LINCOLN — Jared Karlson and Walker Hohensee entered the tennis season as defending Class B No. 1 doubles champions, and as seniors with a choice.
“At the first of the year, I said 'What do you guys want to do?'” Holdrege coach Ray Ruybalid said. “'We could have you go No. 1 singles and No. 2 singles, try doubles with different partners, or you could go No. 1 doubles and go for two years in a row.' And they said, 'We'd like to try and defend.' ”
The Dusters' pair won the No. 1 doubles title Friday, defeating Omaha Skutt's Andrew Johnson and Zachary Pohlman 6-4, 7-6 (7-4) in the fall cold at Abbott Sports Complex.
Karlson and Hohensee had to win a come-from-behind second set to finish the season 34-0. They jumped ahead in the second set before Johnson and Pohlman rallied for a 6-5 lead. Undeterred, the Holdrege duo fought back for their — and the school's — second state championship.
“The difference between last year and this year, I would say, is their mental toughness,” Ruybalid said. “I mean, I did very little coaching. They know what to do and how to settle themselves down. They earned it ... and they make me look like a good coach.”
The teammates' accomplished doubles career, which also includes a runner-up finish in 2011, started before high school.
“Walker got me to go out seventh grade year,” Karlson said. “He said 'Come on out, help the team out and see if you like it.' And I loved it.”
Lincoln Pius X won the team championship, ending a two-year Elkhorn South run by outscoring the Storm 42 1/2-40 1/2.
The Thunderbolts were led by Landon Warner, who won his first No. 1 singles championship over Skutt's Skylar Lowe 6-4, 6-2. It was the competitors' sixth matchup of the season.
“It was a lot of pressure knowing that I've beat him a couple times this year,” Warner said. “Every time it's been close, so the pressure is definitely on me. But I just try to stay calm and play my game.”
With the temperatures in the 50s and the wind blowing, Warner welcomed playing for the title outdoors as opposed to in Abbott's indoor facility.
“I figured I could use the wind to my advantage, and that it could play a big role in my game,” he said. “Which, I mean, it did. There wasn't too many (instances), but it helped a little bit.”
He also saw his approach as an advantage.
“I just tried to make a lot of balls and tried to keep him backed up, and eventually move my way up the court,” Warner said.
Lowe finished the season 39-8.
“There wasn't much I could have done,” he said. “Landon played great.”
With no seniors among the top four in No. 1 singles, next year's tournament could look quite similar.
“There is a lot of competition in our junior class,” Lowe said, “so any one of us could be here next year.”
Pius paired its No. 1 singles win with a second-place finish in No. 2 doubles by Zach Hammack and Riley Warner, Landon's brother, to capture its 11th Class B championship. Elkhorn's team of Robert Hart and Austin Seagren knocked off Hammack and the younger Warner 6-3, 7-5. Third to the Thunderbolts and Elkhorn South in the team standings was Skutt with 40 points. Elkhorn and Grand Island Central Catholic rounded out the top five with 32 and 24 points, respectively.
In No. 2 singles, Elkhorn South's Patrick Thomas defeated Elkhorn's sixth-seeded Andrew Randall 7-5, 6-0.
Team scoring: Lincoln Pius X 42½, Elkhorn South 40½, Omaha Skutt 40, Elkhorn 32, Grand Island Central Catholic 24, Beatrice 21, Holdrege 20, Hastings 18, Ralston 18, Elkhorn Mount Michael 16, McCook 14, Omaha Gross 14, Omaha Brownell-Talbot/Concordia 12, Lexington 10, Waverly 10, Lincoln College View 8, Kearney Catholic 6, Omaha Roncalli 6, York 6, Alliance 4, Lincoln Christian 4, Adams Central 2, Gretna 2, Nebraska City 2, Gering 0, Scottsbluff 0, South Sioux City 0.
No. 1 singles: Championship: Landon Warner, LPX, def. Skylar Lowe, OSK, 6-4, 6-2. Third place: Matthew Karnes, HAS, def. Zahler Zandt, ES, 6-3, 6-7 (7-2), 6-2. Semifinals: Warner def. Zandt 7-6 (7-2), 6-3. Lowe def. Karnes 6-3, 6-3.
No. 2 singles: Championship: Patrick Thomas, ES, def. Andrew Randall, ELK, 7-5, 6-0. Third place: John Cecava, LPX, def. Ryan Vitera, GICC, default. Semifinals: Thomas def. Cecava 6-2, 6-1. Randall def. Vitera 7-5, 6-1.
No. 1 doubles: Championship: Karlson and Hohensee, HLD, def. Johnson and Pohlman, OSK, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4). Third place: Benson and Pieper, BEA, def. Clark and Johnson, ES, 6-4, 6-4. Semifinals: Karlson and Hohensee def. Benson and Pieper 6-0, 6-3. Johnson and Pohlman def. Clark and Johnson 1-6, 7-6 (7-3).
No. 2 doubles: Championship: Hart and Seagren, ELK, def. Hammack and R.Warner, LPX, 6-3, 7-5. Third place: Schaphorst and Lortz, ES, def. Kern and Hamburger, HAS, 6-3, 7-6 (2-7), 6-4. Semifinals: Hammack and R.Warner def. Schaphorst and Lortz 7-5, 6-3. Hart and Seagren def. Kern and Hamburger 6-1, 6-3.