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Boys tennis: Niwot’s Neil Wilcox shakes off slow start, claims top singles gold

Cougars junior excels with back against the wall


PUEBLO – Getting over on Neil Wilcox has proven extremely difficult this fall.

In fact, prior to the second set in his semifinal match on Friday he hadn’t dropped a game at the 2019 Class 4A boys tennis state tournament.

Niwot No. 1 singles player Neil ...
Dan Mohrmann/For
Niwot No. 1 singles player Neil Wilcox delivers a forehand return during his championship finals match against Joey Geisz of Cheyenne Mountain on Saturday at Pueblo City Park. Wilcox claimed the match 2-6, 6-2, 6-2 for his first state title.

In the No. 1 singles final on Saturday at Pueblo City Park, Wilcox’s match opened up with Cheyenne Mountain’s Joey Geisz breaking a serve. Geisz went on to win the first set and gave every indication that he was no easy pushover.

But Wilcox has been good, very good, all season and after that first set, he showed why.

He battled back to claim a 2-6, 6-2, 6-2 win to give Niwot a boys No. 1 singles title to go with Lucy Lu’s championship last spring on the girls’ side. It’s a much different result from last year when Wilcox was bounced in the semifinals.

“I came in here with a different mentality,” Wilcox said. “I have a great team behind me, and to have that helps. I feel like I played pretty well most of the tournament. Even in the finals, I feel like I played pretty well.”

No one is saying he didn’t. But he admittedly got off to a sluggish start.

It didn’t help that Geisz, fueled by the idea of helping Cheyenne Mountain claim a team championship, came out hot. He broke Wilcox’s first serve then held his own to take an early 2-0 lead in that first set. And he
never looked back.

“He came out really strong, really took it to me, and I don’t think I was ready for it,” Wilcox said. “He made me play and he beat me.”

Rather than getting defensive with the match at that point, Wilcox went in the opposite direction. He started playing a little more aggressively into Geisz’s returns. The match turned pretty quickly after that and the result was accepting a gold medal and standing at the top of the podium.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment for the Cougars is that the team didn’t find similar success it had a year ago. The Cougars finished second as a team and had high aspirations of bringing a championship home. Ben Bicknell at No. 3 singles was the only other position to compete for a championship.

He fell to Cheyenne Mountain sophomore Oliver Muhl 6-2, 7-6 (5), but the experience of playing in that match – and really getting to that match – will serve him well when high school is over.

“I learned a lot about never giving up,” Bicknell said. “I lost my first set in the semifinal match and had to battle back and here I was down and had to keep going. You’re never out of it.”

It was Cheyenne Mountain who claimed the team championship with 85 points. Niwot finished third with 43.

Dawson senior Riley Burridge got the strong ending to his tennis career that he was searching for. He got a 6-2, 6-3 win over Colorado Academy’s Nick Dietrich to take third in No. 1 singles.

Dan Mohrmann/For
Dawson School’s Riley Burridge holds his medal during the awards ceremony after Saturday’s final day of the Class 4A state tennis tournament held at Pueblo City Park. (Photo by Dan Mohrmann/For