The gold standards are in plain view for anyone standing on the west side of Warren’s Almond Road campus tennis courts, and they are elevated high enough that not even Kristiyan Trukov can touch them with an outstretched arm.
Trukov’s high school coach, Greg Cohen, is standing below.
Attached to a fence are several “Warren gold” metal banners, including one each for Dennis Nevolo and Denis Bogatov, that recognize the All-American status each Blue Devil achieved in 2006 and 2008, respectively.
With all due respect to the Devils’ devilishly good Dennis-and-Denis duo and their weather-resistant banners, Cohen boldly makes this statement:
“I would call Kristiyan Trukov the best Warren tennis player ever,” Cohen says.
Say what, Coach?
Cohen raises his index finger and begins to clarify. He is not guilty of hyperbole.
“The best tennis player to ever play here was Dennis Nevolo,” Cohen claims. “The most accomplished player that ever played here was Bogatov — (state) champion, third (at state) and third (at state). But those guys were great tennis players before they played at Warren. Kristiyan has played with us, traveled with us, taught our little kids. He’s more of a Warren kid.”
Just being mentioned in the same breath as Nevolo and Bogatov flatters the 6-foot-3 Trukov, who on Wednesday signed a letter of intent to play tennis for Marquette University in Milwaukee.
“I’ve been chasing a bunch of their records,” the Division I-bound senior says. “It’s just a great honor to be even compared to some of those guys that have went big in tennis.”
Cohen’s program, since 1998, boasts 20 different players (seven singles, 13 doubles) — including Trukov, his big brother Nikola and a trio of Morans (Sean, Josh, Keith) — who have earned all-state honors. And yet, it’s Kristiyan Trukov who could graduate with more wins than any of them.
A state qualifier since his freshman year and a two-time all-state selection, he had 101 victories coming into this season.
“He understands the game very well,” Cohen says. “All the credit for Kristiyan’s success goes to him because of how hard he works.”
Cohen has witnessed Trukov’s growth, from a boy three years ago to, today, a giant among his teammates.
When he arrived at Warren as a freshman, Trukov stood about 5 feet 7. Today, he’s a towering presence whose game is still growing.
“Probably last year I shot up a good 5-6 inches,” Trukov says. “Physically, I’ve come a long way (since freshman year). I’ve gotten the experience of playing matches, and I’ve just worked on my game.”
“When he was a little kid, he had to compete,” Cohen says. “As he’s become a big kid and gotten some more weapons, he’s kept in mind how he had to compete when he was a little kid. That’s what’s so cool.”
Equally neat about Trukov is that it’s been only the last couple of years that he’s had private lessons. Aaron Rusnak is the teaching pro at College Park Athletic Club who works with Warren’s No. 1 singles player.
“He’s done just an awesome job with him,” Cohen says of Rusnak. “Kristiyan has taken a giant step up.”
“Now,” Trukov says, “I’m playing catch-up with all of these others kids that have had privates since they were like 8. I’m finally getting there. My forehand is as good as I could want it to be. My serve is as good as I could want it to be right now. I just need to work on my backhand.”
The work doesn’t scare Trukov, who wouldn’t mind following up last year’s top-12 finish at state by joining Nevolo and Bogatov as Warren’s only state champs. He looks forward to showcasing his work ethic at Marquette, where Cohen thinks his star will thrive hitting daily with great players.
“I really like the balance of how good (Marquette) is academically and athletically,” Trukov says. “I visited, I liked the team, and their level of tennis fits me perfectly to motivate me to get better and better because I’m obviously not going to go there and play (No.) 1 (singles). I’m going to go there and probably be bottom half of their lineup and try to work myself up sophomore and junior years. I like the challenge and I like the city.”
Milwaukee should love Warren’s best.
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