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13 Storylines for This Weekend’s Boys State Tennis Tournaments

Buhler tennis placed runner-up to McPherson at Regional on May 6

. Freshman Davian Spies captured the singles title, defeating McPherson’s Jaden Fox, 6-3, 6-1. He carries an impressive 32-3 mark on the season to State this weekend. (Photo Credit: Buhler Tennis)
By Scott Paske, Mac Moore, Brent Maycock and Rick Peterson Jr.


WICHITA COLLEGIATE’S GRABON TAKES TOUGH LOSS IN 2021 FINAL AND ROLLS WITH IT
With scores of state champions and individual standouts under his watch during a long coaching tenure, Wichita Collegiate’s Dave Hawley treads carefully when he tries to list all-time superlatives.

Former Spartans like Matt Wright, who starred at Michigan, and Stanford’s Paul Galichia are among many who make it difficult. But Hawley has little doubt Collegiate singles player Nick Grabon’s senior campaign has entered a lofty realm. 
“His season up to this point in time would stand as one of our three or four best easily,” Hawley said of Grabon’s unbeaten run through 22 matches entering Friday’s Class 3-2-1A state tournament at Prairie Village.

Grabon, who lost an epic three-set match to Rossville’s Alex Sherer in last year’s 3-2-1A state singles final, has been nothing less than dominant this season. He has won 14 matches against state qualifiers in all classes, including five against regional champions. Perhaps more impressively, Grabon has lost a total of 21 games in 16 eight-game pro-set matches and six best-of-three-sets format matches.

“Coming into the new season, I was just looking at, ‘How do I replicate the form that I had at the end of the season and then take myself to another level?"” Grabon said. “I’ve just been putting in the work to try to put myself in a position where if I have a tough match, hopefully next time I can come out on top.”
Grabon helped Collegiate secure its 25

 boys team tennis title and fourth in the last five state tournaments with his runner-up finish. But it took time for Grabon to work through the disappointment of Sherer’s 6-7 (8-10), 6-4, 7-6 (7-4) victory over him.

“I kind of struggled with that for a little while,” said Grabon, who finished his junior season with an 18-5 singles record. “But once I gave it a couple days and had a chance to reflect, I was actually pretty proud of what I had done because I played a fantastic match. Alex was just a little bit better than me in the end, and I came to terms with that.”
Hawley said Grabon “has been a different cat from the very beginning of the year,” and the results show it. He’ll enter the 3-2-1A tournament as one of two unbeatens in the singles bracket along with Central Plains sophomore Peyton Ryan, who is 30-0.

Grabon set the tone for his senior season in early April at the Arkansas City Invitational. He lost just one game in five pro-set matches, blanking 5A regional champions Paul Jittawait of Andover and Maize South’s Harris Kossover, and regional runner-up Barrett Steven of Bishop Carroll en route to the title.

“It was 8-0, 8-0, 8-0 against guys who are gifted,” Hawley said. “Those scores didn’t mean he didn’t have to play great to do it. It wasn’t like he just walked out and threw his racket out there.”
Grabon, who also plays on Collegiate’s golf team, said his biggest improvement as a senior has been his mental approach. In one of his most competitive matches this season, Grabon outlasted Buhler’s Davian Spies in a first-set tiebreaker, then rolled to a 6-0 victory in the second set to capture the Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail Division III-IV singles title.

“This season, I’ve put more emphasis on problem-solving in a game – being able to take a step back in between points, analyze what’s going on and come up with a solution,” Grabon said.

Grabon, a Kansas Governor’s Scholar, will bypass college tennis to study industrial engineering at Northwestern University. But Hawley said the Spartans have tapped into Grabon’s wealth of tennis knowledge this season, and will field a full lineup for state this weekend with freshman Carter Drumright in the singles draw, and the doubles teams of Charlie Dunne and Charlie Nolan, and Mark Feng and Sky Fujinama also competing.

