2013 OSAA Tennis
Sprague senior Brent Wheeler takes a break from action in Thursday's state tournament at Portland Tennis Center to talk with his father, coach Gary Wheeler. (Ross William Hamilton/The Oregonian)
Sure, Brent Wheeler wants to prove that he's the best tennis player in the state this week in the OSAA Class 6A tournament. The Sprague senior might be more motivated, though, to prove that he's the best player in his family.
Wheeler's brother, Curt, won a state singles title for the Salem school in 2006. For the highly competitive siblings, it remains what separates the two.
“I've always wanted to get that state title, especially since my brother got one, ” said Brent Wheeler, who beat Jesuit junior Mark Mallory 6-2, 6-1 in a first-round match Thursday at Portland Tennis Center.
“I feel the pressure this year, but honestly, the pressure has pushed me. Everybody sees my brother and they think, 'Wow, what a great tennis player.' I hear from everybody how amazing he is.”
Brent has four district titles – two in doubles and two in singles – compared to one for Curt, who skipped his junior season to play baseball. But Curt's state title is the trump card.
“If I could get that state title, I could one-up him, ” said Brent, who lost in the semifinals last year. “He says, 'You've still got to get that state title.' And I'm like, 'I'm going for it, don't worry.'”
It won't be easy. Wheeler is seeded second, and lurking on the other side of the bracket is the No. 1 seed, Glencoe senior Stuart Tierney. The only time the two played, two years ago in a junior tournament, Tierney won in straight sets.
“But we haven't played each other in a while, ” said Wheeler, who has yet to decide on a college. “I know if I can play well, I feel like I can beat anybody out there. I felt like I was in a slump at state last year. I'm way stronger mentally. I'm pumped to see what I can bring. I want to dominate.”
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