PUEBLO — In reality, Niwot's Class 4A boys tennis championship hopes were pretty simple. With three positions advancing to finals, the main priority was getting wins in No. 1 and No. 3 singles. That was going to be enough.
Luke Weber took care of No. 3 singles as he was the first match off the court during Saturday's finals at Pueblo City Park. For the rest of the afternoon it was Cheyenne Mountain and Mullen jockeying for position with hopes of coming out on top.
The Cougars just needed the hammer to drop. And when the hammer is defending No. 1 singles champion Neil Wilcox, it's going to drop hard.
Just like he did a year ago, Wilcox dropped the first set but rallied to beat Greeley West sophomore Nico Jamison to give himself a second individual title while also giving Niwot its first boys tennis championship in program history. Cheyenne Mountain and Mullen ended tied for second.
"I had no idea until I walked off the court after my match," Wilcox said. "Everyone was screaming and I just looked at them and asked what happened. When they told me, I couldn't believe it."
Wilcox's second title looked nearly identical to his first. Jamison took the first set in a tiebreaker, but Wilcox rallied and dominated the last two to win the match 6-7, 6-1, 6-2. Jamison had reached last year's 5A semifinals an dbeat Mullen's Mac Caldwell in the 4A semis Saturday morning to advance to his match against Wilcox.
After battling heavey through the first two sets, Jamison started dealing with a leg cramp that clearly bothered him in the third and final set. But he never once thought of quitting. Although Wilcox and Jamison have known each other for a long time, the now two-time champ has more respect for the Greeley West sophomore than he did a day ago.
"It was incredible," Wilcox said. "It takes amazing spirit to be out there, win the first set and then start cramping. A lot of people would have quit. That's tough to deal with mentally."
As the boys all players took turns hold the team trophy and recounting the experience of the week, and even the season overall, coach Mikka Keronen couldn't help but let his emotions show through his sunglasses and mask. He's spent years coaching the boys through good and bad trips to state and couldn't be happier for the kids that got to share in the experience of bringing a school its first state title.
And while the day ended with cheers around Wilcox's second title, Keronen was quick to point out just how much Weber's win meant to the whole experience.
"I think Luke was our biggest surprise," Keronen said. "He's a very good No. 3 and he just needed to get a little bigger and stronger and he'll be a great singles player next year."
As is tradition at each state tournament, the Vicky Matarrazo Sportsmanship Award was also handed out to acknowledge the team with standout sportsmanship through the course of the event. This year's recipient was Durango who despite only winning a match in two positions on Friday, showed respect to each opponent and gratitude toward tournament staff and tournament director Ed Francis.