Tiger of the Year: Wyatt Woods

This article originally appeared in our June magazine issue. You can find the full issue here.

For years, Republic High School’s football team struggled to find success against powerhouse programs like Webb City and Carthage. But with the arrival of head coach Ryan Cornelsen and the emergence of talented players like 2023-24 Tiger of the Year Wyatt Woods, Republic began to turn the tide three years ago. As the starting quarterback during the past two seasons, Woods played a crucial role in leading Republic to its first-ever state championship game appearance, but he is quick to credit his teammates and coaches for the team’s historic accomplishments.

Woods’ impact on Republic athletics extends beyond the football field. As a standout catcher on the baseball team, he helped lead the Tigers to a 22-win season in 2023. He earned a spot on the baseball all-state team during his junior and senior seasons, and he grabbed all-state football honors in 2023, as well.

In his senior football season, Woods passed for 928 yards and 12 touchdowns while rushing for 1,556 yards and 19 scores. His dual-threat capabilities made him a nightmare for opposing defenses, as he consistently found ways to extend plays and move the chains. He also had a knack for getting the ball into the right teammates’ hands at just the right time.

“When you watched him, whether it was defense or offense, carrying the ball, it meant a lot to him to be successful,” Cornelsen said. “And I think it really showed in what he did.”

Woods’ leadership and composure under pressure were equally impressive. Cornelsen recalled several close games where Woods remained calm and focused, always looking for the next play.

“That calmness and demeanor about him carries over from off the field to on the field, and that’s hard to do when games are that close,” Cornelsen said. “We had a lot of close games while he was playing. He just always kept his composure.”

Woods’ dedication to the team was evident in his perfect attendance at practices, regardless of the physical toll the season took on him.

“He’s been banged up, but in three years, he’s never missed a practice,” Cornelsen said. “That says a lot about just who he is as a person. He’s a really good teammate. You never heard him yell at anybody.”

On the baseball diamond, Woods was a key contributor to the Tigers’ success. In 31 games, he batted .314 this season with one home run and 25 RBIs while scoring 18 runs and stealing 14 bases.

“Off the field, you know that he is going to represent our program and our community in the right way,” baseball coach Curt Plotner said. “He is a hard-working kid that is going to do whatever he is doing to the best of his ability.”

Plotner believes that the success of the football and baseball programs is interconnected, with each team’s achievements inspiring the other.

“I do think there is some correlation between the success of the two programs,” Plotner said. “I think when a program is looking to get to the next level, it needs a signature win that lets the kids know that they are an elite team as well.” Just as the baseball team has broken through against powerhouses like Willard, Nixa, and Kickapoo with Woods in the lineup, the football team has topped Nixa, Webb City, Carthage, and Joplin for the first time under Woods’s leadership.

“You don’t see a lot of catchers that are one of the fastest guys on the team, and he can make so many things happen at quarterback with his athleticism,” Plotner said. “He is a special athlete, and I know that Ryan and I were both blessed to have him in our programs.”

Growing up, Woods and his classmates watched as Republic teams struggled to compete with the elite programs in the area. They were determined to change that narrative.

“Growing up, I’ve always just wanted to win,” Woods said. “I’m a winner at heart. That’s what I love to do more than anything.”

That winning mentality paid off in a big way, as Woods and the Tigers went further than any Republic football team had ever gone before. While he may have been the face of the program, Woods is insistent that the team’s success was a collective effort.

“I throw the ball and someone else catches it. I’m only doing 50% of the work — and then probably only 25% because people are blocking for me.”

“I think everybody fed off how hard he played,” Cornelsen said. He said Woods’s key traits were “accountability and being a great teammate, and then obviously he played with a lot of heart.”

Looking back on his high school career, Woods is proud of what he and his teammates accomplished, but he’s also quick to acknowledge the support of the entire Republic community. And he hopes this year’s success encourages other youngsters who were watching.

“Watching the whole town get behind us and rally behind us really helped,” Woods said. “I just hope we inspired them that Republic football can be good, and they can go to those games, and they can win those games.”


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