Triton clinches 1st NSC title
BREMEN — This year’s Northern State Conference race was a fight to the finish.
The NSC tennis title boiled down to the last match of the tournament as Triton 2 doubles tandem Wil Rettinger and Jackson Downing handed Knox’s Joe Clabaugh and Cody Fletcher a split set, 6-2, 6-7(3), 6-2 defeat under the lights at DeSantis Courts in Bremen.
With a possible three-way tie hanging in the balance, the 2 doubles win clinched Triton a second-place finish at the tourney behind meet champion Bremen, good enough to cement the Trojans their first-ever Northern State Conference tennis title outright.
“It’s the first time ever that we’ve won the title,” said sixth-year Triton Head Boys Tennis Coach Allen Peckham. “Everybody I’ve talked to said they go to the gym and look up at the wall and say ‘We don’t have a banner up there yet.’ This will be a good one to put up there, and I’m proud of giving it to Triton.”
“We’re going to go to school and look up at the banner, and the first one is going to be the one that we won,” said Rettinger.
“I’m going to remember this forever,” said a smiling Downing.
The Trojans 2 doubles team realized the ramifications of their match after dropping the second set in a 7-3 tiebreaker. A Knox win in the third set would have meant a tournament tie between the Redskins and Triton and thus a three-way conference tie between the NSC rivals and tourney winner Bremen following a perfect 7-0 finish by the Trojans and respective 6-1 and 5-2 records by Knox and Bremen in round robin play.
“I told our guys that we needed every point we could get because it’s just so tight. I told them we probably had it clinched for a share, but if you want to win it outright you need to work,” said Peckham. “They buckled down and did really well there. We did really well at this tournament. Maybe we didn’t finish as well as I’d have liked, but we still did really well.”
“After the second set, Coach told us it was going to come down to us,” said Downing. “It really put the pressure on us, but I like being under pressure.”
“I felt like this needed to be just ours,” said Rettinger of the outright NSC crown.
“That match right there had we won it, we would’ve finished ahead of them and would have been co-conference champions, so that bit us,” said Knox head coach Mark Crom. “We’ve had several things happen with them that just bit us along the way. Our dual match, we had our 2 doubles boys up 5-2 and we lost a couple game points and end up losing the match there. Then we get into the conference tournament, we switched out one of our boys at 3 singles and end up drawing Triton’s number 2 seed. We had five game points and we lost all those. It was a freshman boy who played really tough for us. It’s just been a season full of whatever can happen to us-type of things. But we fought hard, and we had a shot at it, I guess.”
The positive for Knox is that they took home a pair of individual NSC titles at Monday’s meet as sophomore Davey Johnston beat Triton’s Jeff Ross 6-0, 6-2 for the 1 singles championship, and Austin Risner handed Triton’s Pete Kauffman a 6-1, 6-3 reprisal for the 2 singles championship.
“That’s the good news,” said Crom. “Our number one boy has never lost a conference match of any type, whether it was this year or last year, and then Austin Risner really came back and stepped it up at 2 singles. He lost to this kid 6-3, 6-2 in the past, and he turned it around.”
Bremen racked up 40 points at this year’s meet to win the tournament championship and tie with the Redskins for second place overall in the NSC after placing third in the final round robin standings.
Wes Burkholder won the Lions an individual title at 3 singles, while Austin Huff and T.J. Bayer and Nate Strehler and Joe Zeltwanger earned respective second-place finishes at 1 and 2 doubles, but head coach Andrew Rohde said that with such a balanced conference field, every point made a difference.
“It really was just a complete team effort because as I just told them if we lose any of those matches, we probably don’t win the tournament,” he said. “It was a team effort top to bottom. I know for instance 2 doubles was disappointed they didn’t win their flight, but beating Triton in the semifinals was huge because if we don’t win that we don’t win the tournament. Each individual match was really important, and our guys fought for everything, so I couldn’t be prouder of them. They’ve shown improvement throughout the season, and it culminated today.”
Jimtown finished fourth in the final NSC rankings, while New Prairie was fifth, John Glenn was sixth, and LaVille rounded out the conference standings.
• NORTHERN STATE
Championship: Davey Johnston (Knox) beat Jeff Ross (Triton) 6-0, 6-2
Davey Johnston (Knox) beat Briley Bollenbacher (Bremen) 5-7, 6-2, 6-4; Jeff Ross (Triton) beat Daryl Ralston (New Prairie) 6-1, 6-4; Dan Gongwer (Jimtown) beat Grant Frick (LaVille) 8-1; Briley Bollenbacher (Bremen) beat Daryl Ralston (New Prairie) 6-4, 6-2
Championship: Austin Risner (Knox) beat Pete Kauffman (Triton) 6-1, 6-3
Pete Kauffman (Triton) beat Brad Foster (Bremen) 6-2, 6-3; Austin Risner (Knox) beat Matt Winter (New Prairie) 6-3, 6-2; Nickolas Floyd (Jimtown) beat Drew Sheffer (Glenn) 8-0; Matt Winter (New Prairie) beat Brad Foster (Bremen) 6-4, 6-4
Championship: Wes Burkholder (Bremen) beat Lucas Shafer (Triton) 6-3, 6-0
Wes Burkholder (Bremen) beat Mark Cichos (New Prairie) 6-0, 6-2; Lucas Shafer (Triton) beat Jacob Gongwer (Jimtown) 6-3, 6-3; Jordan Anderson (Knox) beat Harrison Jessup (Glenn) 8-0; Jacob Gongwer (Jimtown) beat Mark Cichos (New Prairie) 6-2, 6-0
Championship: Cole Peterson-Brett Aller (Jimtown) beat Austin Huff-TJ Bayer (Bremen) 6-2, 6-3
Austin Huff-TJ Bayer (Bremen) beat Josh Shafer-Austin Kanarr (Triton) 7-6(4), 2-6, 6-3; Cole Peterson-Brett Aller (Jimtown) beat Elliott Coad-Harrison Metz (Knox) 6-1, 6-0; Ben Weiss-Evan Rhodes (Glenn) beat Blade Masterson-Keanon Clemons (LaVille) 8-2; Josh Shafer-Austin Kanarr (Triton) beat Elliott Coad-Harrison Metz (Knox) 6-1, 6-2
Championship: Augie Farwig-Michael Hobbs (Jimtown) beat Nate Strehler-Joe Zeltwanger (Bremen) 6-4, 7-5
Augie Farwig-Michael Hobbs (Jimtown) beat Joe Clabaugh-Cody Fletcher (Knox) 7-5, 2-6, 6-2; Nate Strehler-Joe Zeltwanger (Bremen) beat Wil Rettinger-Jackson Downing (Triton) 6-4, 6-2; Calvin Kretchmer-Hunter Jaworkski (Glenn) beat Alex Suppinger-Lucas Major (New Prairie) 8-2; Wil Rettinger-Jackson Downing (Triton) beat Joe Clabaugh-Cody Fletcher (Knox) 6-2, 6-7(3), 6-2