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Hoffman gets nod as TSN Best of the Best men's tennis player

 By RICK PETERSON

TopSports.news

Topeka High product Joel Hoffman, who excelled at the high school, Division I and professional level, headlines the TopSports.news Best of the Best Shawnee County Top 25 list for men's tennis. 

Hoffman won the state singles championships in 1976 (Class 6A-5A) and '77 (5A), including an undefeated season, for Topeka High before going on to star at the NCAA Division I level for nationally-ranked Houston, receiving the school's top student-athlete award as a senior captain for the Cougars.

After college Hoffman played professionally three years on the International ATP men's circuit and was ranked as high as 127th in tne world in doubles and 329th in singles.

JoelHoffmanJoel Hoffman [Submitted]

JohnGranthamJohn Grantham [File photo]

TommyHunterTommy Hunter [Washburn Athletics]

Topeka High grad John Grantham, the city's first three-time state singles champ and an individual and Big 8 team champ at Kansas, earned the No. 2 spot on the Top 25, while the city's only four-time state champion, former Hayden star Tommy Hunter, sits No. 3.

Former Topeka High and Division I standouts Tim Clark (Arkansas) and Kevin Hedberg (South Florida) round out the top five, while Mark Nordstrom (Topeka High), Jeff Benson (Topeka West), Dick Mechem (Topeka High), Randy McGrath (Topeka High) and Junior Brown (Topeka High) earned the next five positions of the Top 10.

Nine of the Best of the Best Top 10 are members of the Topeka Tennis Association Hall of Fame.

Danny WilliamsDanny Williams

Danny Williams claimed the Readers Choice award with more than 800 votes while Sumeet Patel finished second and the Davids brothers, Austin and Andrew, finished third and fourth in reader votes.

Williams was a high school standout and an All-American at Johnson County Community College while Patel was a 6A doubles champ and three-time team champion at Washburn Rural. Both Williams and Patel went on to become teaching professionals.

Here's a look at the Top 25 and Readers Choice Awards:

TSN TOP 25 BEST OF THE BEST MEN'S TENNIS PLAYERS

1. Joel Hoffman (Topeka High) -- Hoffman won a pair state singles championships in 1976 (Class 6A-5A) and '77 (5A), including an undefeated season, for Topeka High before going on to star at the NCAA Division I level for Houston, receiving the school's top student-athlete award as a senior captain for the Top-10-ranked Cougars. Hoffman played professionally three years on the International ATP men's circuit and was ranked as high as 127th in tne world in doubles and 329th in singles. A member of the Topeka Tennis Association Hall of Fame, Hoffman reached the finals of an ATP tournament and played in the '82 U.S. Open.

2. John Grantham (Topeka High) -- Grantham was the first city player to win three state singles championships, winning Class AA titles in 1960, '61 and '62 for the Trojans. Grantham went on to become a standout at Kansas, where he was an individual Big Eight Conference champion in singles and doubles and helped the Jayhawks win the '64 team championship. After his tennis career Grantham, a member of the Topeka Tennis Association Hall of Fame, became a professional bridge player.

3. Tommy Hunter (Hayden) -- Hunter cut short his college career at Washburn University after two seasons, but no one in Shawnee County history will ever top Hunter's high school career for Hayden, with Hunter winning four Class 4A state singles titles in as many tries from 2013 to 2016. Hunter, only the fifth prep boys player in Kansas to win four state singles titles, went 34-0 as a senior and was 132-6 in his career.

4. Tim Clark (Topeka High) --  Clark was a three-year letterman at Topeka High, winning regional singles and doubles championships in 1967 and ’68 and making it to the state doubles semifinals in ’67 and to the state singles finals in ’68. Clark was a four-year letterman at Arkansas from 1968-72 and set a school record for career wins at Arkansas, where he was the team captain in ’72. He is a member of the Topeka Tennis Association Hall of Fame.

5. Kevin Hedberg (Topeka High) -- The Topeka High graduate went on to become a standout collegiately at South Florida and was a star at the amateur level before embarking on a legendary coaching career at Seaman and for the last three decades at Washburn Rural, where he has coached five state championship teams at Rural (one girls, four boys), including a three-year title run from 2003-'05. Hedberg is a member of the Topeka Tennis Association Hall of Fame.

6. Mark Nordstrom (Topeka High) -- The former Trojan played collegiately for Washburn University from 1969-'72 and is in the school’s athletic hall of fame. Nordstrom was a three-time Great Plains Athletic Conference individual champion and helped the Ichabods to two conference team championships. He was a two-time District 10 doubles champion and a three-time NAIA national qualifier. Nordstrom is a member of the Topeka Tennis Assocation Hall of Fame.

7. Jeff Benson (Topeka West) -- Benson won the Class 6A state singles title in 1986 for West and received Prince All-America honors. Benson achieved a top-five ranking in the Missouri Valley in ’86 and a top-100 national ranking the same year. He went on to a collegiate career at Iowa State (1986-90), placing third in the Big Eight Conference in No. 2 doubles in 1989. A member of the Topeka Tennis Association Hall of Fame, Benson has been a U.S. Professional Tennis Association Elite Professional since 1992. 

