Second seed double Iowa City West’s Luca Chackalackal returns a volley under his and teammate Mukundan Kasturirangan (not pictured) 2A doubles match against Cedar Falls’ Neel Shah and Pranav Chandra at the state doubles tennis tournament at Coe College Clark Racquet Center in northeast Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Friday, May 28, 2021. (Jim Slosiarek / The Gazette)
IOWA CITY – Marshal Moellers understands who he’s following.
After 22 seasons and eight state championships, Mitch Gross resigned as the boys’ tennis coach in Iowa City West after last season to concentrate on his role as the school’s principal.
Moellers, a former West player and Gross’ assistant since 2018, will take over the program this season.
“It’s stressful to say the least,” Moellers said. “Coach Gross put West High tennis on the map. His coaching skills are legendary.
“To say that I feel a little anxious and unworthy to take over as head coach is the understatement of the century. These recognitions and achievements allow some pretty big shoes to fill.”
While Gross started with the program near the bottom of the pile, Moellers’ first team begins the 2022 season ranked No. 1 in Class 2A by the Iowa High School Boys Tennis Coaches.
Moellers said playing for Gross and working with him as an assistant will be a plus as he takes over.
“Aside from the immense stress, I also feel confident,” Moellers said. “After going through the program as a player during his coaching career and working with him as a co-head coach, I have a unique perspective that has helped me maintain the high expectations that Gross has cultivated in the West since his first tennis season in spring 2002. “
Gross, who will still contribute to the training as a volunteer assistant, believes the training is in good hands.
“I’m really excited about Marshal as he takes over as head coach,” Gross said. “Although he’s one of my former players and has been my assistant, I’m excited to see him put his own stamp on the program.
“Marshal is an excellent teacher in the classroom. I have no doubt that it will be related to the fact that he will also be very successful on the field. I am very much looking forward to my role as a volunteer assistant. I love serving as a mentor for Marshal. “
Making many changes to the way Gross ran the program would be “foolish,” according to Moellers. However, he has some ideas he plans to implement.
“I think my coaching addresses the psychological part of the game just fine,” he said. “For example, making sure my players are in a positive main room and not belittling themselves with negative self-talk is a goal for me. Tennis is such a mind game and I feel like I am doing a good job of recognizing and mitigating the negative behavior.
“Something unique this year is to record our players’ matches to watch and analyze afterwards. We set up a couple of GoPro cameras on the field and record our matches. We will go back and see the footage and document errors and omissions and process how they are corrected. “
To stay on top and hold people like No. 2 Pleasant Valley and No. 3 Waukee, the Trojans will have to replace Eli Young and Mukundan Kasturirangan, who were at the top of the ranks last year, along with double specialist BJ Wolf .
“We have a solid team this year,” Moellers said. “Luca Chackalackal is returning as our senior team captain and he has done a phenomenal job of leading this team. Jayden Shin, Samir Singh, Jonathan Fan, Shivy Mannengi, Patrick Selby, Ryan Kirkpatrick are all returning to our college lineup along with some new players including Seth Smigel, Junze Sun, Ishan Harwani and Ankur Karandikar. “
Moellers and his team are ready to embrace the Western tennis tradition.
“The atmosphere on the team has been so fun,” he said. “We have a huge group of players who are all working exceptionally hard to continue competing at the elite level that our school has come to expect. We are excited to show what we can do this season.”
Boys tennis team to watch
Cedar Rapids Xavier Coach Jim Potts’ Saints opens the season as the state’s top-ranked team in Class 1A. The Saints are looking for a state title in a row, welcoming five out of seven regulars back from last year’s 17-1 team. Senior Brady Horstmann was part of the state’s doubles championship team with 2021 candidate Matthew Schmit. Three other seniors – Declan Coe, Hugh Courter and Trenton Link along with junior Ryan Schmit are also returning. Coe and Courter finished fifth at the state in doubles, while Link finished eighth in the singles tournament. Sophomore Quincey Johnson and Garrett Nurre are expected to join the mix. “We’re bringing back five of the top seven from last year’s state championship team,” Potts said. “The (Mississippi Valley Conference) is one of the best conferences in the state. It will be a battle to try to win it this year.”
Iowa City West – There’s a shift change this year in the West as Marshal Moellers moves up from assistant coach to the top job, replacing legendary coach Mitch Gross, who retired after leading the Trojans (17-2) to second place in his time. last season. Moellers’ first team opens as the top-ranked team in Class 2A. Away from that team are Eli Young, Mukundan Kasturirangan and BJ Wolf. At the top of the list of returning is senior Luca Chackalackal, who along with Kasturirangan finished second in doubles last season. Also back for West are juniors Jayden Shin and Jonathan Fan along with sophomore Samir Singh. “We graduated some really strong players for us last year,” Moellers said. “The work and effort our returning players have put in over the summer and over the year has really helped bring us back to that elite level.”
Linn-Mar – Chris Wundram begins his 16th season as Lions coach with a veteran squad. Linn-Mar, ranked No. 6 in the 2A preseason poll, will be led by senior Ayush Kalia, a state qualifier last season. Senior Brock Hanna, along with sophomores Malcolm Rice and Jackson Kramer, are also returning. Juniors Zach Mersch and Calix Carpenter and sophomore Jacob Wallrichs are expected to fight for places in the row. “We’re returning a strong core from last year’s (state quarterfinals) team,” Wundram said. “There are some younger guys who are really competing in practice to fill the vacancies. I feel like we have 8-10 guys who can compete and win at the university level.”
Marion’s Seth Blackford swings to the ball during a doubles match at Jefferson High School in Cedar Rapids on Friday, April 2, 2021. (Andy Abeyta / The Gazette)
Boy tennis players to watch
Seth Blackford, Marion, jr. – Finished 13-3 singles and qualified for 1A state in doubles with 2021 candidate Tanner Shindelar with a record of 16-6.
Luca Chackalackal, Iowa City West, sr. – Became number two in class 2A doubles with 2021 candidate Mukundan Kasturirangan.
Declan Coe, Cedar Rapids Xavier, sr. – Became number 5 in class 1A double with teammate Hugh Courter.
Hugh Courter, Cedar Rapids Xavier, sr. – Became number 5 in class 1A doubles with teammate Declan Coe.
Brady Horstmann, Cedar Rapids Xavier, sr. – Won Class 1A double title with 2021 candidate Matthew Schmit.
Ayush Kalia, Linn-Mar, sr. – Qualified for Class 2A Singles State Tournament.
Jayden Shin, Iowa City West, jr. – Became number six in singles in class 2A.
Parker Sprague, Cedar Rapids Kennedy, sr. – Qualified for Class 2A Singles State Tournament