St. John's senior Evan Bechtel prepares to serve to Zach Mueck of Lakota East during the Division I singles state championship match on Saturday.
HILLIARD, Ohio — St. John’s senior Evan Bechtel made it his practice throughout the days leading up to the state tournament to go to bed by 8 p.m. so that his energy level would remain at its highest.
He woke up at 5 a.m. Saturday morning, trying not to think about what he hoped would be two more wins on the sport’s biggest stage.
After he beat Liberty Township Lakota East’s Zach Mueck 6-3, 1-6, 6-3 to capture the Division I singles championship at Hilliard Davidson, he admitted that he probably “won’t sleep for a week.”
“It’s the greatest accomplishment in my tennis career to do this,” Bechtel said. “It’s the biggest win in my life, so obviously this has been a great experience for me. My dad [Rick] and I have worked on me getting the state championship for a while. It’s just something we spend hours on and something we’ve always talked about being a great accomplishment.”
Mueck, a junior, was the state runner-up a year ago. Bechtel bounced back from a tough second set to take a 3-0 lead in the third set.
That strong start in the third set is what coach Jim Davis believes helped give Bechtel the boost he needed after a rough second set.
“It feels awesome,” Davis said. “When you start the set with the first serve and you’re able to win that game, you’re always able to serve with the lead. I also think he was able to compose himself and stick to the game plan.”
Bechtel (29-1) became the first local player to win a Division I state singles title since Perrysburg’s Bob Wellstein won in 1997. St. John’s hasn’t had a singles champion since Erick Iskersky won back-to-back titles in 1976-77.
“I came out [last] Wednesday and got some practice time in before it rained on Thursday,” Bechtel said. “That gave me a good advantage coming into the tournament. I was able to get here and stay hydrated and stay focused.
“[Mueck] likes an inside-out forehand, so in the third set I tried to move him over. By hitting to his forehand side, I was able to redirect him. He’s a great player, and getting the 3-0 lead gave me the insurance to play a loose game.”
Bechtel opened the day with a 6-1, 7-6 win over Jacob Dunbar of Lodi Cloverleaf.
Bechtel and his teammates play in the state team tournament Sunday at Davidson.
Evan Bechtel of St. John’s reacts after winning a point against Zach Mueck of Liberty Township Lakota East. The last state singles winner from St. John’s was Erick Iskersky, who won in 1976 and 1977. Bechtel has a 29-1 record this season.
Sunday, St. John’s will play in the semifinals of the Ohio Tennis Coaches Associaton team tournament. This is their seventh trip to the semfinals.
St. John’s plays New Albany, while Cincinnati St. Xavier meets Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit in the other semifinal.