116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
ANKENY - Iowa City West boys' tennis coach Mitch Gross huddled his guys between courts two and three to ensure they savored this moment. His players, with arms draped over shoulders, had just etched its name in Iowa prep tennis history.
'I told them there's not a lot of times in life when they're going to be able to say they're the only people to do something,” Gross said after the Trojans downed Linn-Mar, 5-2, Tuesday at Prairie Ridge Sports Complex to become the first Class 2A boys' tennis team to win three-straight team state championships. 'This moment we're never getting back, and it's something I think they'll cherish for the rest of their lives. I know I will.”
The state title was the sixth for Iowa City West (18-0), and its fifth in 10 years. West hasn't lost since the 2011 state championship to Ames (54 straight victories), the lone loss for a decorated group of seniors - Blake Oetting, Adam Dellos, Trent Schneider and Karl Wenzel - whose four-year run of excellence spawned a mind-boggling record of 72-1.
'To me, it's one of the best feats of a class in Iowa state athletics history,” Gross said.
After claiming four of the six singles matches, the clincher hinged on doubles play. Newly crowned doubles' state champions David DiLeo and Karl Wenzel easily dispatched the Linn-Mar tandem of Kyle Brendes and John Low, 6-0, 6-0.
'This means a lot for us seniors,” Wenzel said. 'I think this is just the product of a ton of guys coming together and supporting each other and pulling through.”
For a time, it didn't appear that the championship would reach doubles. DiLeo, Wenzel and Dellos easily notched wins at singles spots four through six, but Linn-Mar's Brady Anderson bested Oetting at No. 1, 6-4, 6-4.
Schneider provided West its fourth win by bouncing back to claim No. 3 singles over Trevor McCann, 1-6, 6-3, 6-2.
'The first set was pretty tough,” Schneider said. 'The second set, I had a game plan. Just attack the net, get some volleys and kind of just not go for too much.”
West freshman Jiung Jung appeared poised to hand his seniors the state title after quickly winning the first set of his No. 2 singles match with Linn-Mar junior Tim Paulson, 6-1, and jumping ahead 3-0 in the second. Paulson rallied and the moment appeared to overwhelm the freshman, and Paulson kept the Lions alive with a 1-6, 7-6, 6-0 win.
In the morning semifinals, West blanked Fort Dodge, 5-0, and Linn-Mar did the same to West Des Moines Valley.
Linn-Mar ends at 16-2, with its only losses to West. The second-place finish is the highest for the Lions since winning state in 1988. Linn-Mar returns nine of its top 10 players next season.
'I can guarantee this is going to be a steppingstone for next season,” Linn-Mar Coach Chris Wundram said. 'If this isn't motivation, I don't know what is.”
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