Brigham Kleinhenz had some lofty goals entering his senior year.
The three-sport athlete has been a two-time semistate qualifier in wrestling and was a state track and field qualifier in the pole vault last season. He’s also in his second year as a starter for the Columbus North football team.
“I think it would be awesome to be All-State in three different sports this year,” Kleinhenz said. “That would be really cool, but it’s a big goal.”
Kleinhenz plans to embark on a two-year mission after high school and then will try to pole vault at BYU.
For now, though, Kleinhenz’s focus is football. He’s the middle linebacker for a team that is 7-1 going into Friday night’s regular-season finale at Southport.
Last week, Kleinhenz helped lead a defense that shut out a potent Bloomington South team, holding the Panthers to only two first downs in a 23-0 win.
“Our defense has come together a lot the second half of the season,” Kleinhenz said. “We haven’t beat B-South in awhile, so coming up on our senior year and really dominating them with them only getting two first downs the whole entire game, it was really special, especially in Lucas Oil Stadium.”
Kleinhenz has been a tackling machine this season. He leads the Bull Dogs with 109 tackles, including three sacks and 13 tackles for losses. His 82 solo tackles are only 30 away from the school single-season record set by Shaquille Ash in 2012.
This season, Kleinhenz has had at least 17 tackles in a game four times. His high was 20 in a 28-20 loss at Franklin Central.
“We all know it starts up front with our D-line, and they help out the (linebackers) a lot,” Kleinhenz said. “(Defensive tackles) Nick Tungett and Montez (Mitchell) and Logan Abbott on the inside, I hardly ever get blocked because they eat up the blockers almost every play. It gives me a free scraping to go make plays.”
For most of last season, Kleinhenz was the starting fullback and second-string “Will,” or weak-side linebacker. He moved into the starting Will linebacker spot late in the and was a two-way starter for the final two regular-season games.
In the postseason, he played exclusively at linebacker.
“My whole career, I’ve played middle linebacker, so last year was kind of weird playing Will,” Kleinhenz said. “But obviously, I wasn’t big enough, fast enough, strong enough to play the Mike (middle) position, so this year getting a little faster and stronger, it gives me more opportunity to play the Mike and strong side.”
North head coach Tim Bless moved Kleinhenz to the middle linebacker spot before the season, and he hasn’t disappointed.
Bless, who also coaches the linebackers, said Kleinhenz is a great football player, but he’s also a tremendous leader on the practice field and in the games on Friday nights.
“He’s a very instinctive football player, and that’s a key aspect at the Mike spot,” Bless said. “Brigham certainly possesses that. We had high expectations of Brigham coming into the season because of the way he ended his junior year and the success he has had in other sports. But he has exceeded our expectations.”
Name: Brigham Kleinhenz
School: Columbus North
Position: Middle linebacker
Sports: Football, wrestling, track and field
Key accomplishments: Two-time semistate qualifier in wrestling, state track qualifier in the pole vault
Defensive back sets career interceptions mark
With 13 interceptions and counting, senior cornerback J.D. Harris has the Columbus North career record. Now, he’s working on the single-season mark.
Harris, a Northern Illinois recruit, had three interceptions as a sophomore and five last season. He has five more this year, which is two off the single-season record of seven set by Eddie Humes in 1974 and tied by Louie Plumlee in 1976.
Ryan Shatto had the old career record of 10 from 2000-02.
“I was working really hard toward that,” Harris said. “That was one of my goals coming into the season — to get the career record and then the single-season record. I still have two to go.”