It wasn't a question of if Isaac Ihnen was going to develop into a quality athlete for Harris-Lake Park, it was more like when.
Ihnen is young for his class. Even as a senior, there are a couple of juniors at H-LP who are older than Ihnen. As a freshman, Ihnen was listed at 5-foot-9 and 125 pounds.
But there was little doubt that Ihnen would develop for the Wolves. One of his older brothers Eli broke the school record for most points in a basketball season at H-LP. His other older brother Jake played in "everything" as Isaac put it. His sister Katerin went on to play basketball in college.
"We all like to play sports," Isaac Ihnen said. "Unfortunately, I never got to play with my older brothers but I always looked up to them and I always wanted to be like my siblings and play the sports they did and succeed at them."
Just like his three older siblings, Ihnen started to develop into a major athlete at H-LP.
It started his junior year for the football team when he measured in at 6-foot-1, 155 pounds. He went on to catch 12 touchdown passes and that was just the start. He became not only a go-to player for football, but also for basketball and baseball and he was one of the top golfers for the Harris-Lake Park championship boys' golf team in 2019.
Ihnen's maturation continued into his senior season. He's listed at 6'3, 170 pounds on H-LP's football roster and he turned into one of the best wide receivers in 8-man football. He once again led basketball team in scoring and has turned into the Wolves top pitcher and hitter for the baseball team.
"The most amazing part is how much he's come along," H-LP baseball coach Lane Gunderson said. "He's someone that is so young for his class. He's still just growing into his body and the strides he's made the last couple of years is amazing. He has such good touch in all of the sports. He's just one of those guys that can play any sport and excel at it."
Ihnen went on to catch 56 passes for 965 yards and 21 touchdowns this past season for the Wolves. The 21 touchdown receptions for the second-most in the state in 2019. Ihnen averaged 22.6 points per game, the 21st best mark in the state. Ihnen and the Wolves weren't given the chance to defend their 2019 Class 1A state boys' golf title since the season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But Ihnen is getting the chance to finish off his high school career on the diamond.
"Sports are my life basically. I love doing them all of the time," Ihnen said. "Building bonds with teammates and making your game better, it's a lot of fun. Winning games, making it to state, it's a lot of fun and I got to experience while playing. All of the sports are up there but basketball is probably my favorite."
Ihnen is ending his high school career with another stellar season. Through five games for H-LP, Ihnen is batting a team-high .417 in 12 at-bats.
"We had one of the past coaches this year, Jared Rahe, come in and he helped us with our hitting before our first game," Ihnen said. "That helped and I am more confident this year."
Ihnen broke out at the plate as a junior, leading the Wolves with a .295 average. A year later, Ihnen is batting more than 100 points higher.
"He's just gotten stronger. He will keep on improving," Gunderson said. "It's hard to hit that well when the season is so short and when you take on Remsen St. Mary's, Hinton, West Sioux, those teams are tough. He's just gotten stronger and has had a good touch. He's grown into his body and he is really formidable."
He's been even more valuable on the mound. After pitching 11 2/3 as a sophomore, Ihnen developed into the Wolves ace the next season. He led H-LP with 33 innings pitched and finished with a 2.55 ERA. In those 33 innings, he struck out 48 batters and opponents only batted .185 off him.
"His arm strength was so much better. He went from an off-speed, crafty pitcher to more of an overpowering guy that gets a ton of strikeouts," Gunderson said. "If you are a good hitter, he can throw you a 3-2 off-speed for strikes. He's really developed. He has all of the intangibles that you can't teach along with a great pickoff move. Players either have it or they don't and he's got it."
This season Ihnen has 30 strikeouts in 17 1/3 innings pitched with a 2.02 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP. Opponents are only batting .083 against him in 72 at-bats.
Gunderson said Ihnen's best pitch is his fastball because he doesn't come over the top with it but a bit more from the side. He also has a curveball he can throw for strikes and he uses a changeup against some of the better hitters.
With help from Gunderson, Ihnen knows how to use each pitch.
"It's always different with each batter. (Gunderson) is the one calling the pitches. If I am not feeling it, I will nod it off," Ihnen said. "Usually the first time around, it is figuring out where the strike zone is and where the hitters like to swing. If they like it high, I will go with high fastballs. It's just getting the feel for where they like it."
Gunderson only has a few more weeks left with Ihnen and it will be the end of a legacy at Harris-Lake Park since he is the last of the four children from Bruce and Kim Ihnen.
"Bruce and Kim deserve a lot of the credit," Gunderson said. "We've had good teams here and there is usually an Ihnen on the team which is scary since he is the last one. They do such a good job with him and we've been lucky to have their kids play here. I love having Isaac on the team and I think a lot of him."
Get in the game with our Prep Sports Newsletter
Sent weekly directly to your inbox!