“With Nick, every practice has a purpose,” Hawley said. “Every drill has a meaning for him. He really is the inspiration for the other kids.”

LEAVENWORTH’S HARRIS OPENS EYES AS FRESHMAN CHALLENGER IN 5A
Jack Harris’ progression to becoming a tennis phenom started with a TV and a spoon.

“One time when I was little, I saw Serena Williams playing on TV,” Harris said. “I grabbed a wooden kitchen spoon and started mimicking the racket and the sounds that they made. My dad saw that and took me to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base where they had a tennis court. I started practicing with a youth tennis group and it just took off from there.”
Indeed, it has. Harris quickly blossomed into a top-notch junior player and after his family relocated with his father’s transfer to Leavenworth, he’s put together an impressive freshman season for the Pioneers.

After capturing the singles title at last Friday’s Class 5A regional at De Soto, Harris will take a glossy 26-1 record into this weekend’s state tournament at Topeka’s Kossover Tennis Center.

“It’s gone way better than I expected,” Harris said of his freshman season. “I’ve had some ups and downs, obviously way more ups, but I’m happy to be where I’m at. I didn’t really have any expectations. I’ve been playing tennis for quite a while and I wanted to put my skills to the test and compete with the best the state had to offer.”
Harris was completely dominant in adding a regional title to the United Kansas Conference title he won only three days earlier in Topeka. He won his first two regional matches by 6-0, 6-0 scores he took a 6-3, 6-3 semifinal win over Seaman’s Justin Kruse before handling Topeka West’s James Maag 6-1, 6-1 in the finals.

Of his 26 wins this season, Harris has only lost 11 games in pro-set format and just 11 in standard scoring. In 12 of his matches, he hasn’t dropped a set (10 8-0 wins, 2 6-0, 6-0 wins).

His only loss came to Blue Valley Southwest freshman Sanjay Rajkumar in a tiebreaker thriller, 8-7 (8-6). And while it stings as the only blemish on his resume, Harris said he also learned plenty from it.

“Take points as they come and don’t worry as much about everything else because you can’t control the future,” he said. “I was too focused on winning the next game even though I hadn’t finished the game I was playing. I was looking too far ahead.”
Leavenworth coach Jason Longberg said Harris’ addition to the program has been both enjoyable and a challenge for him, in the best of ways.

“It’s difficult to coach somebody that’s a better player than you are and I’ve never had that experience,” Longberg said. “I’ve never had a player I couldn’t play with. But he’s got a great attitude and he’s humble and realizes that no matter how good you are there’s somebody out there who is better than you are.

“He’s been great and drive the rest of my players to get better.”
Both Harris and Longberg said Harris’ serve is a difference-maker. And both have high expectations for the state tournament. Only defending champion Russell Lokko of St. Thomas Aquinas has a better record than Harris in the 5A singles field with Lokko sporting a 19-0 mark after winning the St. James Academy regional that included Rajkumar, who was third behind Lokko and Mill Valley’s Gage Foltz (26-8).

“I feel like I can make it very far,” Harris said. “I’ve worked hard enough and have my skills up enough to compete at state.”
Longberg agreed.

“I would hope to see him top three, top four at state,” Longberg said. “Lokko scares me because he’s really good and Gage is a very good player as well. There will be some great tennis this year at state.”
 

SM EAST POSITIONED FOR CHANCE AT 3-PEAT, ROSTER TURNOVER LEAVES TITLE RACE OPEN
Shawnee Mission East has a chance to achieve a three-peat in boys tennis under head coach Andy Gibbs after the girls tennis team did so in the fall.

The Lancers are positioned to accomplish just that as they once again send a full contingent to the state meet. However, the team is not quite as loaded as it has been in years past.

Junior Graham Faris leads the way as he sports a 24-0 singles record, matching the same mark from Washburn Rural senior Mason Thieu. Those two competitors even battled each other at the Kansas City Invitational earlier in the season, only for the match to end in tie after bad weather brought the event to a halt.

