By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
CEDAR RAPIDS – Cole Schneider and Jack Wenzel made a few changes after dropping the opening set of their state quarterfinal doubles match on Friday.
The West High doubles tandem got more aggressive, did a better job setting up shots for each other and made a few more returns.
None of that is what turned the match around for Scheider and Wenzel.
All it was a little change in attitude.
“It was just a mindset honestly,” Wenzel said. “The first set we went down 5-3 and we were kind of out of it. The second set we just didn’t want to lose this match, it’s Cole’s senior year, it’s his last chance we lost to these guys earlier in the year we wanted this match.”
Schneider and Wenzel rallied from a 6-3 loss in the opening set to earn a 3-6, 6-1, 7-5 win over the second-seeded Linn-Mar tandem of Lucas Huffman and Ben Hediger on the opening day of the Class 2A state doubles tournament at Veterans Memorial Tennis Center in Cedar Rapids.
The win avenged a 6-2, 6-4 regular season loss to Huffman and Hediger and sends Wenzel and Schneider back to the state semifinals for the second straight season.
“Past experience really helped with that big moment,” Schneider said. “We knew what we had to do to win in that situation and I think that was really key today.”
The defending 2A runners-up, Schneider and Wenzel cruised to a 6-1, 6-0 win over the Waukee team of Nick Weyers and Grant Roszhart in the opening round on Friday.
Things got significantly tougher in a hurry against the Linn-Mar tandem that opened with an emphatic 6-3 win in the opening set.
Schneider and Wenzel responded quickly with their own impressive win a 6-1 triumph in the second set.
“In doubles the more aggressive team is going to win,” West High coach Mitch Gross said. “If you dictate you have a good shot and if you get dictated to you are not going to win and I thought the first set we got dictated to, the second set we dictated.”
West High appeared to have control of the third set, opening up a 5-2 lead but Huffman and Hediger battled back to tie it at 5-5.
Schneider and Wenzel made the big plays late to take the final two games and return to the state semifinals where they will face the third-seeded Mason City team of Josh VandenBerg and Nicholas Matthews.
“Give credit to Linn-Mar because at 5-2 they could have just rolled over and they didn’t they dug in,” Gross said. “I thought that was a very telling point about there team that they didn’t quit but my guys didn’t buckle either.”
The win improved Schneider and Wenzel to 16-2 on the season and marked the second straight season the doubles duo avenged a regular season loss at state.
“We are really close and we’ve worked hard to get better as the season went on,” Wenzel said. “Today, we didn’t crack under pressure, that was key.”
The doubles win capped a strong opening day for West High as top-seeded senior Jiung Jung kept his drive for a third consecutive singles title alive with a pair of straight set wins.
Jung defeated North Scott senior Teddy Weaver 6-1, 6-0 in the opening round and downed Pleasant Valley senior Sriram Sugumaran 6-4, 6-2 in the quarterfinals.
The senior will face No. 4 seed Timothy Ellis of Ames in the semifinals on Saturday at 10 a.m.
“We’d be lying to say he doesn’t feel the pressuring of trying to become a three-time champion, it’s the elephant in the room,” Gross said. “There is no one at this facility that understands that pressure because no one has experienced it.”
Jung was pushed in his quarterfinal with Sugumaran who entered 22-1 with his lone loss coming to defending 2A runner-up Joe Hoff of City High.
Sugumaran led the opening set 3-0 before Jung made a few adjustments during the change over.
“At the beginning Sriram was playing really well, it wasn’t even that I was playing poorly those first few games were all just a credit to Sriram,” Jung said. “I think how I was able to turn it around after talking to Coach (Randy) Dolson and Coach Gross they told me to mix it up a little bit and bring a little variety to the court.”
Jung rallied to win the opening set 6-4 and moved on the semifinals for the fourth time in his career with a 6-2 win in the second.
“From a mental stand point I have progressed this year,” Jung said. “I think two weeks ago if I would been down 3-0 it would have been easy for me to fall apart. I went through some mental reconditioning with my coaches and I think that was key today.”