Final Match Decides UP D2 Champions

May 28, 2015

By Craig Remsburg
Special for Second Half

NEGAUNEE — It came down to the last match of the day.

Iron Mountain needed a win at No. 1 doubles to forge a tie with Westwood for the Upper Peninsula Division 2 boys tennis title.

Coach Greg Stegall’s Mountaineers got what they wanted.

Iron Mountain’s Danny Willman and Jordan Wadge outlasted Munising’s Joel Werner and Nick Cercone in a grueling match, 4-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-4, to compile 13 team points for a share of the division crown with defending champion Westwood.

“I’m really happy,” Stegall said. “We didn’t come in here as the favorite to win, but everything went well for us and other teams had some upsets.

“My No. 1 doubles had to win that match, my No. 4 doubles (Mark Koeschner and Jake LeFebre) winning was the biggest surprise and my No. 3 singles (Tyson Wadge) winning was huge for him. He had lost to his opponent (Brett Fredrickson of Westwood) twice this season and wasn’t looking forward to meeting him.”

The Mountaineers’ Willman said he and Wadge were “very consistent” in their match, save for the first set.

“(Munising) was returning everything and we knew we had to work harder,” Willman said.

Added Wadge: “Coach (Stegall) told us to take it slower, keep the ball in play and let them make mistakes.”

Like Iron Mountain, Westwood placed four flights in the finals. The Patriots won two of them.

“I’m really proud of the guys,” said Westwood coach Chris Jackson. “I didn’t know how things would pan out going in, but overall, the team did well.

“This was the most balanced division since I’ve been here (six years). Every flight had a definite favorite with no trend(s).

“Depth led us,” he added. “There was only one flight where we took a zero.”

Westwood has now won three of the last four division titles, two outright.

Jake Kerkela of Westwood captured the No. 4 singles crown, 6-1, 6-1, over Munising’s Jared Immel. It was the sophomore Kerkela’s first title in this, his first season, on the varsity.

“My serve was good today,” he said. “I tried to keep the ball alive and not get too crazy.”

Brandon Benda and Hunter Roose — who won last year’s No. 4 doubles championship — gave the Patriots their other triumph, at No. 3 doubles over West Iron County’s Kevin Ballinger and Tyler McCarthy, 6-3, 6-0.

“(West Iron) played the alleys well,” Roose said, “so we adjusted by moving toward the alleys more.”

Added Benda: “We took control in the second set. We placed our shots well, got to the net and spiked the ball.”

Claiming the No. 1 singles championship was Micah Heath of Gwinn. He beat Munising’s Joel Schramm, 6-3, 6-3; Schramm was trying to become the Mustangs’ third straight winner in the flight. Noah Ackerman had won two straight. 

“From Day 1 (this season), my goal was to win the U.P.’s” Heath said Thursday. “I’ve been trying since my freshman year and now, I’ve reached my goal. This is icing on the cake.”

Heath said his strategy was to “be consistent and keep my head in the zone.” 

“I get frustrated when things don’t go my way,” he said.

That wasn’t the case Thursday, as Heath overcame an early bout of nerves to largely control his match. 

“I was a little nervous early, but then I hit a couple of points and some confidence set in,” he said. 

“At the beginning of the second set, I won two straight games to go up 2-1, and the momentum started going my way.”

Gwinn coach Dan Turecky said Heath’s “control of the play” was the difference in the match.

“Micah was mentally tough and confident,” the coach said. “That was the difference in the match. I’m so proud of him.” 

Said Munising coach Rod Gendron: “Micah’s the best player in the U.P. He played great today.”

Munising’s lone win came at No. 2 doubles, where Mikey Graves and Ian McInnis knocked off Jake Kierzek and Nathen Nelson of Westwood, 1-6, 6-3, 6-3. 

“We were down many times, but we stayed together,” Graves said. “We started playing with each other and not as individuals.

Added McInnis: “We weren’t really focused in the first set, but the last two sets, we were ready." 

Munising placed four flights in the finals, but won just the one.

“I’m extremely happy with four flights in the finals,” Gendron commented. “My guys left it all on the court.” 

Ishpeming picked up a win at No. 2 singles, where Cody Johnson beat Iron Mountain’s Luke Truscott, 6-2, 6-1. 

“I was really nervous coming in,” Johnson said. “I started off slow, but took control the beginning of the second set. My serve has always been good. 

“It’s crazy. (Winning a U.P. individual title) is not done very often at Ishpeming. It has been an exciting year.”

Said Ishpeming coach Erl Langness: “Cody has been consistent all year. Whether he wins or loses, he puts forth the same effort.”

Johnson has the distinction of participating in MHSAA Finals play in football, wrestling and tennis this school year. 

"I couldn’t ask for anything more,” he said.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Iron Mountain's Tyson Wadge returns the ball to Westwood's Brett Fredrickson during the championship match at No. 3 singles at the MHSAA Upper Peninsula Division 2 Final held at Negaunee High School on Thursday. Wadge prevailed, 6-0, 6-0.  (Middle) Gwinn's Micah Heath earned the No. 1 singles flight championship at the U.P. Division 2 Final. (Photos by Elizabeth Bailey.)

