Gazette area boys’ tennis teams and players to watch this season.
Cedar Rapids Washington — The Warriors finished 11-3 last year, losing to Iowa City West in the substate tournament. They are ranked No. 4 in the preseason Iowa Boys Tennis Coaches Class 2A poll. Coach Rusty Graff returns his top eight players from last year, headed up by Class 2A state doubles champions Rami Scheetz and Ty Sherman and state doubles qualifiers Grayson Zylstra and Bennett Blumenthal. “I think we have a chance to be very competitive again this season,” Graff said. “Our goal would be to improve on our state quarterfinal team finish last season. I believe this group has what it takes to compete for the state team title as well as individual state titles.”
Cedar Rapids Xavier — Coach Jim Potts’ team finished 10-7 last year against a 2A-dominated schedule. Despite losing Class 1A state singles champion Jon Lansing to graduation, the Saints are ranked No. 3 in the coaches preseason poll. Junior Wes Johnson and sophomore Matthew Schmitt are the lone returning starters from last year’s team. “We return only two starters from last year’s team,” Potts said. “This year will be a rebuilding year for us. A lot of schools graduated many seniors from last year. It will be interesting to see what happens.”
Iowa City West — The Trojans lost an epic 5-4 decision to Linn-Mar in last year’s Class 2A title match. Coach Mitch Gross’ team returns five of his six top players from that team, losing only Brad DiLeo to graduation. Seniors Sam Shin, Sasha Chackalackal and Jack Wenzel along with sophomores Eli Young and Mukundan Kasturirangan were all regulars for West, ranked No. 1 in the coaches' preseason poll. West has won six of the last eight state team title, finishing second to Linn-Mar the other two years.
Linn-Mar — Don’t call it a rebuilding year for the defending state champions even though the Lions graduated four of six starters from the 18-1 group that beat West for the 2018 title. Gone are Ben Hediger, Zach Glantz, Lucas Huffman and Jack Gertsen. Juniors Luke VanDonslear and Jackson Eells return for Coach Chris Wundram, whose team is ranked No. 5 in the coaches poll. “The phrase ‘rebuilding year’ drives me nuts,” Wundram said. “I hate the word ‘rebuild’, it’s an excuse. We have some talented athletes on our team this year who put in the work in the offseason and our ready to compete again this year.”
Sasha Chackalackal, sr. Iowa City West — Finished seventh in the Class 2A singles competition last year.
Rhett Peters, jr, Union — Had a strong sophomore season, finishing fourth in the Class 1A singles division at state.
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Rami Scheetz, sr. Cedar Rapids Washington — Combined with Ty Sherman to win the Class 2A doubles title last year. Finished 9-1 in singles and 19-0 in doubles and has committed to play collegiate tennis at Connecticut.
Ty Sherman, sr. Cedar Rapids Washington — Combined with Rami Sheetz to win the Class 2A doubles title last year. Finished 10-3 in singles and 20-0 in doubles.
Sam Shin, sr. Iowa City West — Finished third in the state 2A singles competition after losing a four-hour marathon match to eventual state champion Timmy Ellis of Ames in the semifinals. Should once again be the No. 1 player for the Trojans.
Luke VanDonslear, jr. Linn-Mar — Combined with 2018 graduate Ben Hediger to finish runner-up in Class 2A doubles. Played No. 1 singles for the Lions much of the season in 2018 and should be there again this spring.