Wichmann leads South into all-star classic

TURLOCK — Once a decade or so, it seems that Mariposa High produces a football player that makes your jaw drop.

Logan Mankins made such an impact a decade ago, when the 6-foot-4, 240-pounder tore into foes while doubling up as a tight end and a linebacker.

Mankins went on to become one of the nation's top collegiate offensive tackles at Fresno State and has been a two-time Pro Bowl selection with the New England Patriots.

No one's putting Cody Wichmann in that class, but there are plenty of similarities between the two mountain men.

"The first time I saw Logan, the thing I realized is that he was such a good athlete," said Central Catholic coach Roger Canepa, previously at Sonora and Calaveras. "Cody is every bit the athlete Logan was. He's got good feet and good hands, and this kid is huge."

Wichmann also played linebacker and tight end at Mariposa, he's heading to Fresno State — and he's got the size that will make coaches giddy.

Before the 6-6, 285-pounder goes to Fresno, he's got another high school game to play.

Wichmann will be at tight end when the South lines up for Saturday's 37th Lions All-Star Classic. Kickoff is 7 p.m. at University of the Pacific.

Much like Mankins, Wichmann didn't garner much recruiting attention playing Division 6 football. He was a proverbial man among boys, and rarely met a foe his equal because of Mariposa's schedule.

The rural school is in one of the state's smallest classifications, and many of its opponents have 600 or fewer kids.

"I was able to get away with some things at Mariposa that I can't at Fresno State," said Wichmann, who plans to redshirt this fall to turn some of his jiggle into muscle. "It's a big step, from Division 6 in high school to Division 1 in college. I must get stronger."

Mankins used his redshirt year in 2000 to transform himself into a freshman all-American offensive tackle. He started all 14 games his first year.

When he was a senior, Mankins weighed 307 pounds and was the first offensive lineman in Fresno State history to be named the team's MVP.

While Mankins' appeal was his physical style, Fresno pursued Wichmann after seeing his soft hands and huge body. He'll come to campus as a candidate to play tight end, but if he adds additional weight, he could end up playing tackle.

Sounds a lot like Mankins.

"Just being mentioned with Mankins, that's pretty incredible," said Wichmann, whose modest prep career included 27 catches for 427 yards and three TDs. "I met Logan a few times and he's a great guy.

"People say we have similar body types, but that Logan got bigger and stronger while at Fresno. What he did, that's certainly motivation for me."

Wichmann did more blocking than receiving with Mariposa, a program that prefers to grind out yardage and often uses its tight end as an additional offensive lineman.

He'll be catching passes and blocking come Saturday, said Canepa, and the idea is to use his height to create mismatches against shorter defenders.

"He's a great weapon," said Canepa. "You're not going to find a defender quick enough to stay with Cody and yet big enough to bring him down."

There will be only two players in the game heavier than Wichmann, and they're his teammates — Merced's Taj Brown (290) and Buhach Colony's Anthony Pruneda (320).

Wichmann said basketball explains his ability to get off the line quickly, taking quick steps to shed foes trying to jam him. A four-year varsity hoops starter, his 1,406 points and 773 boards put him with the school's career leaders.

"Some of the things he does are ridiculous for a kid his size," said Canepa, coaching his fourth Lions' game. "One thing I like about the game is, as a coach, you'll see kids you heard about but didn't get a chance to see in the season. Some of them surprise you."