In the midst of the longest tennis match of his career, Maize South senior Harris Kossover found strength after each point in his coach and teammates in the stands.
After the team finished runner-up the last two state tournaments, Kossover was desperate for the Mavericks to break through in his final season and he knew how important the outcome of his quarterfinal match was at the Kansas Class 5A boys tennis state tournament in Topeka.
In just under four hours, Kossover emerged victorious in a third-set victory after overcoming severe cramps and throwing up from exhaustion in between games. But the pain was worth it.
“After he won the match, he looked over at me and just kind of mouthed the words, ‘State champs,’” Maize South coach Ian Clifton said. “I was so proud of him. He’s worked the hardest out of anyone.”
Sure enough, Maize South went on to win the Class 5A state championship — the first team state title in program history — on Saturday at the Kossover Tennis Center. It was fitting that all four entries scored at least one point of the Mavericks’ title-winning team score of 33 points.
Even for an accomplished singles player like Kossover, who won league and regional titles and finished third in a loaded singles field at the state tournament, being a part of a state championship team was his favorite memory from high school tennis.
“Oh, it’s number one for sure,” said Kossover, who will play tennis in college at Emporia State. “All of the individual stuff is good and I’m happy I got third, but there’s nothing like playing with these guys. We’ve been pushing each other all year and been there for each other. Our bond is so close, so it feels incredible to win a state championship with guys that I love, guys that are brothers and friendships that are going to last forever.”
Maize South was powered all season by its dominant No. 1 entries with Kossover in singles and the duo of senior Grayson Wright and junior Mitchell Krumm in doubles. Wright and Krumm capped off a memorable season by navigating a challenging field to reach the state finals in doubles and settled for a runner-up finish to Topeka West’s brother combination of Mike and Ian Cusick.
But Maize South couldn’t win the team title with its top entries alone. That’s where the No. 2 doubles team of senior Noah Rodriguez and freshman Hudson Grizzell came in. The duo stepped up in the clutch to earn a ninth-place finish and scored six valuable points for Maize South with the key win coming on Friday when the pair upset a No. 2 seed from Blue Valley Southwest, then finished strong on Saturday with two straight wins for ninth place.
It was an accomplishment for sophomore Logan Garrison just to make it to state, but then he played his role by winning his first match at the state tournament to earn a point for the team.
“These kids have been working so hard this year,” Clifton said. “It’s been a rough couple of years taking that second place trophy. We came into this year thinking, ‘This is our time.’ No one wanted to settle for second place again. They worked their butts off and did everything they were supposed to do and it’s such a good feeling for them.”
Topeka West finished six points behind Maize South for second place in the team standings, while Blue Valley Southwest took third. St. Thomas Aquinas junior Russell Lokko won his second straight 5A singles title with a 6-1, 7-5 victory over Mill Valley’s Gage Foltz in the finals.
Other area players who earned a state medal in singles were Bishop Carroll junior Barrett Steven (seventh), Kapaun Mt. Carmel sophomore Jack Judkins (eighth), Andover sophomore Paul Jittawait (ninth), Kapaun Mt. Carmel senior Trevor Sweat (10th) and Andover Central senior Leon Grzesik (12th).
The other area doubles teams who earned a state medal were the Arkansas City duo of sophomore Oakley O’Donnell and freshman Dawson O’Donnell (fourth), the Newton pairing of juniors Justin Franz and Otis Musser (fifth), the Andover Central duo of sophomore Isaac Huber and junior Cameron Strickland (seventh) and the Andover Central duo of senior Seth Newton and junior Blake Wilson (eighth).
Collegiate’s Nick Grabon finishes undefeated season with 3-1A singles title
Wichita Collegiate senior Nick Grabon secured his place in history in the most prestigious tennis program in Kansas, as he finished off an undefeated season with a Class 3-1A singles championship.
Grabon didn’t drop a single game at the state tournament in Prairie Village until the finals when he took down fellow unbeaten Peyton Ryan of Central Plains in a 7-5, 6-0 victory in the finals.
It was a particularly sweet feeling for Grabon after losing in a third-set tiebreaker in the finals last season. But he used that loss as motivation to elevate his game and he delivered a historic senior season, finishing with a 26-0 record, never dropping a set the entire season and only losing a total of 26 games.
