Game, Set, Gurnee

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

December 16, 2011

The highlight of Jonathan Gurnee's tennis season, without question, was helping Midland Dow to a third-straight MHSAA Division 2 championship.
But setting the state record for career singles wins was a close second.

Playing the No. 2 singles slot in Dow’s lineup, Gurnee tied another state record with 41 victories on the way to winning the Division 2 championship at his flight. He finished his final high school season with 141 wins, topping the previous leaders by 15.
Gurnee found out at the end of his junior season how many wins he needed to break the record. By midway through this fall, his teammates were asking regularly how many more it would take.
“It was nice because I could tell the team cared. But it’s just another record to go down for Dow High,” Gurnee said. “The whole thing was really the team, I think. I just enjoyed the team record. I did win individually. But really, over everything, (the team Finals win) was the greatest accomplishment.”

Gurnee played No. 4 singles his first two seasons of high school before moving to No. 3 as a junior and No. 2 this fall. He also won an MHSAA championship at No. 4 as a sophomore, while finishing runner-up in his flights the other two seasons. He was 32-6 as a freshman, followed by 36-2, 32-2 and then 41-1 this season for a career record of 141-11.
Gurnee credited Dow coach Terry Schwartzkopf for not only scheduling a full load over the last four years, but also a strong group of opponents. Dow regularly plays many of the state’s elite.
And Gurnee’s improvements on the court came parallel to steps he was taking within the structure of the team. He went from talking mostly to classmate Santi Guerra the first season to being named co-captain with Guerra this fall.
“I started as a freshman, and I was pretty quiet on the team. My brother (JP) was on the team as a junior, and he led the path for me,” Jonathan Gurnee said. “As the years progressed, I became more open to everybody, more into the positive camaraderie, and my junior and senior years I started leading the team in conditioning.
“It was an evolution, but probably a maturing thing too. I got some great leadership opportunities."
That showed through at the start of this season when Gurnee challenged for the No. 1 singles spot.
An elite and deep team like Dow generally has a few players who could occupy No. 1 singles for many teams. Gurnee challenged for Dow’s top position and lost a tight match to junior John Templeman. Because the score was so close, Gurnee could’ve asked for a rematch. He did not, feeling Templeman at No. 1 was the best situation for all involved.
And Gurnee still made the Michigan Interscholastic Tennis Coaches Association all-state team, one of three Dow singles players picked for the top 10 spots in Division 2.

"Jonathan is the All-American kid who fought for the success of his team. Along the way, he broke a few records," Dow coach Terry Schwartzkopf said. "Of course, we will miss his ability next year. But what I am going to miss most is his presence. He led by action and deed. He was the consummate captain. He epitomized Dow High tennis."

Gurnee also finished his career with 32 tournament championships, tops on that list, and 35 shutouts, second on the MHSAA list.
He is one of 11 Dow players whose accomplishments this season have been added to the MHSAA record book. Click to check out the full listings and directions for submitting others.

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.)