PUEBLO – The first two years he qualified for the Class 4A boys tennis state tournament, Longmont’s Henry Matheson was instantly nervous when walking into Pueblo City Park. As he walked onto the court for the first match of his third try Friday, he opted for a different approach.
He decided that he would ditch the nerves and go in with confidence. And it paid off big time for him. He completely shut out Pueblo Central’s Christian Guzman and then beat Kent Denver’s Colin Boublik in straight sets to make his way to the No. 1 singles semifinals.
“My plan was to make semis,” Matheson said. “I want to get on the podium, but I play [Niwot’s] Neil Wilcox tomorrow so we’ll see how it goes.”
Wilcox looks every bit as good as he did a year ago when he claimed the 4A No. 1 singles championship. But Matheson proved in his two matches that he’s no slouch. Like Wilcox, he can draw on his experience at Pueblo City Park as a reason why he can continue his run. And a big reason that he can point to is a change of mentality heading into his third trip to state.
“My freshman year, I was extremely tight in my first match and lost 6-0, 6-2,” he said. “Even sophomore year I was certainly nervous. This is the first year that I rolled in with some confidence.”
It showed as he was one of the first players off the court in the first session. His first win helped him relax and boosted his confidence going into his second match.
Kent Denver had qualified every position for state and won a team championship as recently as 2017. The Sun Devils have been a tennis powerhouse for several years, but the one thing that Matheson wasn’t going to be heading into the match was intimidated.
He knew he had a challenge ahead of him, but he was more welcoming to it than he was nervous.
“Going into Kent, I knew it was going to be tough,” Matheson said. “I came out strong in the first and then he started playing extremely well. It was the best I had seen him play. I’m glad I could pull it out at the end.”
Wilcox’s trip to the semifinals was shorter than he had anticipated. He beat Dawson’s Kevin Patel in straight sets to set up a quarterfinal match with Cheyenne Mountain’s Robbie Metz. In the third game of the set, Metz went down with an ankle injury. He tried to battle through it but had to concede his match to Wilcox, who will now head into Saturday’s semifinals well rested.
“I just have to focus,” Wilcox said. “I have to go in there, stay calm and do my job.”
Niwot came out of the first day with area lead in team points with 14. They’ll have work to do in order to come away with a team state title, but Wilcox advancing to the top singles final would certainly help.
Semifinal matches at Pueblo City Park are slated to begin at 9 a.m. with championship matches scheduled for an 11:30 a.m. start.