By DAVE HANNEMAN
Sean Swisher has been taking his son Drew to the boys state tennis tournament for years now.
When they head to Mason this week for the 99th annual Ohio High School Athletic Association event, they’ll be going as coach and player, not spectators.
“We’ve been going there since he was a kid, watching the pros play (in the Western & Southern Open), watching Findlay kids and other guys he’s played against. Now it’s his turn,” Sean Swisher said.
Drew Swisher punched his ticket to state by finishing second in singles competition at the Northwest Ohio Division I district tournament held last weekend at Bowling Green State University. He’s one of just two sophomores and five underclassmen in the 16-man Division I singles field.
“I thought there would be a very strong senior class this year and there is,” Sean Swisher said.
“I thought this would be a good year for Drew to make it down there, experience what it’s like to be there, and use that his junior and senior seasons. He’s kind of a year ahead of schedule, but that’s a good thing.”
Drew Swisher may be one of the youngest players in the singles field. The key, his father says, is to not feel like he is.
“First and foremost, Drew needs to relax, make sure he’s not overwhelmed to be playing at the same place (the Lindner Family Tennis Center) where the pros play,” Sean Swisher said.
“Drew needs to settle in, play his game and not succumb to the pressure of being there. He can definitely compete. It’s a matter of him believing he belongs down there.”
Drew Swisher, 23-7 this season, will be the new kid on the Lindner Family Tennis Center courts. But he won’t be facing a stranger in his 9 a.m. Friday morning match when he faces Massillon Jackson senior Danny Thomas. The two squared off in singles competition at the Lexington Invitational in late April, with Thomas scoring a 6-3, 6-2 win.
There’s a Thomas tennis legacy, and a Findlay connection, that goes back father than the Lexington Invitational.
Thomas’s older brother Joey, who now plays for Ohio State, was a two-time Ohio prep champion whose 2015 march to the state title included a 6-1, 6-4 quarterfinal win over Reid Teatsorth, Findlay’s last state tennis qualifier.
Swisher and Thomas also compete in summer USTA tournaments, but not in the same division.
“All of these kids play 10, 15 tournaments a year together,” Sean Swisher said.
“They’re in different age brackets at these tournaments, but when Drew’s not playing he’s usually sitting on the side watching these guys. He follows a lot of these guys on social media.
“Danny Thomas comes from a very good tennis family. He has a good tennis pedigree. This being Drew’s first time down there (as a player), it’s a bit comforting to know something about who he’s playing. He’s played Danny before so he has an idea how deep he hits his shots, how hard he hits certain shots …. If Drew was playing somebody he knew nothing about, it could take the whole first game trying to figure things like that out.”
Ada’s Zach Beaschler will also be in Mason this weekend, and looking to take things another step farther in the Division II singles competition.
Beaschler lost his state tournament opener in 2016, but went 1-1 in last year’s meet. A senior, he opens Division II singles play Friday against Niyanth Reddy, a junior from Dayton’s Miami Valley School.