice and workout with teammates and coaches.

“That’s all changed,” he said. “We’re doing all Zoom online meetings, going over stuff.”

Retzlaff said the team would’ve been wrapping up spring ball at this time, but is instead receiving coaching, instructions, and workout routines digitally from coaches and trainers.

Message from Wulfe

With the announcement earlier this week from the Nevada governor that schools would remain closed through the end of the 2019-20 school year, the hope of any kind of spring season for athletes in either California or Nevada has likely been dashed.

“With all these seniors, who don’t have that opportunity, I hope they can at least see that a lot of people are going through the same stuff,” said Retzlaff. “If they stay working hard, anything that they put their mind to right now, they can make it happen.”

Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. In the coming weeks the Sierra Sun will look to highlight local athletes, whose seasons have been affected by COVID-19. To suggest an athlete, email or 530-550-2643.

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