Having placed third in boys' singles at the Idaho state prep tennis tournament for two straight years, Wood River High School junior Karl Wilander is no stranger to tough competition and tight matches.
But Wilander had to stretch himself Tuesday and dig down deep in a Great Basin Conference No. 1 boys' singles match against Twin Falls sophomore Dallas Hunt, in Twin Falls. Wilander rallied to win in a third-set tiebreaker 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-2).
The victory, one of three split-set wins for Wood River on the day, helped the defending GBC champion Wolverines to a 10-2 combined team victory over last year's league runner-up the Twin Falls Bruins. Hailey's boys won 5.5-0.5 and the WRHS girls prevailed 4.5-1.5.
Hailey coach Vicki Johnston said, "Karl was in trouble—Dallas was hot, he made very few er-rors and was very aggressive and confident. I think it surprised Karl a bit and made it hard to get into a rhythm. Karl had to dig deep and believe in himself, he had to be consistent and smart.
"It was a battle. I'm proud of Karl for hanging in there."
The defending State 4A champion Wood River boys showed their mettle, winning the other sin-gles matches as well. No. 2 Josh Morell and No. 3 Gardner Cord each won 6-2, 6-2. Straight-set win-ners in boys' doubles were Raleigh Grossbaum-Charlie Grabow and William Eagan-Cal McCarthy.
Wood River also swept girls' singles behind No. 1 Jessica Hamilton 6-1, 6-0, No. 2 Erin Murphy 6-4, 6-4 and No. 3 Lily Richards 4-6, 6-1, 6-4.
Capturing a close No. 1 girls' doubles battle were No. 1 Margaret Reutter-Hannah Baybutt 7-6 (7-4), 1-6, 6-3. Wood River's No. 1 mixed doubles team of Bryan Donoso-Ellen Davis succeeded 6-1, 6-3. In all, Wood River was 20-7 in sets won-lost.
Johnston said, "Twin Falls gave us some good competition—some pretty intense three-setters. In all those matches, it came down to how bad they wanted it. As a whole, each and every player kept on impressing me. They keep getting better and better."
Coach Johnston said the team took "the biggest group of junior varsity kids ever, 16," to Twin Falls. They played eight-game pro sets and showed a willingness to learn and enjoy the game, the coach said.
They were Megan Kaminski, Chloe Lichtenberg, Marcia Smith, Liam Niedrich, Kevin Blas, Mar-tin Luis, Jose Juarez, John Reigle, Andres Morales, Dylan Carey, Quentin Dowdle, Lane Coulthard, Chase Hutchinson, Nathan Moses, Stone Sutton and Adam Vorsteveld.
Bad weather canceled Thursday's Wood River home-court debut against Burley and the Com-munity School in Hailey. Next Tuesday, the Wolverines (6-2 overall, 8-0 boys, 5-2-1 girls) play Minico in Rupert. Next scheduled home meet is Tuesday, April 19 with Jerome.