One boys’ tennis dynasty took another step forward while another program took a step toward dynasty status.
Iowa City West and Cedar Rapids Xavier both took home state championships Tuesday. The Trojans won the Class 2A crown for the sixth time in eight years, rolling to a 5-1 victory over Pleasant Valley in the title match at Lifetime Athletic Center in Urbandale. The 1A final was much tighter. The Saints rallied to win all three doubles matches to edge Pella, 5-4, at Aspen Athletic Club in Clive for their second title in three seasons.
West’s triumph was the ninth in school history, just one behind Dubuque Wahlert on the all-time list. It was also the eighth title for Mitch Gross. The West senior class of Sam Shin, Jack Wenzel and Sasha Chackalackal finished their careers 73-1 in dual meets, the only blemish a 5-4 loss to Linn-Mar in last year’s state title match. The Trojans opened the day with an impressive 5-0 win over Ankeny Centennial in the semifinals.
It was a big day for Shin at No. 1 singles. He avenged a state individual quarterfinal defeat by downing Centennial’s Will Blevins, 6-3, 6-7 (7-4), 6-3. In the final, he rolled to a 6-2, 6-2 win over Pleasant Valley’s Justin Sehlin, who finished second in the individual tournament.
“It was kind of the Sam Shin redemption tour today,” Gross said. “Two of his three losses coming into this season were to Blevins and Sehlin. To get wins over both of those guys was huge and showed the caliber of player Sam is. We preach team first and Sam exemplifies it.”
Gross has preached a championship mentality to his team since last year’s loss to Linn-Mar. The message was obviously received.
“I think given how things ended last year, we’ve been really focused,” he said. “The hard work and determination paid off today. I think we played a near flawless meet.”
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The day for Xavier was much more tense. The Saints were an impressive 5-0 winner over Le Mars in the semifinals but found themselves trailing 4-2 after singles against Pella.
“Having to win all three doubles matches wasn’t where we wanted to be, but that is where we ended up,” Xavier Coach Jim Potts said. “All three of our doubles teams came through and played really well.”
It came down to No. 3 doubles as all the other matches had finished. Garrett Coester, the lone senior in the Xavier lineup, suffered a heartbreaking 0-6, 6-4, 6-0 loss to Luke Diers in singles, then was on court with Ethan Shimak with the state title on the line.
“I was really confident after Garrett won his first set (in singles),” Potts said. “I’m not really sure what happened to him after that point but he rebounded really well in doubles.
“They let all the players down on the courts to watch that match,” he continued. “It was quite an atmosphere, very exciting for everybody.”