Gibbs said both competitors were disappointed with the unresolved ending.

“It was really kind of an unfortunate thing for both of them,” Gibbs said. “I think they wanted to be able to play that out, but it was a very highly competitive match.”
Sophomore Gregor Wiedeman gives the Lancers a chance to clean up with points in singles. The Lancers No. 2 had only lost to Faris this season before dropping his semifinal matchup against Blue Valley North’s C.J. Smith in the Shawnee Mission North regional. Wiedeman will take a 22-3 record into the state tournament.

Gibbs said it really helped him figure out the varsity rotation when he had two competitors like Faris and Wiedeman returning from strong singles campaigns last season.

“It’s a nice thing to be able to start our lineup with our two singles returners being state runner-up last year and then having a state medalist,” Gibbs said.

Shawnee Mission East would normally have a strong presence in the doubles field as well, but the Lancers are going through a bit of a transition this season. Gibbs said many of the doubles competitors have needed extra opportunities to get experience and matches against strong competition.

“In some cases, it’s been about seeing who’s ready to contribute at the level that it takes to potentially qualify for state,” Gibbs said. “It’s been a lot of learning and a lot growing with our doubles teams.”
With the four spots in doubles fairly wide open, seniors Henry Biar and Jordan Jenkins have worked themselves into the lineup late in their high school careers. 
“Those guys have been behind some really talented players and they’re seeing this year as an opportunity to be able to compete at this level,” Gibbs said.

Freshman Jake Hanson and sophomore George Kahl found themselves in varsity matches quicker than they expected, but they also started to click later in the season. Gibbs said the duo worked on improving their service and return game to get rallies started and avoid giving away points.

“Initially, it’s kind of been those guys figuring out how to not lose matches,” Gibb said. “Now they’re really figuring out what they can do to start winning points instead of just staying in points.”
Both teams reached the regional quarterfinals before getting bumped to the consolation side of the bracket and working their way into the fifth place match. Bair and Jenkins closed out that matchup against Hanson and Kahl with a 6-0 set after splitting 7-6 tiebreakers in the first two. If either team makes a push at state to score points, it could be just enough to get the Lancers to the team title.

Gibbs points out that it will still be tough for his singles competitors to navigate a loaded field, with most of the players familiar with each other through USTA competitions.

“I think there’s a lot of guys who are going to be factors in the state tournament,” Gibbs said. “It’s a really interesting mix of players and contrasts in styles.”
Shawnee Mission East was vulnerable enough that Blue Valley North edged the Lancers out for the regional team title.

The Mustangs enter state with a regional champion and third-place finisher in doubles. Blue Valley North senior Matt Crossland and junior Zachery Amsterdam took first at the Shawnee Mission North regional and finished the year with a 18-5 record. Juniors Asher Kort and Aneesh Vasamreddy took third place.

When paired with Smith, the team has a chance to put up a lot of points to challenge the Lancers at state as well, despite not having a second singles player advance.

Five teams other than Shawnee Mission East will field full squads at state, including Blue Valley West and Blue Valley.

Blue Valley West’s crew has a solid resume. Akshath Poojari won the Olathe South regional singles title. He enters state with a 13-8 record, although the mark is a bit deceptive. Poojari has lost three matches in tiebreak situations. 
Freshman Francisco Landeras gives the Jags another strong singles competitor who reached the regional final before suffering an injury default. He ultimately took third at the event via double default tiebreaker over Blue Valley senior Jacob Braun.

Senior Delvin Ko and junior David Han entered with just a 7-7 record together, but took runner-up in the Olathe South regional behind Free State sophomore Jake Hedges and junior George Thornton. The Jags’ other team of senior Jack Contrucci and freshman Mark Kessens have a 9-5 record after taking fifth.


