West Iron Adds 13th Tennis Finals Title in Near Sweep

By Matt McCarthy
Special for Second Half

June 3, 2021

KINGSFORD —West Iron County, with its senior-heavy roster, won every flight but one in dominating the MHSAA Upper Peninsula Division 2 boys tennis championships Thursday afternoon at the Kingsford High School Tennis Facility.

The event, which was hosted by Iron Mountain, was held at various courts in the Iron Mountain-Kingsford area. 

The lone flight not won by the Wykons was No. 1 doubles, claimed by Garrett Mann and Ryan Lafountain of the runner-up Ishpeming Westwood Patriots. David Juul of Iron Mountain gave eventual No. 1 singles champ Nolan Anderson another of the best challenges.

West Iron finished with 23 points, followed by Westwood with 13, the host Mountaineers in third with 10 points, Ishpeming with seven points and Gwinn with three. 

"You come into these type tournaments, and every school has at least one strength throughout the flights," said veteran West Iron head coach Joe Serbentas. "We've been steady and deep throughout the lineup all season. We've never had as strong of a performance in UPs as we did today, as long as I have been coaching." 

West Iron County tennisThat’s saying a lot. West Iron has won 13 Finals championships total, including seven under Serbentas’ leadership. The Wykons had most recently won in 2018, after two straight runner-up finishes and before finishing runner-up again in 2019. Last season was canceled due to COVID-19.

With 10 seniors, Serbentas expected his team to fare well again in the event. Anderson won No. 1 singles, Mitch Ballinger took No. 2, Alex Wickstrom won No. 3 and Drew Alexa won No. 4 singles. 

In the doubles flights, Lucas Isaacson and Cole Alexa won No. 2, No. 3 winners were Lucas Shovald and Colton Holm, and Justin Nelson and Andy Fredrickson won No. 4 doubles. The Wykons’ victories were mostly by significant margins as well. 

Anderson, who lost only one match all season, was happy with winning UPs as a senior.

"This is a good way to go out,” he said. “I have never won UPs before. So I am glad I could do it.”

PHOTOS: (Top) West Iron County’s Nolan Anderson sends back a volley during one of his matches Thursday at No. 1 singles. (Middle) West Iron celebrates its Division 2 championship, the 13th Finals title in program history. (Photos by Matt McCarthy.)

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

By Jerry DeRoche
Special for MHSAA.com

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.)