Wichita Collegiate player at Kansas high school state tennis

Wichita Collegiate senior Nick Grabon enters the Class 3-1A state tournament with a perfect record.  It will be his final competitive tournament di lui, as he will attend Northwestern for academics.

Wichita Collegiate senior Nick Grabon enters the Class 3-1A state tournament with a perfect record. It will be his final competitive tournament di lui, as he will attend Northwestern for academics.

Courtesy

Right as Nick Grabon has ascended to rarefied territory in the world of Kansas high school tennis, the Wichita Collegiate senior is preparing to leave it behind.

Grabon has been untouchable this season at Collegiate, where he has compiled a 22-0 record against elite competition without dropping a single set. In fact, he’s only lost 21 games all season.

“I’m hesitant to rank him at the moment because he’s not done yet, but I would tell you that the season he’s had so far is easily one of the three or four best we’ve ever had,” said Collegiate coach Dave Hawley , who has coached more high school state champions than anyone in Kansas history. “What he’s done against this level of competition is unheard of.”

But when Grabon begins the Class 3-1A state tournament on Friday in Prairie Village, it will be his swan song for competitive tennis.

While Grabon had opportunities to play Division I tennis, he has chosen instead to pursue an academic career at Northwestern, where he plans to study industrial engineering and possibly computer science. He is a National Merit Scholar and recently accepted to the Governor’s Scholars Program, which honors the top academic one percent of Kansas high school seniors.

“I used to have this big vision in my mind of wanting to go play D1 tennis, but I have transitioned away from that and realized my priority should lie in academics,” Grabon said. “It will definitely be a bittersweet good-bye. I’m ready for the next chapter in my life and I’m ready to move on, but my teammates and coaches have been such an integral part of my life, it’s going to be difficult to move on from that. So this weekend is a chance at one last go with my team and I just want to leave everything out there. “

It will also mark the conclusion of the journey Grabon has been on since losing in devastating fashion to Rossville’s Alex Sheer in a third-set tiebreaker of the state championship match last spring.

A loss like that would have broken Grabon earlier in his career. But now those closest to him believe it was his defining moment di lui, the source to the dominance he has displayed this season.

“He had to go through some mental hurdles because he had played so well to come up short, but I think that match changed his outlook going forward,” said Scott Grabon, his father. “He used to put a lot of pressure on himself to win. When he was a kid, it was all about winning the trophy. But now he’s matured and he’s just focused on playing the best match he can play and he’s been playing lights out ever since. “

Hawley has also noticed a change in demeanor since the loss.

“He has just poured himself into practice and getting better every single day,” Hawley said. “He has an incredible attention to detail and he’s never complacent. He detests mediocrity and that’s a great quality to have. “

The versatility in Grabon’s game makes him a great player. He can crush his serves of him. He can move the ball all over the court. He can execute the serve-and-volley game or he can win rallies with his ground strokes standing on the baseline trading shots with his opponent.

But what makes Grabon special is his mind, which works in the same way on the tennis court as it does in the classroom: in an analytical way.

“That’s just the kind of person that I’ve always been, someone who thinks everything through and always looking for the best way to get things done,” Grabon said. “Tennis is just like a chess match. You have to go out there on the court and problem-solve the best you can. I’m trying every moment to figure out how I can play this point better and how I can break down my opponent and play to my strengths. That’s the part of tennis I enjoy the most. “

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Wichita Collegiate senior Nick Grabon enters the Class 3-1A state tournament with a perfect 22-0 record. Scott Grabon Courtesy

The best way to describe Grabon’s performance this season? Surgical.

“He’s a very analytically-minded individual and very methodical in what he does,” Scott Grabon said. “The game has really slowed down for him and he plays the mental game as well as he ever has now. He will figure out his opponent’s game as the match is playing out and then figure out how to expose their weakness of him. He’s not just playing a tennis match out there, it’s like he’s solving a puzzle. “

That analytical mind is needed for how busy of a schedule Grabon has kept this spring.

Not only has he maintained stellar grades in the classroom, but he’s also playing two sports this spring. On top of being one of the best tennis players in the state, Grabon also has the low average (82.2) on the Collegiate boys golf team. He also helps Hawley coach younger players at Collegiate on the weekends.

After playing in the state tennis tournament on Friday and Saturday, Grabon will attempt to qualify for the state boys golf tournament on Monday. He credits his mother di lui, Chris, for helping him stay organized with a family calendar.

“It’s a lot of planning ahead and keeping things organized,” Grabon said. “My calendar is always full, seven days a week. I try to work ahead as far as I can on my schoolwork because school is still my number one priority and always has been. “

Hawley has marveled at the level Grabon has reached this season, but doesn’t question his decision to not continue his tennis career in college. He also points out Grabon hopes to play club tennis while at Northwestern, if his study schedule allows, of course.

“Nick is an incredibly unique kid and I know how much he thinks things through, so I’m good with his decision,” Hawley said. “But it is a rare level of tennis he’s playing right now.”

Another all-time finals match could be on the horizon for Grabon with Central Plains sophomore Peyton Ryan, who also enters undefeated with a 30-0 record, on the other side of the state bracket.

Regardless of what happens in his final tournament, Grabon and his family know he is leaving the sport of competitive tennis with no regrets.

“He’s our only child and we couldn’t be happier or more proud of him,” Scott Grabon said. “We’ve always emphasized academics as the most important thing and to see him excel in the classroom and still be able to play sports at this high of level… we don’t even know how to describe it. We’re just so proud. “

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