CEDAR RAPIDS — The road to the Iowa boys’ state tennis tournament is, in a word, unique.
It all begins around the state at 9 a.m. Wednesday with district play where champions and runners-up in singles and doubles qualify for the individual state tournament, set for May 25-26 in Cedar Rapids for Class 2A and Waterloo for 1A. Each team can place two individuals in the singles draw and two teams in the doubles field. No player can play singles and doubles.
District team champions are determined by points, three points for a doubles win, two for a singles victory. District champions advance directly to the substate round on May 19. Second- and third-place teams at districts play each other in a preliminary substate match on Saturday with that winner advancing.
And one other thing, after districts, the team format returns to the traditional dual meet schedule with six singles matches and three doubles matches.
“They’ve done it that way for as long as I can remember,” said Cedar Rapids Washington Coach Rusty Graff. “There are some years where it can work against you if there are a lot of good players on one side of the state like there was last year. The thing is that it is the same for everybody. You just have to go out and play.”
Graff’s Warriors (9-2 entering Tuesday’s final regular-season dual against Dubuque Wahlert) have been one of the state’s top teams, ranked No. 5 in the latest Iowa Tennis Coaches Class 2A rankings. Their only two losses are to No. 1 Iowa City West and No. 2 Linn-Mar. Washington is part of a six-team district at the Veterans Memorial Tennis Center that includes city rivals Jefferson and Kennedy, as well as Dubuque Hempstead, Dubuque Senior and Clinton. That district feeds into a substate that includes West, which has won five of the last six state team titles in 2A.
No. 2 Linn-Mar will be part of a six-team district at Cedar Falls. The Lions' only loss this spring was a 5-4 setback to West.
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“I think this year the pairings are a little more accurate,” Graff said. “Last year, West was No. 1 and we were No. 2, yet we were in the same district. This year, it has been pretty clear cut that West and Linn-Mar have been the best two teams in the state.”
Coaches have decisions to make about where to place players for district play. Graff said the decision was easy for him in regards to the Warriors' top two players, juniors Rami Scheetz and Ty Sherman.
“They were the state runners-up last year and I think they have only lost something like two matches in three years,” Graff said. “If they had won it last year, we may have done something different but they should be one of the top teams again this year.”
West (15-0) has a young team with only one senior in Brad DiLeo while Linn-Mar (15-1) is a senior-dominated unit with the exception of No. 1 singles player Luke VanDonslear, who is 11-1. Linn-Mar could end up facing No. 3 Pleasant Valley (9-0) in its substate final on May 19.
“There are many talented players on this side of the state again this year,” Graff said. “I think we will be well-represented at the state meet.”
In Class 1A, defending state champion Xavier (7-6) is in a district hosted by Dubuque Wahlert (11-2). The Saints are led by seniors Jon Lansing, Alex Hinrichs, Calvin Ford and Curt Lengemann, all members of the team that defeated LeMars in the state final last season.