TOPEKA WEST’S CUSICK TWINS OUT FOR REDEMPTION
Almost everything about their sophomore season a year ago produces fond memories for Topeka West twin brothers Miles and Ian Cusick. In their first year playing together in high school — their freshman season was lost to COVID — the duo checked off just about everything on their to-do list.

City champions? Check. League champions? Check. Regional champions? Check.

For all the success the duo enjoyed, the finish to the season left them a little unsatisfied and gave them plenty of motivation in the offseason. After taking a 29-6 record into the Class 5A state tournament, the Charger tandem saw their hopes of challenging for a state title end with a 6-2, 3-6, 7-5 quarterfinal loss to Salina Central’s Brady Stack and McCabe Green.

While that loss was tough to take, it was their response to it that was even harder to swallow. They immediately lost their first match in the consolation bracket and though they bounced back to win two straight to finish the tournament, the ninth-place finish was nowhere near their expectations.

“After that (quarterfinal) match — we were really hoping to win that one and when we lost it just carried into the next one,” Ian Cusick said. “We’ve been thinking about it all season and we’re really motivated to do better this time around.”
The juniors once again have checked off the boxes on their way to state, sweeping city, league and regional titles for the second straight year. The Cusicks were dominant at last Friday’s De Soto regional, dropping just four games in four matches and beating teammates Carter Cool and Gavin Chavez 6-1, 6-1 for the title.

Now 33-4 going into this weekend’s Class 5A state tournament on their home Kossover Tennis Center courts, the Cusicks have won 29 straight matches. The rough start to the season that saw them lose three of four matches at the season-opening Salina Central Duals is a distant memory. 
“I think the main thing has been our communication and our energy,” Miles Cusick said of the streak. “That first tournament we played at Salina Central, I don’t know if it was overconfidence or what, but we came out that tournament and knew we had to do something different to win. I think our communication between each other and our energy has improved a lot.

“We can always improve, but I think we’re playing pretty well right now.”
The Cusicks’ only loss since that 1-3 start was 8-3 to Maize South’s Grayson Wright and Mitchell Krumm, who are 30-3 and also beat the Cusicks at Central to start the season. The Cusicks have avenged one of their other losses, beating Salina Central brothers Connor and Collin Phelps 8-7 (7-4) in the finals of the Topeka West Invitational after losing 9-4 to the Mustang pair in the opener.

“It was a slow start numerically — we went to Salina and lost to some of the best teams in the state,” West coach Kurt Davids said. “But since then, they’ve played great against some good competition. We’ll find out a lot more at state how much improved they really are.

“Communication has been big, but it’s also hitting their shots. I tell them all the time if they make their shots, they’re too much for a lot of people. You don’t have to blow somebody away, just do what you can do.”
The tiebreaker win over the Phelps is one of only a handful of close matches the Cusicks have had during their streak. The others have come from pretty familiar faces, West teammates Cool and Chavez. The Cusicks were pushed to a tiebreaker by Cool and Chavez in the finals of the Emporia Invitational, winning 8-7 (7-4) and then pushed to an 8-5 decision in the league finals.

Cool moved from No. 1 singles to doubles this season and both the Cusicks and Davids think the No. 2 duo can do well at state as well.

“They’re real good friends off the court and it was an easy decision,” Davids said of moving Cool to doubles. “Carter is intelligent and very coachable and a true competitor. The singles side of 5A is pretty tough this year, so it made sense for them to have their best chance of success at state to do doubles. We’re getting better still and we’re hoping to get a lot of points from those doubles teams at state.”
“It’s great for us to practice against them because they’re one of the better teams in the state,” Ian Cusick said. “Getting to practice against them every day has made us better for sure.”

WASHBURN RURAL’S THIEU RETURNS WITH A BANG
From the time he started training at Genesis Health Club’s Wood Valley tennis location, Mason Thieu had a carrot dangling in front of him that constantly drove him.

