Boys Tennis Defies Predictions, Places No. 4 In State Tournament

The Anthony Wayne men’s tennis team earned a first-ever spot in the state team tournament and took fourth place. PHOTO COURTESY OF COACH JIM SUTTO

BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — When Jim Sutto saw the Division I preseason coaches’ poll naming the Anthony Wayne men’s tennis team as No. 6 in the Northwest Ohio district, he just smiled.

“I knew how hard some of the boys were working in the offseason. I knew we had a freshman starter coming in, and I knew we had a group of winners, with some coming off a state championship golf season and some returning as NLL champs,” he said. “I knew we were much better than sixth.”

Even though the team lost four starters by the beginning of the season, Sutto said he knew that with a combination of good playing, putting the players in the right spots – and a little bit of luck – the team had a shot at getting to states.

On Saturday, May 25, the team wrapped up the season with a fourth-place finish – the best in the school’s history.

“This is the farthest the boys team has ever gone. I’m very proud of how the boys represented the school and Northwest Ohio,” Sutto said, thanking senior captains Ian Briars, Josh Kohntopp and Logan Sutto for an amazing four years.

The team ended its regular season with a 13-1 record. Earlier in the season, its only loss was to St. Francis in a close 3-2 match, while missing its third singles and second doubles players. 

“We went on to defeat St. Francis to be the Northwest Ohio qualifier and on to the final four,” Sutto said. 

Last week, sporting matching buzz cuts and fresh white “Generals Men’s Tennis State Bound 2024” T-shirts, the team walked through the high school hallway behind the Marching Generals to cheers from students, staff and parents lining the halls.

After photos and high-fives, the young men reflected on the season, the sport and the team that defied predictions of a lackluster season.

Logan and Briars finished their high school careers with six NLL championships, a state golf championship – a first for the Generals – and a trip to states.

Logan and his brother, incoming junior Brody, were named first-team all-district for tennis, while Briars earned second-team all-district honors. 

“Logan Sutto set the program wins record over his four years, with 64. His younger brother, Brody, is on pace to beat that his senior season,” said Coach Sutto, their dad.

With golf, Logan said he felt like it was their year to win. 

“There was a lot of pressure on us,” he said. “With this, we’re free to just go out and play tennis.”

Logan sees parallels between the games, and the benefits of doing both. 

“I feel like my mental game has gotten a lot better because of golf, and I feel like I’m better under pressure,” he said.

Logan’s assets on the court are his strength and his volley.

“And my celebrations,” Logan said, eliciting laughs from his teammates. “I like to yell sometimes, and do fist bumps.”

While Logan is headed to Butler University to play golf and study business, he said he hopes to continue playing tennis for fun.

Briars, in the meantime, will play golf for Ohio Northern University. He didn’t start playing tennis seriously until his freshman year.

“My parents told me to play two sports, so I chose tennis as my second sport,” Briars said. “I like that it’s fast-paced. You don’t have time to dwell on your mistakes for long. You just play harder. With golf, you have more time to dwell.”

Briars said his dogged determination paid off. 

“I like getting to every ball and getting it back in play,” he said. “I’ll never give up on a ball.”

Kohntopp also appreciates the fast pace, and said his backhand is pretty good.

“I can rally well with a lot of opponents and stay in the point for a long time,” said Kohntopp, who got into tennis after attending a clinic in junior high. “Once I started playing, I realized it was kind of fun. It’s fun to be around your friends playing a sport you like.”

Before heading to The Ohio State University, where he will study electrical engineering, Kohntopp will have a chance to hit a different kind of court: For fun, he and Briars often head to Keener Park to play pickleball.

Carter Pitt, the team’s fourth senior, picked up tennis out of boredom during the COVID-19 pandemic. His dad, then mom and two younger siblings got into playing a lot, said Pitt, who said what he’s enjoyed most about playing for the Generals is the environment and the team bonding. His skill is a big serve, due to his height.

Incoming senior Geyer Tollstam returned to tennis in December after not touching a racquet for many years.  

“He put in a ton of hard work December through March, playing up to six days a week. He made an immediate impact going undefeated at first doubles in the NLL,” said Sutto. As a result, Tollstam earned honorable mention for the district.

“I wanted to come back to something I was good at and could participate in a lot more,” he said.

Tollstam said he appreciates the team experience, and the opportunity to showcase his skills.

“My strength is my serve,” he said. “I have a pretty good kick serve. It has a ton of top spin on it.”

When he returns to the court for his senior season, Tollstam will be joined by four other teammates who were on the state team: incoming juniors Reed Hahn and Brody Sutto, and incoming sophomores Will Black and Will Rhodes.

Brody’s specialty is his serve.

“I’m a lefty, and that’s an advantage because the ball curves the other way,” he said. 

While he got into playing tennis because of his dad, Brody said he likes the sport because “you can pick your own path.”

As he prepared for the state trip, Brody shared his other strength: confidence.

“Just get at it. Attack it right on. Don’t let anyone scare you,” he said.

Hahn’s late grandfather, John Osten, played varsity tennis at Maumee High School and introduced his grandson to the sport.

“We played just for fun,” Hahn said, who has been playing competitively for five years.

Rallying and his serve are his specialties, Hahn said.

“I’ve learned to place the ball where I want to set up a point,” he said.

Will Black and Will Rhodes gained valuable experience going to the state tournament and will be an asset to the team next year, Sutto said.

“Will Black might be one of the top freshmen this program has ever seen,” he said.

Black played tennis when he was younger, but quit for two years to play baseball and basketball, starting back up just six months ago. In that time, he’s refined his top spin forehand and enjoyed hanging out with the team.

“My goal is to try my hardest and try to win as much as possible,” he said. “I’m happy that our team – especially our seniors – made it to states. Not many people were aware of how well the team was doing until we went to states.”

With a lot of energy, Rhodes was on a search for a sport he liked. Then, he took a tennis class.

“I fell in love with it,” he said. “It’s a mind game. You have to be in the moment and play your game and not worry about anyone else.”

With a strong forehand and control over the ball, Rhodes said he can hit the ball where he wants. This summer, he’ll begin running and doing conditioning for cross country – which will benefit him when tennis starts up again next year.

Many of the players who started on the varsity lineup didn’t get serious about tennis until eighth or ninth grade, Sutto said.

“If you have decent eye-hand coordination and can run, our coaching staff can make you a good player,” he said.

For youths interested in learning how to play tennis, the Anthony Wayne Youth Tennis program is offering lessons each summer for ages 6-13. While registration is closed for this season, Sutto offers clinics and private lessons for members and nonmembers at Fallen Timbers Family Recreation Club.

“It really sets the foundation for learning things like correct grip and strokes before developing bad habits that are hard to break,” Sutto said.

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