West Iron Makes Every Point Count Winning Finals Title by Slimmest of Margins

By Jerry DeRoche
Special for

May 30, 2024

KINGSFORD – After a two-year absence, the West Iron County Wykons returned to the top of Division 2 boys tennis in the Upper Peninsula on Wednesday with their razor-thin victory over host Iron Mountain and 2023 champion Ishpeming at Kingsford High School.

With two flight championships and four runner-up finishes, West Iron County recorded 14 points compared to 13 for Iron Mountain and 12 for Ishpeming.

Junior No. 2 singles player Zander Birmingham and the No. 3 doubles duo of senior Ethan Isaacson and junior Keenan Dobson-Donati led the Wykons to their first team championship since 2021.

Second-year coach Jim Anderson was effusive in his praise for his squad.

“I’m thrilled beyond words,” Anderson said. “They put in a lot of work this season and had a ton of commitment, and that showed on the court today. They played with a ton of heart and a lot of grit, and they dug deep for the win.”

Birmingham rolled to his second U.P. championship after having won the title at No. 4 singles in 2023, losing just two games in his two matches on Wednesday, both to Munising’s Levi Westcomb in the final.

“To move up from (No. 4) singles to (No.2) singles and still have the same success means a lot to me,” Birmingham said. “I’m very, very excited and just proud of myself in general.”

At No. 3 doubles, Issacson and Dobson-Donati earned a bye into the second round, then won by forfeit in the semifinals before fighting off Iron Mountain’s Ben Truong and Carter Kassin 6-4, 7-5 in the final.

“Two of the hardest-working kids on the court,” Anderson said of his No. 3 doubles pairing. “Ethan’s a senior and one of the leaders on the team this year, and Keenan’s been moving up the ranks. They had a goal in mind today, and they achieved it.”

In the top flights, Munising’s Carson Kienitz recorded his third U.P. title – his first in singles – by defeating West Iron County’s Caleb Strom 6-4, 6-1 at No. 1, while Iron Mountain’s brother tandem of Reece and Oskar Kangas knocked off Hunter Smith and Caden Luoma 7-5, 6-2 at No. 1 doubles.

Iron Mountain senior Reece Kangas lines up a forehand shot during the No. 1 doubles championship decider.Kienitz, a two-time U.P champion at No. 1 doubles, scuffled a bit early in his match against Strom but rolled to the victory once he got going.

“Pretty much every match that I’ve played I start out really slow and I lose the first couple of games,” the 6-foot-4 junior said. “But I start to learn my opponent and I get in my groove, and I’m able to climb back up and finish it.”

Kienitz did so Wednesday against Strom, who came into the tournament as the No. 1 seed and had defeated Kienitz in their previous two matches.

“I knew he hits it really hard, and he’s a good player,” Kienitz said of Strom. “But instead of playing his game and hitting the ball back hard and making mistakes, I was just playing my game and hitting to his backhand and pushing the net.”

In the top doubles flight, the Kangas brothers also started slowly in the final but won 13 of the final 18 games to record their first U.P. title in their only attempt.

Reece said he had to convince his 6-foot-6 brother Oskar, an all-U.P. Dream Team selection in basketball, to take up tennis this season.

“I definitely had to talk him into it,” said Reece, who played singles his previous seasons. “He was thinking of doing some other sports and I told him, ‘If you and me play doubles this year, it will be a year to remember, especially for me in my senior year.”

To close out their “year to remember,” the Kangas brothers needed to gain some revenge on Smith and Luoma, who had won the previous matchup in the Mid-Peninsula Conference championship.

“We knew it would be tough, they are a quick team and they retrieve a lot, so it’s hard to score on them,” Oskar said of the Ishpeming pair. “But we had a sense of urgency today. It was our last (match) no matter what, so we wanted to go out with a big win.”

The Mountaineers posted two other flight championships. Freshman Braden Kassin outlasted West Iron County’s Dominick Brunswick 7-6, 7-6 at No. 3 singles, and freshman Malakai Broersma fought back to upend West Iron’s James White 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 at No. 4 singles.

Ishpeming won the other two flights. Hayden Hares and Tramon Gauthier knocked off Iron Mountain’s Geno Schinderle and Dylan Lindgren 6-4, 6-4 at No. 2 doubles, while Adam Maki and Ethan Corp topped West Iron’s Jackson Secord and Matthew Swenski 6-3, 6-3 at No. 4 doubles.

PHOTOS (Top) Munising's Carson Kienitz returns a serve during the No. 1 singles championship match at the MHSAA U.P. Division 2 Final on Wednesday in Kingsford. (Middle) Iron Mountain senior Reece Kangas lines up a forehand shot during the No. 1 doubles championship decider. (Photos by Sean Chase.)