116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — After a year of no tennis due to COVID-19, it made sense Mitch Gross had to wait a few extra days for his 300th dual win.
The veteran Iowa City West boys’ tennis coach was in line to reach the milestone last Saturday, but cold, rainy conditions forced duals against Cedar Rapids Jefferson and Washington to be rescheduled, the first coming Wednesday against the Warriors.
As has been the case often during Gross's tenure, West's superior depth was too much for an opponent. The state's top-ranked Class 2A team rolled to a 9-0 decision over the No. 6 Warriors on a blustery day for tennis at West. In his 22-year coaching career (including his first two years at Ballard), Gross is 300-36 (290-30 at West with eight state titles).
Despite the cold conditions, it was a festive day as fans and players paid a quick tribute to Gross after West completed a sweep of the singles matches with Eli Young's hard-fought 6-4, 7-5 win over Grayson Zylstra at No. 1.
There were signs with the No. 300, some balloons and some celebratory snacks. However, in keeping with his character, Gross turned the attention back to the match, saying, "Let's get those doubles going."
As the players warmed up for doubles, Gross talked of a chance meeting he had with one of his former players earlier in the day.
"Ironically, I was grabbing a coffee over lunch and one of my former players, Chris Yates, just happened to be there," he said. "He is getting ready to go off to his anesthesiology residency in Denver. I haven't seen him forever and to run into him today was quite a coincidence.
"I believe Chris was part of the program when I won my 200th. We talked about how this has been a 20-year family, especially on this day. It has just been special."
Special would also describe the match between Young and Zylstra. The talented seniors pretty much matched each other shot-for-shot. Young saved some of his best work for the end of each set to gain the victory.
Gross commended both players for their performances.
"I thought Grayson has shown huge improvement since the last time we played on the high school level in 2019," Gross said. "He is leaps and bounds a better player than the last time I saw him play.
"Eli played well too and he has all the shots needed to be a No. 1 player. He's got to believe he can be a No. 1 player and winning this match today is going to help that for sure."
Earlier in the day, Washington defeated Iowa City Liberty, 6-3, in a dual at Liberty.