Four days before Brandon Valley played Harrisburg in the Class 11AAA state football championship game, quarterback Joe Kolbeck had baseball on the brain.
Wednesday, Nov. 11 was National Signing Day for high school seniors to sign their letter of intent for a collegiate sport. Kolbeck was a guiding force for the Lynx at quarterback this year and helped lead Brandon Valley to the championship by rushing for two touchdowns against Harrisburg.
But when it comes to life after Brandon Valley, Kolbeck is pursuing a baseball career. He signed with Iowa Western Community College, one of the top junior colleges in the country that is consistently in the national championship hunt. The Reivers, based in Council Bluffs, last won a national championship in 2014 and have had 16 players drafted into Major League Baseball in the past 10 seasons.
Despite being a state champion in basketball, football and baseball, Kolbeck said pursuing baseball was an obvious choice.
“It’s something I’ve been shooting for. I want to try and work my way up, and we’ll see how far I can take it,” Kolbeck said. “After my two years at Iowa Western, I’m looking to go to a good four-year school and then we’ll see what happens after that.”
Kolbeck is following in the lines of Jake Adams, a former baseball player at Brandon Valley who has since gone on to play three years in the minor leagues after being named Big 10 Player of the Year at Iowa in 2017. He started his collegiate career at Des Moines Area Community College, a similar path to what Kolbeck is taking.
Adams was Kolbeck’s coach at Brandon Valley when Kolbeck was 14 years old. He said he’s stayed friends and has communicated with Adams over the past several years, and is hoping for similar success.
Brandon Valley coach Jeremy Van Heel said Kolbeck is headed in the right direction by committing to Iowa Western.
“They do things right there. If you go there, you’re coming out and going to a good four-year program, or MLB,” he said. “Joe’s got the talent. He’s fast, he’s got a strong arm, and the ball jumps off his bat.”
It was Brandon Valley’s trip to play at the Creighton Prep tournament during the Legion baseball season in June that got the attention of Iowa Western recruiters. Kolbeck had a solid tournament, and the wheels were in motion to get him to Council Bluffs next fall.
After his two years are up at Iowa Western, Kolbeck said he’d like to get to a major Division I college for baseball, but he’d like it to be close.
Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Kansas State were the four schools Kolbeck mentioned when discussing his future.
“I’d like to have my parents come watch me play,” he said. “They’ve been watching me ever since I was a little kid. It would be nice to stay around.”
But until then, the Lynx have two seasons on the horizon with the high school and Legion seasons scheduled for next spring and summer.
The high school season earlier this year was one of the first sports schedules to get interrupted because of COVID-19. That entire schedule was lost due to the pandemic, and both VanHeel and Kolbeck are hoping things can run smoothly this spring.
State organizers were able to get the Legion season in last summer where Kolbeck played shortstop. The Lynx finished second in the state tournament to Rapid City Post 22.
This season, Van Heel said Kolbeck could see additional time on the mound. As a sophomore, Kolbeck was clocked at 89 mph, and last year he threw consistently in the high 80s and low 90s.
“After the season we should have had, I can’t wait,” Kolbeck said of the spring high school schedule. “We were one of the best teams in the high school season, and I’m really hopeful the season will happen this year. We want to play.”