GRAND RAPIDS – Austin King would have been hard-pressed four months ago to come up with a single word which would aptly describe his coming junior season.
But now the Midland Dow No. 1 singles player has one.
King finished off a perfect season by defeating Drew Hackney of Muskegon Mona Shores 6-2, 6-3, at Saturday's Lower Peninsula Division 2 Boys Tennis Finals at the Grand Rapids Racquet and Fitness Club. The win capped a stunning performance by Midland Dow that included sweeping all four singles flights en route to 29 total points, five better than runner-up Birmingham Seaholm.
King, who boosted his career record to 99-12 over three seasons, never lost a single set in any of his 37 wins this fall. The championship erases some of the frustration from a year ago when King lost in the semifinals to finish 34-5.
"I definitely put the work in over the summer, so I knew it was possible," King said. "Winning state has always been a dream of mine."
The team title by unbeaten Midland Dow, ranked No. 1 in the state for most of the season, was the eighth in 17 seasons and second straight for coach Terry Schwartzkopf. In all, Dow had five flights reach championship matches, a feat which didn't necessarily come as a surprise. Dow has seven seniors and all but three players back from the 2022 Division 2 champion.
Mattawan was third this weekend with 22 points, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern was fourth with 19 and Birmingham Groves was fifth with 18.
While Schwartzkopf said every team is different, the current club was marked by a terrific senior class.
"I know we have kids who have as good of records as we've had, but I knew I could count on these guys, no matter the situation," he said.
As for King, Schwartzkopf said it's pure drive which makes him successful.
"He's got the experience, the drive, the determination," Schwartzkopf said. "When he was in middle school, he came up to me and said (his teammates) would bring a state title to Dow."
Joining King as flight champs were teammates Aaron Li at No. 2 singles, Logan Yu at third singles and Nimai Patel at No. 4. Li defeated Mason Crosby of South Lyon East 6-4, 6-1, while Yu downed Gerritt Cheng of Mattawan 7-6, 6-1, and Patel knocked off Dylan Hodgman of Mattawan 6-4, 6-1.
In doubles, Dow had one duo make the finals. But Mattawan's Andrew Williams and Tanner Segraves defeated Dow's Roofy Elsaadamy and Vishagan Karthikeyan 2-6, 7-5, 6-4 in the No. 1 flight.
While Schwartzkopf praised his singles teams, it was the strength of the doubles flights which helped the Chargers finish on top. Dow's third and fourth doubles teams made the quarterfinals and semifinals.
"We didn't anticipate the doubles teams being as strong as they were," he said. "The singles flights didn't surprise me that much because we were all back in singles. But every team is special for different reasons. You have your ups and your falls, but we have a lot of senior leadership. They've been absolutely incredible and one of the coolest things I've experienced."
William Knoester and Alex Chen of Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central defeated Carson Wright and Sean Joyce of Seaholm 6-3, 6-3, to win the No. 2 doubles flight.
In the third doubles flight, Benji Cook and Nathan Lucken of Groves defeated Mohan Badhwar and Sammy Abdo of Seaholm 6-3, 6-3, in the final.
At No 4 doubles, Leo Kim and Finlay Sparby of Seaholm defeated Austin Rowland and Owen Godley of Forest Hills Central 6-4, 3-6, 7-6, in the final.
King said he wasn't put off by the pressure of being unbeaten as the season progressed.
"I like the pressure. As a No. 1 singles player, you want to be the best and to do that you have to beat the best," he said. "We knew there was a target on our back as a team, but we put in a lot of work over the summer."
Yu won his flight despite severe leg cramps during his second set. After winning the first 7-6, he took a 3-0 lead in the second set. But he was sidelined as doctors tried to get him ready to finish off the title.
"It was really tough," he said. "I won 7-6, but that was as tough as it could be. Garrett played well and I started to cramp up, but then I started to feel better."
(Click for more photos from High School Sports Scene.)
Join Elizabeth Coon as State Champs! takes a look at all of the action from the 2023 Lower Peninsula Boys Tennis Finals.