Rick Sloan recalls his weekly phone conversations during the recruitment of Ian Waltz.
And he was glad he was trying to sign him up for track - not the debate team.
“How are you doing, Ian?”
“How did you throw this week?”
With Sloan pressuring him into it, Waltz would grudgingly report discus-throw distances that signified weekly increases of almost unbelievable increments.
Although it was a bit like being on a conference call with a mime, Sloan was drooling all over the phone.
“He is a man of very few words,” the Washington State track coach said of Waltz. But he’s also a man of very many physical gifts.
“I think he can be big-time,” Sloan said of his freshman discus and shot put ace. “He’s adapted so well; he’s doing well in school and he’s so much bigger and stronger than he was in high school that he has made his adaptation much easier.”
Yes, this 19-year-old freshman has done purty good thus far.
With a discus throw of 189-7 last Saturday, Waltz placed third at the prestigious Penn Relays and moved into fifth place on the school’s all-time list of discus bests.
“He really responded to the competition,” WSU weights coach Debra Lombardi said. “I don’t think he realized how big a meet that was; I don’t think he realized the significance of what he did.”
Oh, Waltz may have realized it, but he keeps his finger pretty close to his own mute button.
“I’m a pretty modest person,” Waltz said. “I just think it’s great that I’ve got the God-given talent to do it. I more or less keep stuff inside and let my actions do the talking.”
This quick progress is perhaps not as stunning as Waltz’s efforts last year at Post Falls High, where he transformed himself from a 159-foot discus thrower as a junior into the nation’s leader at 203-9 as a senior.
“It just happened; I don’t know what the deal was,” Waltz said. “I was only expecting to throw maybe 175 or so. It was weird.”
His rapid improvement may have caught some recruiters by surprise, and Sloan was able to get an early commitment out of Waltz.
Waltz’s first name is pronounced EYE-n, which sounds like “iron”- a substance he has pumped in prodigious quantities.
“Eat, do homework and work out,” Waltz said, listing the activities that have allowed him to bulk up to nearly 280 pounds - from 245 - and compile a 3.25 grade-point average.
His shot best of 56-8-1/2 is sound, but not nearly as spectacular as his discus mark, which ranks 19th in the nation.
Sloan says Waltz’s technique is “evolving.” That means he’s still on the upward slope of the learning curve.
Considering Waltz’s form, though, Sloan should say his technique is not only evolving, but also revolving.
The classic discus style is a graceful turn-and-a-half designed to load energy into the throwing arm - like drawing a bow, or cocking a pistol.
Waltz, though, is more like a high-RPM human centrifuge, generating cyclonic power.
Sometimes he releases the disc while he’s still in the middle of the ring; sometimes he has trouble finding the sector.
All of which is encouraging in the sense that he can be raw and still able to produce such marks.
“We’re trying to change a few things that we think are going to make him much better than he is now,” Lombardi said. “He’s just so darned explosive and so darned strong. In fact, sometimes speed can kill you in the ring and he hasn’t become quite comfortable with that fact, yet.”
His adjustment to college life, though, has been smooth, perhaps because he can frequently visit his family, with which he is very close.
“He’s such a really laid-back guy,” Sloan said. “He’s not one of those guys who’s in your face talking and jabbering all the time. Sometimes, it’s hard to know what’s on his mind because he’s so quiet, but over the course of the year he’s loosened up some.”
A great deal of desire lies very close beneath Waltz’s calm surface, though.
What is it that pushes him through those 2-1/2-hour sessions in the weight room four times every week?
“Just trying to be the best, trying to improve every week and get stronger,” Waltz said. “My main goal this year is to make it to the (NCAA championships). In 2000, I want to go to the Olympic Trials. My long-term goal is to be on the Olympic team.”
Getting close to 190 as a true freshman is certainly a solid start.
It’s an effort that speaks a great deal about Waltz’s impressive strength and potential.
It’s a bold statement, in fact, that Waltz can make without ever having to open his mouth.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo