Senior Grant Dahlsten grew up around the Hesston tennis program, trailing his older brothers, Drew and Dean, along with their father, Mark, the Swathers’ coach.
Dahlsten saw firsthand the success of the program, but also knew his dad’s teams had finished second in state eight times with no championships.
Saturday, Dahlsten helped lead Hesston to its first Class 3-2-1A team title in his father’s 28 seasons and the program’s first since 1987. Hesston scored 41 points, edging second-place Collegiate by a point and defending champion Kansas City Christian by two points.
“To be perfectly honest, winning a state title has been my dream since I was a kid,” Dahlsten said as he held the first-place trophy at Emporia High. “Part of it is competition with my two brothers who played before me; I wanted to one-up them.
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“… Having my dad as the coach has made it all the sweeter. This is my first, this is his first. It’s picture perfect.”
Hesston, which beat Collegiate for the regional title by percentage points in a tiebreaker, didn’t have a champion in singles or doubles. The Swathers’ top finishers were Isaac Penner, who finished fourth in singles, and the doubles team of Dahlsten and Garrett Roth, who were also fourth.
KC Christian won the singles title as Johnny Goodwin won his third championship with a 6-1, 6-1 win over Sacred Heart’s Stratton Brown in a rematch of 2014. KC Christian also won in doubles with Jack Kartsonis and Jackson VandeArk beating Central Plains’ Layne Beiberle-Michael Ryan 1-6, 6-2, 6-1.
“It’s just awesome,” said Goodwin, who has signed with Texas, of winning three. “I was coming into the season hoping to get this third one. I was injured coming into it. I’m glad I could bounce back and help out my team here.”
Goodwin, who lost in the title match as a sophomore to Independent’s Jake Norman, played one match before regionals because of a back injury and finished the season at 9-0.
Due to possible poor weather, Saturday’s semifinals were bumped up an hour to 8 a.m., and there was a condensed wait between matches.
Collegiate’s doubles team of Mubasshir Karim and Ben Murphy finished third, beating Dahlsten-Roth 6-3, 2-6, 6-4.
“We played very well, we hustled, everybody gave extended effort, everybody won matches,” Collegiate coach Dave Hawley said. “This is a team with five freshmen and sophomores. I do think it’s fitting that our highest finish (included) a senior (Karim).”
Karim and Murphy finished fifth at regionals. The doubles teams at the Hesston regional finished third through seventh in 3-2-1A.
Independent freshman Wonjoon Cho took third in singles, beating Penner 6-4, 6-4.
“I persevered,” Cho said. “It was pretty tough for me to stay in that long.… I think I got a lot of balls back, which was very helpful.”
The losses in the third-place matches hurt Penner, Dahlsten and Roth.
“In my last match, I was losing pretty bad, and coach walked over and told me we had locked it up,” Penner said. “I kind of relaxed. I didn’t win, but it made it a lot less painful to lose that match.
“The ultimate goal coming in was obviously winning a team title. Whatever I could do for the team would help. Knowing that we had secured that was pretty sweet.”
The Swathers also got a fifth-place singles finish by Collin Martin and a 10th-place doubles finish by Gus Williams-Daniel Holthus.
“We were talking as a staff, everything had to break right for us, and it did,” Mark Dahlsten said. “It started in the seeding meeting. We needed a coin flip to go a certain way, and it did.… Our kids just came to play. They played good. We beat the people we needed to beat. Some other schools knocked some people out off of (KC Christian) and Collegiate, who are both fantastic.”
Team — 1. Hesston 41, 2. Collegiate 40, 3. KC Christian 39, 4. Hutchinson Trinity 19, 5. (tie) Salina Sacred Heart, Central Plains 18, 7. Independent 16, 8. Sterling 14, 9. Chaparral 9, 10. Southwestern Heights 8, 11. (tie) Conway Springs, Scott City, Marysville 7, 14. Norwich 5, 15. Leavenworth Immaculata, 16. (tie) Hoisington, WaKeeney 2, 18. Kingman 1.
1. Johnny Goodwin, KC Christian, dec. Stratton Brown, Sacred Heart, 6-1, 6-1. 3. Wonjoon Cho, Independent, dec. Isaac Penner, Hesston, 6-4, 6-4. 5. Collin Martin, Hesston, def. Lakeline Conrad, Collegiate (6-6, retired). 7. Shawn Nulik, Chaparral, dec. Victor Cheng, Hutchinson Trinity, 9-7. 9. Easton Ewy, Collegiate, dec. Grant Bellar, Conway Springs, 9-4. 11. Davis Roe, Norwich, dec. Kyler Comley, Sterling, 9-7.
Semifinals — Brown, Sacred Heart, dec. Cho, Independent, 6-4, 6-2; Goodwin, KC Christian, dec. Penner, Hesston, 6-1, 6-0.
1. Alex Kartsonis-Jackson Vanderark, KC Christian, dec. Layne Bieberle-Michael Ryan, Central Plains, 1-6, 6-2, 6-1. 3. Mubasshir Karim-Ben Murphy, Collegiate, dec. Grant Dahlsten-Garrett Roth, Hesston, 6-3, 2-6, 6-4. 5. Dominic DeLuca-Nathaniel Clennan, Hutchinson Trinity, dec. Henry Weiner-Cameron Fair, Sterling, 9-5. 7. Matt Regehr-Austin Gartner, Collegiate, dec. Richard Navarette-Ashton Lee, Southwestern Heights, 9-8 (9-7). 9. Dylan Hutchins-Bo Hess, Scott City, dec. Gus Williams-Daniel Holthus, Hesston, 9-8 (7-4). 11. Tommy McNish-Zach Pieschl, Marysville, dec. Adam Habib-Hunter Patten, Leavenworth Immaculata, 9-7.
Semifinals — Kartsonis-Vanderark, KC Christian, dec. Dahlsten-Roth, Hesston, 6-1, 6-2; Bieberle-Ryan, Central Plains, dec. Karim-Murphy, Collegiate, 6-2, 6-2.