“All along a wall are banners of state champions,” Thieu said. “I walked past them every day, looked up there and wanted to be up there.”
However, Thieu’s journey to becoming a top contender for the singles title at this weekend’s Class 6A state tournament at Olathe’s College Boulevard Activity Center isn’t a traditional one.

In fact, the state hadn’t seen much of the Washburn Rural standout since his freshman year, when he finished ninth at the state tournament. Looking to build off that showing, Thieu saw his sophomore year canceled for COVID reasons.

During that lost season, Thieu was contacted by a coach at the Celsius Tennis Academy in Sarasota, Fla., to come train. Looking to enhance his profile for a potential college career, Thieu jumped at the chance.

“It was a really good deal they offered me,” he said. “So I went down there for a year and really trained. Not having my sophomore season was tough for sure. I had some people I was really ready to challenge that year and thought the competition was going to be good.”
In opting to spend his junior season in Florida, Thieu saw all areas of his game improve immensely.

“There were a lot of parts of my game that had holes,” he said. “When you’re down there, you train so much it’s pretty hard to have holes after that. My serve got a lot better, but my mindset really improved — be more aggressive and not wait for my opponent to make a mistake. And just mental toughness, really. I just felt a lot stronger coming in.”
When Thieu returned to Rural for his senior season, longtime Junior Blues coach Kevin Hedberg — who announced his retirement at the end of this season, his 47th — noticed the difference.

“I’ve been around a long time in Topeka and if you were building a kid’s game, I don’t think you could ask for more than what he’s got,” Hedberg said. “He had those basic things from here in Topeka and worked with some good people that gave him a great background. I’m sure he got better in Florida — I can tell he is — and he’s more physically strong. But the mind game is way stronger.”
The whole game is. Thieu has navigated his senior season without a blemish, taking a 24-0 record into the state tournament. he has been nothing short of dominant in his run at perfection with 18 of his wins coming without dropping a game, including five 8-0 wins a the Centennial League meet.

At last Friday’s 6A regional in Topeka, Thieu won his first two matches 6-0, 6-0 before topping Manhattan’s Kelton Poole 6-3, 6-2 in the semifinals. He won the title match by an injury default from teammate Mason Casebeer.

The only other unbeaten in the Class 6A singles field is Shawnee Mission East’s Graham Faris, who also is 24-0 and last year’s 6A singles state runner-up. Thieu and Faris did meet once this season at the Shawnee Mission East Invitational and their match was a doozy, tied 7-7 and 6-6 in the tiebreaker when rain set in and wiped out the end of the match and the tournament.

“It was really good and right before that match, I had a really good match against (Kansas City Christian’s Caleb Bartels, third in 3-2-1A last season),” Thieu said. “I hadn’t really been pushed yet this year at that time, so it was good jump and then another jump to Graham. I think I played decent in that match and learned some things. I didn’t know where my game was against guys like that until then, so being right there in the match, that’s a nice confidence boost. I know I can do it.”
Being undefeated at this point isn’t something Thieu particularly concerns himself with or thinks will add more pressure.

“I just go out there wanting to win every match as quickly as a I can,” he said. “If I go out and play my game, the record will take care of itself.”

LATE SWITCH COULD PAY OFF FOR KC CHRISTIAN’S BARTELS
A third-place finisher in singles as a freshman at last year’s Class 3-2-1A state tournament, Kansas City Christian’s Caleb Bartels began the 2022 season as one of the top contenders for this year’s state title.

And for the bulk of the season, he played the part well. Bartels compiled a 24-3 record with his only losses coming to 6A unbeaten Mason Thieu of Washburn Rural (8-3), 5A unbeaten and defending champion Russel Lokko of St. Thomas Aquinas (8-4) and 6A CJ Smith of Blue Valley North (8-3).

But late in the season, Panther coach Brian Miller approached Bartels with a new idea: Playing doubles with James Vander Ark, who finished runner-up at state doubles a year ago with his brother Owen.

