By BLAKE SPURNEY
Hesston Record Staff
WICHITA — Hugs abounded Saturday as the winningest doubles players in Hesston High School history closed out their careers by winning the Class 3-2-1A state championship at the Ralph Wulz Riverside Tennis Center in Wichita.
When the final point gave Grant Dahlsten and Garrett Roth a 6-1, 6-3 victory, Dahlsten dropped his racket and hugged his partner of four years. Then it was time for head coach Mark Dahlsten to rush the court for long embraces with his prize pupils.
“‘Good job. Lots of hard work,’” Roth said his coach told him. “He’s the best. He knows what he’s doing all these years. He knows what’s going on when it comes to the state tournament.”
“That we earned it and that he was proud of me,” Grant said his father told him. “Going into the season, this was the main goal I set for myself individually,” he said.
Grant said he set goals for winning a team title, which the Swathers accomplished last year, and the doubles title. He and Roth finished fourth last year in doubles play.
“Those two have been my tennis goals for all my life,” he said.
“There were a lot of emotions running through me that last match,” Coach Dahlsten said.
The Swathers placed second in the team standings, 12 points behind Central Plains. Jorge Morales and Kendrick Weaver won their final match for ninth place, and Daniel Holthus finished in 12th place in singles.
“My goal was to get top 10,” Morales said upon stepping off the court. He said he was pretty happy “because Garrett and Grant won too. I think we got second as a team, so that’s pretty exciting.”
Weaver said he and Morales played well in their final match, a 9-6 victory against Jed Chitwood and Derek Pauly of Conway Springs. Morales and Weaver had lost to the same duo in the second round of the tournament.
Morales and Weaver also got to avenge a straight-set loss at the regional tournament to Max Fulbright and Edward Weiner of Sterling by winning 9-5 at state.
“It was fantastic,” Weaver said. “I liked it. We came out swinging and got up early.”
Holthus and Weaver also played their last matches as Swathers.
“I feel like I could have played better, but I’m just glad to be playing in the state tournament,” Holthus said.
The seniors planned to celebrate by getting back to Hesston for various graduation parties.
“I’m going to eat until I throw up,” Weaver said.
Dahlsten and Roth finished the season with a 28-4 record, bringing their career total to 95-22. Mitchell Mason and Brandon Liechty, who played together from 2002-05, previously held the school record for varsity wins in doubles.
Grant said he and Roth played their best match of the tournament in the finals against Brady Rugan and Devin Ryan of Central Plains, the same duo they beat in the regional finals.
Dahlsten and Roth def. Brady Rugan and Devin Ryan, Central Plains, 6-4, 6-4. Grant said they knew what to expect and made adjustments to exploit advantages against their opponents’ style of play. Dahlsten and Roth went 3-0 this season against Rugan and Ryan.
“We definitely peaked at the last match,” Roth said.
Roth said he was relaxed and focused despite playing with the pressure of being the No. 1 seed.
“It took a lot of preparation,” he said, adding that he had a good bath Friday night.
“It’s a dream I’ve been working toward since we were little kids,” Roth said. “We’ve had a solid career, and it’s a great way to go out.”
Roth’s older brothers, Alex and Eyan, traveled from Indiana and Virginia to see his final tournament. Alex picked Garrett up in a tight embrace as he walked off the court.
“It was great. Alex was a state champion, and Eyan is a great athlete, so it was great to have them both down for the state finals,” Garrett said. “They’re both great athletes who have done a lot for the Swather program.”