Scheels Athlete of the Week: Young Catching on Quick in First Season in West High Tennis Program

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Photo by Jeff Yoder

Ryan Murken

Your Prep Sports

IOWA CITY – Like nearly everyone else that follows Iowa prep tennis Eli Young has known all about the success West High has had over the last decade.

West High on the other hand knew very little about Young, a freshman that attends Clear Creek Amana until last summer.

The more West High players and coaches get to know about Young they more they are impressed.  

“I had never seen him play until last summer when we did our summer hitting and at that point I thought he was definitely going to be in the mix for top six,” West High coach Mitch Gross said. “I knew he came from a good tennis family but he has exceeded my expectations for sure.”

Young hasn’t just cracked the lineup for two-time defending Class 2A state champion West High in his freshman season he has become a stalwart for the top-ranked Trojans.

In his first season playing for West High as a part of its co-op program with Clear Creek Amana Young is a perfect 14-0 while playing in the number four singles spot.

“I knew that I was going into a great program for tennis,” Young said. “I’ve followed West tennis for a long time and I was excited to have a chance to play here and it has been great.”

Next weekend at the state tournament the rest of the state will get to what Gross and the Trojans have seen from Young all season.

Young teamed with senior Brad DiLeo to win a district doubles title last week, earning a spot at the 2A doubles tournament May 25-26 at Veterans Memorial Tennis Center in Cedar Rapids.

Despite having never played together before this season Young and DiLeo are 18-0 as a doubles team this season.

“I knew we were getting a good player in Eli,” DiLeo said. “At the beginning of the season I didn’t know who I would play with but I have really enjoyed playing with Eli and I think we are a great doubles team. I have a big serve and he has the wheels to get to balls. I think we are a good compliment to each other.”

It didn’t take long for Young to catch the attention for Gross and his teammates.

Despite the logistical challenges associated with attending another school Young made an impression on his new coach before the season even started.

“What has really impressed me is here is a kid that goes to school at Clear Creek Amana but came to all of our winter condition and doesn’t just come but works really, really hard,” Gross said. “His work ethic is tremendous and I have really enjoyed having him on the team and he has given us a lot of depth.”

After playing tennis an individual for most of his life, Young has enjoyed the team atmosphere that comes with playing at West High.

“Having practice with these guys it’s been fun,” Young said. “Tennis isn’t really a team sport so having teammates is great.”

The cooperative program has been in place for West High tennis since before Gross took over the program in 2002.

Young is the first player from outside of West High to earn a spot in the varsity top six.

“We are trying to make sure that Eli feels like part of the West Community, his nickname on the team is Clipper and I think he has a little bit of green and gold in him,” Gross said. “We are really, really proud and happy he is on our team.”