Caleb Bartels and James Vander Ark and Collegiate’s Charlie Dunne and Charlie Nolan. The state final match was more competitive but ended in the same result, as Bartels and Vander Ark won the state title with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Dunne and Nolan.
Those two championship appearances helped Collegiate win its third straight Class 3-1A team state championship and 26th overall. The Spartans scored 52 points — 32 more than runner-up Wichita Trinity Academy — with all four of their entries finishing at least fifth place at the state tournament. Freshman Carter Drumwright took third place in the singles field and the doubles team of senior Mark Feng and sophomore Sky Fujinuma took fifth.
Other area players who came away with a state medal in singles were Wichita Classical senior Max Kice (fourth), Trinity Academy junior J.J. Henderson (sixth), Trinity Academy senior Cole Mathews (10th) and Hutchinson Trinity senior Connor Harcrow (12th).
Other area teams who won a state medal in doubles were the Hesston pairing of junior Micah Dahlsten and freshman Asher Deutschendorf (third), the Hutchinson Trinity duo of juniors Anthony Clennan and Garrett Hageman (fourth), the Hesston duo of seniors Trevor Gamble and Joshua Shirley (eighth), the Trinity Academy duo of juniors Drew Bryant and Matt Draper (ninth) and the Classical duo of senior Max Ball and freshman Noah Doom.
Buhler freshman wins Class 4A singles championship
It would be hard to have a more impressive debut season than Buhler freshman Davian Spies, who finished with a 35-3 record and won the Class 4A singles title by unseating the defending champion.
Spies showed composure beyond his years at the second day of the state tournament in Winfield, as he out-lasted AV-CTL foe Jax Cornejo of Wellington in a 6-1, 7-5 victory, then rose to the occasion in the finals against defending champion Kale Groff of Independence.
Groff was the aggressor early and won the first set, 6-2, but Spies bounced back with a 6-2 set victory of his own. The third set featured both players near the top of their games, but it was Spies who emerged victorious with a 6-4 win in the third set to secure the title as a freshman.
Other local players who earned a state medal in singles were McPherson senior Jaden Fox (third), Cornejo (fourth), El Dorado senior Hayden Greene (seventh), McPherson senior Ayden Johnson (ninth), Winfield senior Leo Pedrosa (10th), Winfield senior Drake Lowe (11th) and Augusta senior Ignacio Compte (12th).
The McPherson doubles team of seniors Wesley Wurm and Tyler Bontrager were the top local finishers, as they won the third-place match and took the most games off the eventual champions from Independence, Brecken Bertie and Camdon Julian.
Other area teams that came away with a state medal in doubles were the Circle duo of seniors Landon Metzger and D.J. Middleton (fifth), the Wellington duo of seniors Justin Norris and Carson Rademacher (sixth), the WInfield duo of freshmen Jackson Davis and Adam Everett (eighth), the Buhler duo of junior Brock Hilger and sophomore Amos Harder (10th) and the Winfield duo of senior P.J. Morris and junior Noah Heger (11th).
Independence won the team title with 38 points, six more than runner-up McPherson, while Topeka Hayden won the third-place trophy in a tiebreaker over Wellington.
Derby doubles brings home Class 6A state medal
At the Class 6A state tournament hosted in Olathe, the Derby doubles team of senior Scott Simmons and junior Isaak Bowman were able to grab a rare state medal from the Wichita area with their 12th place finish in the doubles field. The duo earned a first-round bye from their regional finish, then won two matches in a row in the consolation bracket, including a 9-7 win over a Blue Valley West duo, to secure a state medal.
Shawnee Mission East sophomore Gregor Wiedeman came out of the first round to win the singles title in a 6-4, 6-1 victory over Blue Valley West’s Francisco Landeras in the final. The Blue Valley North duo of Matt Crossland and Zachery Amsterdam won the doubles title with a victory over Blue Valley Northwest’s Luke Pennington and Aiyan Sanjanwala in the finals.
Shawnee Mission East won its third straight 6A team title with 41 points, edging out Blue Valley Northwest and Blue Valley North, which split the second-place trophy with 34 points.