There appears to be a youth movement happening in the Suburban One American. Just last week, at the conference Singles Championship, Wissahickon sophomore Ben Wolfe and Upper Dublin freshman Brian Szayne battled for the title as the respective No.1 and No. 2 seeds in the tournament.
Wolfe found himself down a set, 0-6 to be exact, and essentially hoped to put up a fight in the second set so he would not be swept away in the final. Little did Szayne know, Wolfe had a whole lot more grit than he was letting on.
“After losing the first set, I just didn’t want to go down without a fight,’ Wolfe said. “I just worked my butt off. I think I threw him off a little bit because there was a change in me from the first to the second set. I think that has a lot to do with my mental toughness.’
The Trojans’ top singles player came back with a vengeance, winning the next two sets 6-4 and 6-4 to win the American championship. It was the fifth consecutive year in which a Wissahickon player has won the title. Szayne was a great opponent and will wage war with Wolfe the next few years, but this time around the latter was the better.
“It was a tremendous turnaround,’ Wissahickon coach Mark Daniels said. “It really all happened in a matter of minutes. He’s a fighter, though. I see it more this year than I did his freshman year, but he doesn’t give up and that’s something you can’t teach.’
Wolfe was happy to take home the crown, but acknowledged that it was a bit sweeter because it was against a stout opponent like Szayne.
“It felt amazing to win the final,’ Wolfe said. “I went in expecting to win because I have confidence in myself, but beating Brian was a great accomplishment. I knew it would come down to us in the final match and he is a very good player. Proving that I could beat him when it mattered was a big thing for me.’
As an upperclassman or underclassman, knowing that you are the class of the conference tournament is difficult mentally. Based on results throughout the regular season, Wolfe essentially knew he would be in the final, but that does not mean he took anyone in the tournament lightly.
“There were some matches where I underestimated people this season and I paid the price for that,’ Wolfe said. “But that can be helpful, because it reminds you to play hard no matter who you are playing against. Every match during the season was big for me and the experience was good prep for the championship.’
Although Wolfe has already had a great deal of success in his first two seasons, he is not letting the trophies get to his head. Work ethic and being humble will go a long way if he is to stay at this level and he appears to have both.
“It’s very uplifting to have this success as a sophomore,’ Wolfe said. “Upperclassmen really get after it because they know they are running out of time, but I have a lot of time. I just try to put a lot of dedication into playing and put everything into perspective.’
While his future looks bright, he has his eyes set on the rest of the 2014 campaign before anything else.
“I think I have the ability to make states and make a run at the district championship,’ Wolfe said. “Even if I don’t get in individually, I know that my doubles partner and I are confident we can make it. Making states is a realistic goal that I hope to achieve this season.’
Peaking early is the fear of many athletes who show promise and success in their first couple of years. However, Wolfe has come up with a way to avoid that and continue to grow and improve as a player throughout the remainder of his high school years and beyond.
“It’s all about dedication and having heart,’ Wolfe said. “I definitely have to work on my fitness, which is something you need when attempting to beat better competition. I am looking forward to playing at districts and seeing what I can do.
Wolfe’s next big tournament will be the District One Championships, which take place on this weekend (April 25-26.)