“I realized we were in a regional that had some of the best teams in the state and we had already lost as a team to both (Wichita) Collegiate and Wichita Trinity — so we knew it was going to be difficult to compete as a team,” Miller said of last week’s regional at Collegiate that included 18 of the 36 medalists from last year’s state tournament. “We knew it was going to be incredibly difficult to break into state from this regional, so I approached Caleb about playing doubles.

“James and Caleb played a little doubles together last year and they were very successful. Their styles of play really complement each other and I thought this would be a good fit.”
Bartels admitted he was a little surprised at the request at first. But being what Miller called “a ‘team-first player’ willing to do whatever I thought would be best for the team,” Bartels readily accepted the new role.

“I hadn’t really thought about doubles until Coach suggested it,” Bartels said. “I was really excited about the opportunity since I play a lot of singles in USTA. It’s fun to play with James and I really enjoy it.”
Needless to say, the transition has been a smooth one. After going 4-0 and dropping only three games in the final duals of the regular season, Bartels and Vander Ark served notice at the ultra-tough Collegiate regional that they could very well be the team to beat at this weekend’s state tournament Prairie Village’s Harmon Park Tennis Complex.

The duo won all four matches in straight sets, including a convincing 6-1, 6-3 win over Collegiate’s Charlie Dunne and Charlie Nolan in the finals, just the second loss of the season for the Spartan duo. Dunne was state doubles champion last year with departed teammate Luke Swan, while Nolan was fifth in doubles last year with Mark Feng.

“Caleb and I playing together was definitely unexpected,” Vander Ark said. “But our play style works well together with my aggressive style and Caleb’s consistency.”
“From their first match together, you could tell that it was a special combination,” Miller said of the duo, who are 8-0 going into the state tournament. “They are two of the most coachable players I have ever had the privilege to work with and we thought this would be the best move for the team. I don’t know how well they will do this week, but I look forward to watching them play.”

HAYDEN’S SANDSTROM, GLOTZBACH EYE NEXT STEP IN 4A
Paired together for the first time a year ago, Hayden’s Michael Sandstrom and Gus Glotzbach admitted their 2021 Class 4A state runner-up finish wasn’t one they saw coming.

“”Definitely exceeds our expectations,” Sandstrom said after he and Glotzbach concluded a 27-10 season by taking second to McPherson’s Brennan Gipson and Connor Glazer. “I don’t think at the beginning of the year we thought we’d be here. But here we are.”
Expectations this time around may be much higher. After winning last week’s regional title at Bishop Miege, the duo has their sights set on completing the state run this season. Sandstrom and Glotzbach cruised at regionals, dropping just six games and beating teammates Patrick Gorman and Joseph Luke 6-2, 6-3 in the finals.

Sandstrom and Glotzbach are 27-9 overall this season, but the record is somewhat deceiving. Three of the losses have come to 6A Washburn Rural regional champions Nick Luetje and Kyler Knudtson, another to 5A Topeka West regional champions Ian and Miles Cusick and another to 6A Blue Valley North regional champions Matt Crossland and Zach Amsterdam.

None of their losses are to 4A competition.

The best records in the 4A doubles fields belong to Independence’s Brecken Bertie and Camdon Julian, who are 26-7 and placed with different partners at state last year, Wellington’s Justin Norris and Carson Rademacher, who are 22-6 and also placed at state with different partners, Chanute’s Hayden Newton and Kaidan Frederick (22-8, 7th at state last year) and Circle’s Landon Metzger and DJ Middleton (20-7).

 

AQUINAS’ LOKKO ON PATH FOR 2ND STATE TITLE, BLUE VALLEY SW LOOKS TO GET INTO TEAM TITLE RACE
Aquinas junior Russell Lokko heads to the state tournament looking ready to repeat as the Class 5A singles champion. Lokko is not only 19-0 this year, but he’s still undefeated in singles competition during his high school career. He went 31-1 last season with his only loss coming in doubles.

