The team tournament semifinals are set, regionals are complete, and individual state draws have been released. It’s mid-October, which means the 2022 men’s tennis season is coming to an end. The team and individual titles will be claimed next week, and it looks like the most recent statewide results are a sign that things are getting tighter as teams reach the home stretch.
The tag team tournament has largely gone according to plan so far, according to the top seeds. Combining 5A and 4A, there have only been 2 upsets of the winning bottom seed in the 24 head-to-head matchups so far. It could mean more or less the same in the future, or maybe the upheavals are coming as the clashes get bigger. Before the individual state arrives on Thursday, we first need to see who will play in the inaugural team tournament final.
(1) Cherry Creek vs. (4) Fossil Ridge
No surprise in the 5A quarter-finals, since most of the favorites won by a margin. But with the top dogs coming out on top so far, it’s setting up some exciting semi-finals, starting with defending state champions Cherry Creek against perennial contender Fossil Ridge. The Bruins are yet to drop a line in the tag team tournament, and they’ll come into their matchup with the Sabercats with a decisive singles advantage. The trio of Aram Izmirian and the Kostadinov brothers is a tough challenge for Tyler Van Tassell, Andrew Roerty and Bennett Johnson. But Fossil’s strength has always been its doubles, and they may have to sweep Creek to those lines if they’re to prevent the Bruins from winning their 45th state title. Creek remains the title favorite for a reason, as beating them head-to-head still proves to be a daunting task for the rest of the state teams.
(2) Valor Christian vs. (3) Regis Jesuit
Valor managed to battle a pesky side from Fairview in the quarter-finals while Regis overtook Ralston Valley in a game closer than the scoreline would suggest. This sets up a matchup between the two teams that have been the biggest threats to Cherry Creek in recent years. But only one will be able to advance to the final, and Valor has a big advantage at 1 single as senior Christian Trevey looks set to challenge the best 5A has to offer the individual state. Freshman Clay Dickey has been fantastic all season battling the best of the best, but it’s 3 singles player Brady Jenkins who has the edge over Valor’s Mitchell Perez. If the singles finish 2-1, then the doubles could be even closer. These two teams both played in the Ralston Valley Invitational earlier this year and have close heads-ups, but the difference could be the late addition of Valor to their roster. Former 3 singles finalist Ryan Greenfield is back from injury to slip into 2 doubles behind a formidable 1 doubles team of Drew Schell and Graham Beukelman. The double top is why it looks like the Eagles could sneak past the Raiders and advance to the first team state bracket final.
(1) Kent Denver vs. (4) Colorado Academy
In 4A things seem to be a lot tighter than in 5A as most of the top teams have progressed, but there have been some serious nail biters. Kent Denver had beaten Niwot 7-0 just a week before their quarterfinal matchup, but the Cougars played inspired tennis and nearly shocked the tennis world in a narrow 3-4 loss. The Colorado Academy won the Mustangs’ battle against Mullen 5-2, and they’re setting up a big game between the Denver rivals. Kent has Title 1 singles favorite Nathan Gold, who is basically just a cheat code at this point as he dominates the majority of his matches. CA answered with Fabi Frenz at 2 singles, who was one of the top 2 singles players in the state for 4A and 5A. It will be up to senior Reed Haymons to claim the singles advantage for the Sun Devils. The doubles should also be tight as the Mustangs team of Charlie May and Michael McKee have already beaten Kent Denver once, but Kent has the 2 pair of doubles of Mareks Zeile and Jack Cramer for the perfect season as they remain undefeated, including including a win over Cherry Creek. Kent remains the favorite but CA has the firepower to pull off the upset.
(2) Cheyenne Mountain vs. (6) George Washington
Cheyenne had to fight their way past D’Evelyn 5-2, but the big stunner of the quarterfinals was that the GW Patriots took him to Denver South and avenged a loss earlier in the season. GW is firing on all cylinders right now and they have lines that could pose a big threat to red-tailed hawks. Ryan Hajek is a top 3 singles player in the state for GW, as is Carlisle Wright and Bryce Dilworth’s pair of 2-doubles. But while Cheyenne still has strong singles players, they might have the best doubles depth in the state, as Cameron Ford and Patrick Gibbs at 3 and Jake Schultz and Patrick Barker at 4 have been off all season. This one looks to be the closest of the four Semifinals, and while CM remains the favorite, don’t be surprised if the Patriots go back and stun another 4A powerhouse to advance to the Finals.
Individual Status Overview
After the team semifinals conclude on Tuesday, the individual state tournament begins on Thursday. Some of the biggest storylines revolve around 1 singles players trying to defend their titles. Cherry Creek’s Aram Izmirian will have his hands full at 5A, while Grandview’s Eduard Tsaturyan looks set to come to Colorado for his final year to steal the title. Don’t sleep on Valor’s Christian Trevey, who is playing outstanding tennis and could find himself facing Izmirian again in the semis after last year’s incredible semi-final match where Izmirian fought multiple match points in road to a title. I think any fans watching would happily sign up for another round.
Nathan Gold has sailed all season in his quest to repeat, something so rare to do as an underclassman. He’ll have to dodge the threat of Prospect Ridge’s Roee Sela on his half of the draw, which has pushed gold to regionals more than most all year. But the real lurking threat could be last year’s runner-up Aswaanth Karuppasamy of D’Evelyn, who appears to have returned to peak form just in time for a possible rematch in the Finals. Niwot’s Luke Weber will be looking to take it to the next level after pulling out in the semi-finals last year and perhaps pick up a second victory this season against Karuppasamy to secure his place in the final.
It wouldn’t be a state tournament without exciting 1st round matchups, as the draws always reward us with a few blockbusters from the start. Trevor Hajek and Daniel Smith should be an awesome 5A 1-single opener, and a Regis Jesuit vs Fossil Ridge 3-single showdown is something you rarely see before the semis. With a ton of great teams on the field like Arapahoe, Ralston Valley, Denver East, Fairview and more, 5A should be a wild ride as the tournament moves to City Park for the first time.
There are even better 1st round matchups at 4A, as the smaller gap between the top teams means too many important early games to cover. But the standouts are Roee Sela and Rafa Wieland at 1 singles, as either player could easily advance to the semis and push defending champion Gold. For the third time this year, we’ll have another epic Steven Zhou – Eric Pham match, as doubles team D’Evelyn 2 take on rival Colorado Academy in a rematch of what was an exceptional match the first time around. Throw in a Mullen vs GW 3 doubles match and there’s exciting tennis at every turn on every line in 4A. Outside of the 4 teams in the semis, look for Niwot, D’Evelyn, Mullen and Denver South to make a lot of noise in Pueblo as well.
While there are no more team points up for grabs at this year’s Individual State Title, you know that coaches and players will still add up those imaginary points to see where they all end up. But the final week has arrived, and we hope the sequel will be even more entertaining than anything we’ve seen so far. Good luck to all the boys this weekend!