OSCEOLA – Just a few minutes with Osceola standout Isaiah Zelasney and you can see why his coaches rave about what he means to his school, his teams, his town.
He’s a determined spirit. A leader. The ultimate competitor.
“People like to follow him,” Bulldog football and track coach Luke Ericson said. “He’s a great leader and a very hard worker.”
As he begins his senior season – a little delayed (more on that later) – one has to wonder where he fits in the all-time patheon of small town athletes who played 8-man football. But it’s everything else that Zelasney has done that might make him in a select group of the state’s small town best.
The resume –
- As a freshman, he started on the Osceola basketball team and was a key special teams contributor for the Osceola/High Plains football team that won the state championship. He lost what fast became his best sport – track – to Covid.
- During his sophomore year, the Bulldogs were on their own for football and advanced to the state quarterfinals. They did the same in basketball advancing to the state tournament and he won four Class D gold medals at the 2021 state track meet leading the Bulldogs to a team championship.
- In his junior year, he ran for over 1,800 yards as the Bulldogs again made the state quarterfinals in football; he reached the 1,000 point mark in basketball as the Dawgs went 22-7 and made the Class D-2 Final Four. And, his four gold repeat at Omaha Burke led Osceola to a state runner-up team finish at state track.
- In summary – eight seasons; seven “state” appearances; two team state championships and a runner-up, the maximum eight gold medals at the NSAA State Track Meet. On the gridiron he has accounted for 81 touchdowns and over 3,000 yards rushing and had a career scoring average of nearly 16 points per game in basketball.
It mostly speaks for itself, but Zelasney is focused on another season that could fill the Bulldog trophy case.
“We have more championships to win here, I think,” he says matter of factly. “We are 0-2 in the quarterfinals in football and we’d really like to take that next step in basketball as well.”
But, Zelasney will start his final campaign a little late. He battled through a shoulder injury during football last year. It hurt worse in basketball but he played through it with a brace. Three days after state track, he had successful surgery.
He will miss at least four football games as he continues to rehab and strengthen his shoulder. But, he plans to play and you can bet he didn’t take the summer off.
“He never missed a day of weights,” Ericson said. “Whatever he could do, he did and he was there to encourage all of our other players.”
When Osceola went to team basketball camps this summer, Isaiah Zelasney was right there, said his hoops coach and cousin, Jason (their dads are brothers).
“Quite honestly, he’s great to have on the bench,’ Jason Zelasney said. “Our players really look to him for guidance and leadership. And, he’s really good at encouraging his teammates. And, when we had our youth camp, he was there, too. He was probably doing too much with the little kids to be honest.
“I had to reign him in a little bit.”
Isaiah Zelasney is locked into his future. He is “100 percent” committed to track after high school, saying the other sports can “take a little beating on your body.” South Dakota, South Dakota State, Colorado State, Nebraska, Wyoming and Northwest Missouri have all shown heavy interest.
So, this will be his last go round in football and basketball. Isaiah Zelasney wants to be a coach, so maybe the beginning of this senior year will be a blessing.
“I love watching game film and I love being on the sideline and seeing the field or the floor,” he said. “I think I can tell the coaches and our guy what is going on and how we can be successful.”
Both of his coaches want him out there competing, but they don’t mind the record-setter being by their side either. They have seen the benefit all too often.
“We talk about play calls a bunch,” Ericson said of his quarterback. “He can see what is working for us and get us in a pretty good position. And, for as good a player as he is, he is so unselfish. He was to get his teammates involved.”
His basketball coach sees it, too. As much as he liked him on the bench this summer, he’d rather have him out there. And, healthy. He is on pace to break the school scoring record.
“He sees the game so well,” Jason Zelasney said. “He’s a true point guard and leader for us and he knows where the other team’s weaknesses are. He can tell us what will work and it usually does.”
And, despite the delay, Isaiah Zelasney is ready to go for one more year of playing for his town, his school and his buddies.
“I am just ready to take it all in,” he said. “Putting that uniform on is special. We feel like we have more work to do. We are ready to take the next step.”
So, if you want to see the Osceola wonderkid this fall, you might have to wait just a little bit. Or, maybe you want to watch him coach instead. Either way, he’ll be there on the sideline with his teammates.
Because Isaiah Zelasney is bulldog tough. All he knows is hard work, competitiveness and toughness. It’s right there on his resume for everyone to see.