Westwood Outduels West Iron to 4-Peat

June 1, 2017

By Adam Niemi
Special for Second Half

KINGSFORD — Ishpeming Westwood coach Chris Jackson knew his team had to keep it simple to win the Upper Peninsula Division 2 title Wednesday.

The Patriots came out and did exactly that, winning six of eight flights for their fourth straight U.P. title.

“It feels awesome. Coming in, we knew it was going to be a real tight battle between us and West Iron,” Jackson said. “At the end, it turned into a virtual dual meet. We both had seven or eight finals. The difference was we won six of them.

“We were trying to find four wins in the finals,” Jackson added. “We had two that we felt pretty good about, and then there were a whole bunch of close ones. I think that’s exactly how it played out.”

Westwood’s 21 points was enough to clear Iron River West Iron County (16), which also put six flights in the finals. Iron Mountain placed third with seven points.

Jacob Kerkela’s win in No. 2 singles sealed the team win for the Patriots.

Iron Mountain’s Tysen Wadge beat West Iron’s Neil Tomasoski in No. 1 singles (6-1, 6-2) for his third U.P. individual title.

West Iron County’s lone finals win came at No. 1 doubles when Brandon Henschel and Kevin Ballinger beat Westwood’s Austin Pierpont and Dylan Willey, 6-2, 2-6, 6-2. The Patriots swept the rest of the finals.

Jackson said there was no secret weapon in terms of performance. The players just had to stay in the moment.

“It’s hard in these situations. Everybody thinks you have to play your best tennis, you have to do all this, but the question is how do you get there? We keep things simple; there’s not a lot of pressure on these kids,” Jackson said. “Everybody wants to do well on a day like this. I think it’s doing the simple things, taking care of things that you have control over.

“A day like this can really get away from you when you start worrying about things that are going on on a different court, or a different site than just focusing on what you need to do.”

Iron Mountain coach Sharon Ducat said she expected West Iron County and Westwood to square off for the U.P. title. Her team, meanwhile, was steady but not as solid.

“We did OK. We are kind of a middle-of-the-pack team,” Ducat said. “We had a win at No. 1 singles, which was great. I’m really happy for Tysen for that.”

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PHOTOS: (Top) Ishpeming Westwood poses with its trophy after winning its fourth straight MHSAA Finals title. (Middle) Iron Mountain’s Tysen Wadge returns a volley during his championship match at No. 1 singles. (Photos by Adam Niemi.)

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.)