Prep Sports

Tennis notes: IHSAA makes changes to boys' state tournament seeding

Iowa City West off to perfect start

Iowa City West's Sam Shin, returning the ball at last year's Class 2A state meet in Cedar Rapids, has the Trojans off to a 7-0 start. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Iowa City West's Sam Shin, returning the ball at last year's Class 2A state meet in Cedar Rapids, has the Trojans off to a 7-0 start. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

One long-standing rule for seeding at the boys’ state tennis meet has been altered slightly.

In the past, a singles player or doubles team had to be a district champion to be one of the top four seeds at state. That rule basically penalized two top players who happen to be placed in the same district.

Beginning this year, district runners-up can be seeded under the following conditions:

A district singles runner-up was a state individual tennis tournament champion or runner-up the previous year, in either class.

 Both players on the district doubles runner-up team were part of the same doubles team that was a state individual tennis tournament champion or runner-up the previous year, in either class.

Iowa City West was involved in a pair of situations in 2016 and 2017. In singles, West’s three-time state champion Jiung Jung defeated City High’s Joe Hoff for the district title. In both years, Hoff was unable to be seeded at state and arguably had a tougher path to the state title matches, where he lost both times to Jung.

In 2016, West’s duo of Cole Schneider and Jack Wenzel, seeded third, lost the state title match to Pleasant Valley’s Sriram Sugumaran and Charlie Humes. The following year, the Trojan tandem lost in the district final to Rami Scheetz and Ty Sherman of Cedar Rapids Washington and could not be seeded. They made the final and defeated Scheetz and Sherman for the title.

Under the new guidelines, Hoff, along with Schneider and Wenzel, could have been seeded because of their state finish the prior season.

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“All this started because of an error in the district team placement a couple of years ago where the two top teams in the state were placed in the same district,” said Washington Coach Rusty Graff. “That led to the Cedar Rapids district singles and doubles finals being replicated in the state individual tournament singles and doubles finals.

“After that, the IHSAA implemented a new strategy in district placement that has seemed to make things better. As far as the new rule itself, I think it’s most likely never going to be used. The odds of that scenario playing out is minuscule.”

Iowa City West Coach Mitch Gross applauded the new rule, but thinks it needs to go a step farther, allowing for the best four players, regardless of district finish, to be seeded.

“I would hope the ultimate goal of the state tournament would be to crown the best singles player and doubles team,” he said. “For that reason, I would be in favor for district runners-up to also be eligible for a seed.”

WEST KEEPS ROLLING

Three weeks into the season, top-ranked Iowa City West looks like a team intent on regaining the Class 2A title after losing, 5-4, to Linn-Mar in last year’s state title dual.

Coach Mitch Gross’s team, 7-0 in duals, has yet to lose a match in either singles or doubles. The Trojans are 81-0 in matches after a 9-0 win over Liberty on Thursday.

West blitzed No. 5 Linn-Mar, 9-0, on Tuesday night. Sam Shin was an impressive 6-4, 6-2 winner over Linn-Mar’s Luke VanDonslear at No. 1 singles. He combined with Wenzel to top VanDonslear and Jackson Eells in third-set tiebreaker at No. 1 doubles.

West’s toughest remaining test before the postseason will likely come next Thursday. No. 3 Cedar Rapids Washington, led by Scheetz, who signed Wednesday to play collegiate tennis at Connecticut, and Sherman, will travel to Iowa City for the dual.

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XAVIER GIRLS START STRONG

Cedar Rapids Xavier positioned itself as a contender for the Class 1A state team title on Tuesday. The Saints lost a 5-4 decision to perennial 1A power Waterloo Columbus in Waterloo in a match that came down to a third-set tiebreaker at No. 1 doubles where Mikayo Coffey and Emily Jasper fell, 11-9, to the Sailors’ Taylor Hogan and Grace Sullivan.

Columbus has won 20 state titles, including the last seven, and is favored again this year. Xavier is an experienced team. Coffey, Jasper, Sarah Abu Nameh and Maddie Abu Nameh were all part of last year’s third-place state finisher.

The Saints are 7-2 in duals.

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