He’s also only had two matches that were closer than 8-4 this year. He went 8-6 twice, once against Blue Valley West’s Akshath Poojari in the Eastern Kansas League tournament semifinals and another while facing Mill Valley’s Gage Foltz in the Emporia Invitational.

His rematch with Foltz in the St. James Academy regional finals was not nearly as close with Lokko winning 6-1, 6-2. That result nearly mirrored last year’s state final. Lokko won that one 6-2, 6-1.

But for the Class 5A team title, Blue Valley Southwest has a strong shot at pushing for first place. The Timberwolves are one of five teams to send a full squad to state. Their strength will likely be in doubles after locking up the top two spots from the St. James Academy regional.

Sophomore Emmett Wirth and junior Jedrick Wilson won the regional title by taking down their teammates, sophomore Bentley Pearson and junior Nick Hohman. Those two teams have combined for a 33-11 record this season. If the Rajkumar brothers, freshman Sanjay and junior Vishal, can pick up points in singles, Blue Valley Southwest will have a good chance of keeping up in the team race. After both brothers lost in the regional semifinals, Sanjay picked up a win on his older brother to place third at the event.


SPAIN NATIVE RODRIGO-COFFE TEAMS WITH CLAWSON TO FORM UNBEATEN DOUBLES TEAM AT MEADE 
Last year, just finding a practice partner for Meade’s Korben Clawson was a challenge. 
“Out here, we do with what we have,” Meade coach Lori Bigler said. “Some years we have four players, and some years we have 10. Last year, we honestly couldn’t find a hitting partner for Korben out here. He just spent all the time on the ball machine.” 
Thanks to the timely arrival of foreign exchange student Nico Rodrigo-Coffe from Spain, Clawson not only found a practice partner, but a doubles teammate. 
Rodrigo-Coffe and Clawson were paired together early in the season and clicked immediately. They will take a 28-0 doubles record into the Class 3-2-1A state tournament at Harmon Park Tennis Complex in Prairie Village. 
“It was so fortunate,” Bigler said. “They played singles at the first of the season, they were both undefeated. 
“One day I just asked them if they wanted to try (playing doubles together), and they just started having so much fun. Not even kidding, that’s why they decided to do doubles, is they had so much fun.” 
Bigler said Rodrigo-Coffe, a junior, played plenty of club tennis in Spain but hadn’t played competitively before this year. 
“Being in the middle of it has been a blast for him,” Bigler said. 
Clawson, who helped lead the Buffaloes to an Eight-Player Division I state football championship last fall, is wrapping a standout career for the Buffaloes. After reaching state as a freshman in doubles with his older brother Gatlin Clawson, he found success in singles last year, qualifying for state and winning two matches at the state tournament. 
“Korben is a great leader,” Bigler said. “He’s the most humble kid.” 
Bigler marveled at how fast Clawson and Rodrigo-Coffe found chemistry on the court. 
“Especially them, if they’re not having fun, they’re probably not playing their best tennis,” Bigler said. “If they’re having fun, then they’re communicating well. When they’re not having that much fun, they kind of shut down and don’t talk to each other as much. When they’re having fun, they’re in a groove and they communicate well. 
“I can’t say they’ve had a down time this year,” Bigler added. “They may have had moments like you do in any match, but they haven’t had a down time. It will be good to see how they handle pressure.” 
Clawson and Rodrigo-Coffe cruised through the regional tournament at Scott City, going 4-0 while dropping just six games. 
 “They’re confident, they’re excited,” Bigler said. “They know that there’s going to be competition there (at state). And I think they’re ready.” 
Meade sophomore Vincent Lynn also qualified for state after placing fifth in singles at the regional.


