Boys tennis: Hinsdale Central wins 25th state title
Hinsdale Central is the Class 2A state tennis champions. Again.
The Red Devils capped a magnificent spring season by overwhelming the field Saturday to outscore second place New Trier (49-29) and third place Barrington (26) to claim its 25th state title in program history, while adding four more state medals to give them a dazzling 165 since winning its first way back in 1949.
"It's great to be a state champion at singles, and a part of another team champion here at Hinsdale Central," said senior Mujtaba Ali-Kahn (22-1) who beat teammate Noah Hernandez (22-1) in straight sets, 6-2, 6-2 to claim the eighth singles title in program history, and first since Robert Schmelka did so in 2019.
"Noah and I have played plenty of epic matches, (but) the turning point in this one (was) in our first set when it was 4-2 (and deuce) and he began to cramp. If it goes to 4-3, maybe it's a different match after that, it was too bad that happened to him," added Ali-Kahn, who will next season at Purdue, with an eye on a career in medicine afterward.
Red Devils teammates Jai Vallurupalli and Anthony Lipari (18-1) lost a marathon three-set final to top seed Hersey (Mitch Sheldon-Kacper Pacielak, 29-0) to give the Huskies their first doubles state champion following its 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 victory before an inspired home crown in Arlington Heights.
Earlier, the Huskies dynamic duo needed three sets (3-6, 6-2, 6-2) to send 3-4 seed Alex Kotarski and James Therialult (19-1) into the third-place match where they beat New Trier (Will Feeley-Jack Rivkin) 7-5, 7-6 (4).
Michael Hand would lead his ESCC champions from Benet Academy to its best 1A state finish when his Redwings finished second to reigning state champion, Chicago Latin.
It might have been closer than the eventual 37-27 difference had the Redwings been able to stop doubles champions Will Benford and Sam Cutinho in the semifinals, and again in the doubles final when Noah Bobofchak and Andrew Donovan (22-3) came close to sending off their opponents during a two hour-plus final.
"We could both feel that third set slipping away. (We) lost our energy, and rhythm, and could never get it back," admitted Donovan, who along with Bobofchak looked sharp during the early stages of the third set, before nothing seemed to go right for the marvelous pair who last season were third-place state medal winners.
"We tightened up when it mattered most. (Couldn't) serve, or hit the shots we always do," added Bobofchak.
Two-seed John Yahiro and Patrick Burke (31-2) had their chance to pick off the state champions from Latin in their semifinal contest -- a match in which the Redwings looked to be in control of after a 6-4 first set victory, until dropping the next two sets, 7-5, 6-3.
"We had our chances to gain ground on Latin, but we were unable to (and) that final will obviously sting for awhile, but with that said, we had a great group of players, who had a great overall year, so we'll look to come back with a nice core of players next spring," said Hand.
Marmion freshman, Ben Graft (28-1) made history when the Cadets star singles player finished third overall in 1A singles play to become the first medal winner since 1953 when Ossie Ponce did so with his fifth-place finish.
Graft would fall in his semifinal to eventual state champion, Nicholas Patrick (Rock Island Alleman) but roar back to defeat Kiran Garapati (Latin) 7-6 (4), 7-6 (3).
"Patrick was a great player, who made all of his shots, and made it difficult for Ben because of his great first serves that set up points for him. (But) Ben enjoyed a great tournament, and showed he can play with everyone during his three days here," said a proud Cadets coach Brian Cole.
Jacobs senior Thomas Nelson fell short in his bid for a second consecutive state medal when eventual sixth-place winner, Pranav Gadiraju (Barrington, 27-6) beat the Marquette-bound Nelson (38-4) in his consolation semifinal, 6-3, 3-6, 11-9.
"Thomas was our first real star player to come to Jacobs, and since being here, he has been an incredible leader, superb player, and just a first class student-athlete who helped put Jacobs tennis on the map with his fine work, on and off the courts, to become the gold standard from here on out," said Jacobs coach Jon Betts.
Nelson won nearly 50 matches a year ago to help Jacobs to its best ever state finish as it tied with three others in fourth place.