Less than 40 days ago, Zach Petersen had two scholarship offers — Division II Lindenwood University and Minnesota State-Mankato. 

But once coach Lovie Smith and Illinois offered the North Scott senior defensive end in mid-November, Petersen's recruiting took off.

Iowa State, Kansas State, Nebraska and Iowa followed with offers.

After a whirlwind six weeks, Petersen decided Monday night to follow in his father's footsteps and continue his football career at Iowa State.

The 6-foot-5 and 225-pound Petersen, a three-star recruit by Rivals.com and ranked the third best prospect in Iowa for the 2018 class, is expected to sign his national letter of intent at 9:45 a.m. Wednesday at North Scott High School.

"Once I got the call from Illinois, it really hit me that this is probably going to start to blow up," Petersen said before Tuesday's wrestling practice. "Once K-State gave me an offer, I knew right then this is about to get real big, real fast.

"There were definitely some nights where I laid in bed and tried thinking it through but there was almost no point. Every time you thought you had something figured out, something else would pop up."

Petersen was a disruptive force on the defensive line for the Lancers this past fall. He had 16 solo tackles for loss and 10 solo sacks in helping North Scott compile a 9-2 record and reach the quarterfinal round of the Class 4A playoffs.

For the past month, Petersen has fielded phone calls and taken visits to Illinois, Iowa State and Kansas State. Iowa State coach Matt Campbell came to watch Petersen wrestle at the Battle of Waterloo last weekend.

On his way home Monday from an official visit to Kansas State with his mother, Petersen decided on Iowa State.

"The energy the coaches have, the passion the players have, it was great," Petersen said. "They were all going hard between the whistles and would hug it out at the end.

"Everything just pointed to Iowa State."

Petersen said the decision was not based on his father, Troy, playing nose guard at Iowa State in the early 1990s.

"I tried to keep an open mind," Petersen said. "There was no point going there just because that's where my dad went. I wanted to go somewhere I wanted to be. In the end, it just ended up being the same place."

Iowa State's initial offer was a grayshirt, meaning Petersen would not be on scholarship for the first semester.

Moments before Petersen was set to call Campbell and notify him of his decision Monday night, the Iowa State coach called and bumped Petersen's offer up to an immediate scholarship.

"I was planning to go there with the grayshirt anyway, but it turned out to be a win-win for both of us," Petersen said.

Campbell tweeted out at 7:03 p.m. Monday night: "Another HOMEGROWN addition to this great class! Beyond fired up for this one."

The defensive player of the year in Class 4A District 6, an all-Metro selection and first team all-stater by the Iowa Newspaper Association, Petersen plans to study agriculture. Other than Iowa, the other four schools have top-tier agriculture programs.

Ultimately, Petersen said he chose Iowa State over Illinois and Kansas State.

This is the first year the NCAA has moved the early signing period to December for football. In the past, high school seniors would sign the first Wednesday in February.

Petersen made the decision to sign early.

"Come February, it is (districts) and state wrestling," he said. "I really want to focus on my senior year and finish out well in wrestling."

As he walked through the hallways Tuesday, Petersen was donning an Iowa State sweatshirt.

"It is nice to have it over and know where I'm going to end up," Petersen said. "I think I'll fit in real well."


Sports Editor

Prep sports editor, with emphasis on covering the Mississippi Athletic Conference and Iowa area high schools. I've been in sports journalism for 17 years, the last five at the Quad-City Times.