Top-Ranked West High Dominates District Tennis Meet

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Photo by Jeff Yoder

Ryan Murken

Your Prep Sports

IOWA CITY – Given the manner in which West High rode roughshod over regular season opponents this season an impressive district showing by the Trojans was almost an expectation.

At Friday’s Class 2A District meet the top-ranked Trojans took there domination to another level.

West High qualified all four entries for the state tournament, finishing first and second in both singles and doubles while strolling to the team title on a sunny afternoon at West High.

“I think we have taken it to another level this year,” West High senior Sam Shin said. “The practices, the vibe I feel like we all have a championship mindset.”

For the second consecutive season and third time in program history West High accounted for all four district finalists.

This year the Trojans did so in emphatic fashion.

Defending 2A state team runner-up West High didn’t drop a set to an opponent from another school, racking up the maximum 35 team points while qualifying a participant for the state meet for the 18th consecutive season.

“Our guys have really had what I call a championship mindset and that is taking every match seriously,” West High coach Mitch Gross said. “All year long I’ve had so many coaches so how impressed they are with how our guys are intense from the very beginning to the very end and we really preach that and I think it helps us in situations like today.”
Shin won his second consecutive district singles title with an entertaining 7-5, 6-4 win over teammate Jack Wenzel.

The senior dropped just three games in consecutive wins over Thomas Hodnett of Newton and Henry Bishop of Ottumwa while reaching the title match where he held off Wenzel.

Last season Shin downed teammate Sasha Chackalackal in the district final.

“It’s very stressful but at the same time I went in with the mindset of trying to be happy with whatever the outcome was,” Shin said. “Playing a teammate you want to see him succeed as well but I was dialed in, I treated it like any other opponent and I thought I played great today.”

It was an all-West High final in the doubles bracket as well where the Trojan tandem of Sasha Chackalackal and Eli Young rallied for a 5-7, 6-0, 6-2 win over Luca Chackalackal and Makundan Kasturirangan.

It was the second straight district doubles title for Young who teamed with departed senior Brad DiLeo to win a district title last season as a freshman.

“After last year we thought we could all be at the top again this year,” Young said. “It’s amazing to be able to do that two years in a row. A lot of other teams don’t get to experience what we are experiencing so it’s great.

Competing against teammates is tough enough for West High players but doubles took it a step further as brothers Sasha and Luca Chackalackal faced off.

“It’s really, really hard because obviously we want to win but at the same time we really want our teammates to win too,” Sasha Chackalackal said. “We want to make sure that we are building our teammates up even if we are winning because they are going to state too, we want them to do very, very well at state.”

The top-seeded team of Young and Sasha Chackalackal rolled to the finals with straight-set wins over Gabe Coyle and Dymonte Hawkins of Cedar Rapids Jefferson and Collin Hemann and Brady Eberline of Newton.

Freshman Luca Chackalackal and Kasturirangan, a sophomore, entered as the third seed but scored a 6-3, 6-1 upset of the second-seeded Cedar Rapids Jefferson tandem of Kyle Lassen and Jack Mossbarger.

“I have a lot of respect for Jefferson’s number one doubles team that was the one season and Luca and Makundan came out and played very strong and really raised their game to a whole different level that I hadn’t seen,” Gross said. “That’s a sophomore and a freshman and they played with the composure of seniors.”

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