CENTRAL PLAINS’ RYAN UNBLEMISHED IN SOPHOMORE SEASON 
For the second straight year, Central Plains’ Peyton Ryan will head into the Class 3-2-1A state tournament undefeated. 
Ryan finished last season with a 33-1 mark and placed fifth at state. His only loss came in the quarterfinal against eventual state champion Alex Sherer from Rossville. 
The sophomore will take a 30-0 singles record into state this weekend. 
Ryan dropped just five games in his four matches at the Smoky Valley regional. He defeated Smoky Valley’s Max Bieker, 6-1, 6-1 in the regional final. 
All four of Ryan’s older siblings were standout athletes and tennis players for the Oilers, including current Iowa State basketball star Emily Ryan. 

INDEPENDENCE EYES BACK-TO-BACK TITLES, ENTERS STATE WITH MOMENTUM
Independence should have a chance to repeat as Class 4A team title, but there will be some tough competition. 
Six teams will send a full slate of competitors to the state meet. Independence’s state qualifiers consist of two regional champs and two third-place finishers.

Sophomore Kale Groff will look to repeat as the singles champion coming off a regional title and 27-6 record this season. Independence will also have senior Ian O’Rourke trying to pick up some points in singles following his 22-12 campaign.

Sophomore Camdon Julian and junior Easton Morris both have their eyes set on winning a state doubles title after losing in last year’s state final. Of course, only one of them can possibly achieve that goal.

The former duo switched partners this season, with Julian joining up with senior Brecken Bertie and Morris teaming up with sophomore Aiden Denney. The new pairings nearly battled it out at regionals before Morris and Denney fell to Chanute seniors Hayden Newton and Kaidan Frederick. Julian and Bertie took down the Chanute team in the finals while Morris and Denney settled for third place.

With those two doubles teams sporting a combined 41-12 record, Independence will likely be well positioned in the team points race.


MAIZE SOUTH RIDES WAVE OF LEAGUE, REGIONAL TITLES INTO STATE
Maize South made a strong run at its first boys state tennis title a year ago, finishing second to Salina Central in Class 5A. The Mavericks will try to complete the task this weekend in Topeka with two state singles entries and two doubles entries after defeating the reigning state champions in Friday’s regionals.

Senior Harrison Kossover backed up his Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail Division I singles title with a regional championship, and the doubles team of senior Grayson Wright and junior Mitchell Krumm did the same. Kossover, an Emporia State signee, lost just two games in four regional matches, defeating Maize’s Sam Ritchie 6-1, 6-0 in the final.

Wright, who teamed with his older brother Garrison to finish second in 5A doubles last season, partnered with Krumm to defeat Salina Central’s Collin and Connor Phelps 6-2, 6-3 for the regional title. Like Kossover, Wright and Krumm take 30-3 records into the state tournament.

Maize South also qualified sophomore Logan Garrison, a fifth-place regional finisher, in singles, and the doubles team of senior Noah Rodriguez and freshman Hudson Grizzell. Rodriguez and Grizzell bounced back from a semifinal loss to the Phelps brothers to finish third.


BUHLER’S SPIES TAKES FIRST RUN IN CLASS 4A
Buhler’s Davian Spies is the lone freshman in the Class 4A singles bracket, and it hasn’t taken him long to build an impressive high school record.

Spies won last week’s McPherson regional with a 6-3, 6-1 victory over McPherson senior Jaden Fox in the final, and lost just one other game in the tournament. Spies’ three regional victories made him the only 4A singles qualifier with 30 or more victories.

Spies won his first 16 matches of the season. His lone losses are to Class 5A doubles qualifier Connor Phelps of Salina Central and both unbeaten qualifiers in the 3-2-1A tournament, Wichita Collegiate’s Nick Grabon and Central Plains’ Peyton Ryan. The top seed in the 4A bracket, Spies will face the winner of a first-round match between Augusta’s Ignacio Compte and Tanner Notling of Parsons.

Buhler qualified both of its doubles teams en route to a second-place team finish behind McPherson. Junior Brock Hilger and sophomore Amos Harder finished third, while sophomore Eli Biggs and freshman Von Woleslagel was fifth.

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