Wagners have shot at history forWolves

Senior Kyle Wagner, right, is averaging 22.0 points and 9.0 rebounds for 11-1 IKM-Manning, and the coach's son is 16 points away from becoming the school's career scoring leader. While the individual stats are nice, both Wagners would rather see the team make it to state after last year's close call.

Starting about 11 years ago, an extra bounce of the basketball could be heard during the boys practices in the gymnasium at Manning.

While coach Keith Wagner put his high school players through the paces on the court below, a 6-year-old spent many afternoons shooting on an adjustable hoop in the weight room just above.

"He'd come over to the cage and look and see what we were doing, and then go back and shoot some more," Keith Wagner said.

Kyle Wagner, the only child of Keith and Gerri Ann Wagner, is spending his final full winter in that gymnasium, starring for his father's IKM-Manning team, which is 11-1 and ranked fifth in the state in Class 1-A and third in western Iowa (2-A/1-A).

On Friday at Missouri Valley, if the younger Wagner scores 16 points, he'll surpass TJ Sterk as the career scoring leader in the eight years since IKM and Manning joined forces. Kyle Wagner enters the game with 1,257 career points.

This season, the 6-foot-4, 180-pounder is averaging 22.0 points, 9.0 rebounds and 3.3 assists, while shooting 45 percent from the field and 34 percent from 3-point range.

The Wagners would trade all the individual numbers, though, for a chance to play in the school's second state tournament — the first was 2010. Last year, the Wolves were close, losing a 50-48 substate final to Treynor after a fourth quarter that saw six lead changes. The Cardinals went on to claim the 2-A state title.

For a family that eats, sleeps and breathes basketball — the former Gerri Ann Powers played in two state 6-on-6 tournaments for Denison High — it was a bitter pill to swallow.

"Those two or three weeks after that were probably the toughest time I've had coaching," Keith Wagner said. "It was just really difficult to deal with, how it went down. We just tried to talk through it and keep pushing forward."

Added Kyle: "We kind of have that empty void in our stomach."

The Wagners' best therapy was to get back in the gym.

A typical summer morning for Kyle would be a pair of weightlifting sessions and then a workout session with his father with a shooting machine, followed by a baseball game at night. He's set to become a four-year starter in baseball, and he threw for 3,133 yards and 26 TDs as a three year starter at quarterback.

But basketball is his first love. He would try to put up 1,000 shots a week in the offseason. His father was almost always there, helping him hone his craft.

"As a parent and a coach, some days were good and some days weren't," Keith Wagner said. "There would be some times we'd leave happy together, and there was some times we were mad as heck at each other."

While the advantages certainly outweigh the negatives, the IKM-Manning coach said being a coach's kid isn't always a walk in the park.

"You're probably under the microscope a little bit," he said. "I always told him that in order to contribute earlier you have to make it a no-brainer that you should be out there playing."

Kyle Wagner shot 43.8 percent from 3-point range (39 of 89) as a freshman, averaging 8.6 points, and has been a fixture ever since.

The younger Wagner also takes his studies seriously. He carries a 4.0 GPA, tying him with two others for first in his class.

"I don't know how much I want to give the valedictorian speech, but at the same time I don't really want to lose it," he said.

He has basketball offers from Morningside and Briar Cliff, and also is considering Buena Vista, Simpson and Central. He said he might decide at the end of the month.

Right now, the Wagners' sights are on Des Moines.

Jared Vollstedt (11.9 ppg), Ben Wegner (11.8) and Jon Brandt (8.6) have taken some of the scoring load off Wagner as the Wolves have rebounded well from the loss of a talented senior class last year.

And IKM-Manning has dropped to Class 1-A, meaning teams like Carroll Kuemper and Treynor are no longer on the postseason radar.

Regardless of the opponents, the Wagners want to prolong their final basketball season together as long as possible.

"If I think about it too long, I get a little bit choked up because of the time we've spent," Keith Wagner said. "But everybody goes through it, and we're just trying to focus on each game and do the best we can."

Contact the writer: 402-444-1055, kevin.white@owh.com twitter.com/KWhiteOWH

"As a parent and a coach, some days were good and some days weren't. There would S be some times we'd leave happy together, and there was some times we were mad 1 t as heck at each other."

— Keith Wagner said of watching and coaching his son, Kyle W

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