8. Dick Mechem (Topeka High) -- Mechem, who passed away in 2013 at the age of 86, won a high school state title in 1945. Two years later he played No. 1 singles at Stanford. A two-time Central Intercollegiate Conference champion after transferring to Washburn, Mechem later competed in USTA sectional events in Kansas, Florida, Louisiana, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas. He was named to the Missouri Valley Hall of Fame in 2005. Mechem, the head men’s coach at Kansas from 1952-'56, is a member of the Topeka Tennis Association Hall of Fame.

9. Randy McGrath (Topeka High) -- McGrath was a state singles finalist for Topeka High in 1967. McGrath played No. 1 singles at Kansas State from '69-'71 and was a No. 1 doubles finalist in the Big Eight Conference in '70 and a No. 1 singles finalist in ’71. McGrath was the Jayhawk Open singles champion in '74 and ’77 and the Jayhawk Open doubles champion in ’71, ’72, ’77 and ’78. McGrath was the men’s tennis coach at Kansas from '80-82 and the KU women’s coach in '80-'81. He is a member of the Topeka Tennis Association Hall of Fame.

10. Junior Brown (Topeka High) -- Brown helped Topeka High win a state team championship, placed second in doubles and earned Prince All-America status. Brown was a three-time All-American and earned a top 40 singles rankings and a No. 1 ranking in doubles. In 2000 he was named to Central Oklahoma’s All-Century team. He is in Central Oklahoma's Hall of Fame and is a member of the Topeka Tennis Association Hall of Fame.

11. Blake Hunter (Hayden) -- Hunter posted four top-three 4A singles finishes at Hayden, placing second twice and third twice. He went on to earn All-America honors at Washburn, compiling a record of 74-38 in singles and 92-25 in doubles, He finished his WU career ranked No. 1 in doubles wins and second all-time in singles wins, and was a two-time All-MIAA first-team selection at No. 1 doubles.

12. Sean McManus (Hayden) -- McManus was a two-time 4A state singles champion for Hayden in 2003 and '05 and also led the Wildcats to a pair of team titles ('04 and '05) before going on to play at St. Louis University, where he earned all-conference recognition and ended his career among the school leaders in career singles and doubles wins and single-season singles and doubles wins.

13. Drew Hanson (Washburn Rural) -- Hanson was a 6A state singles champion for Washburn Rural in 2005, posting a 26-2 record, and was a part of Junior Blue teams that won state team championships in 2003, '04 and '05. Hanson earned All-MIAA honors at Washburn, placed second in the MIAA in doubles and played in multiple NCAA Division II tournaments.

14. Gene Echols (Topeka High) -- Echols won state singles championships (all classes) for Topeka High in 1947 and '48.

15. Branden Joost (Shawnee Heights) -- Joost was a 5A state singles champion in 2003 and four-year state placer for the T-Birds and went on to play collegiately at Arkansas and Washburn. After playing two seasons at Arkansas, Joost received All-MIAA recognition at Washburn at No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles.

16. Chance Joost (Shawnee Heights) -- Joost followed his older brother Branden as a 5A state singles champion (2010) for Shawnee Heights, posting a caeer record of 109-17, and went on to play collegiately at Washburn before becoming a college tennis coach. Joost was named team MVP and earned All-MIAA honors for the Ichabods. 

17. Kurt Reid (Topeka West) -- Reid placed in the top four at state all three years for West and was elected to the Topeka West Sports Hall of Fame in 2015. Reid started his collegiate tennis career at Tulsa (1977-78) before transferring to Washburn for the 1978-79 season. He wrapped up his career at Kansas State. After college Reid continued to compete in regional tournaments, earning singles and doubles titles over three decades. 

18. Ben Newell (Washburn Rural) -- Newell won a 6A doubles championship for Rural and also helped the Junior Blues win a 6A team title. Newell was a multi-time state placer and went on to stand out at Rockhurst University in both singles and doubles, helping the school reach its first-ever NCAA Division II national tournament.

19. Zach Newell (Washburn Rural) -- Newell teamed with his twin brother, Ben, to win a 6A doubles championship and also helped Rural win a team championship for Rural. Newell was a multi-time state placer and went on to become a standout at Rockhurst, including an appearance in the NCAA Division II national tournament.

20. Sumeet Patel (Washburn Rural) -- Patel was a 6A state doubles champion for the Junior Blues in 2005 and was also a part of Washburn Rural teams that earned 6A team championships in '03, '04 and '05.

21. Trevor Hedberg (Washburn Rural) -- Hedberg teamed with Patel to win the 6A state doubles championship in 2005 and he was part of Rural teams that won 6A team titlres three straight seasons from '03 to '05.

22. Tommy Davidson (Highland Park) -- Davidson won the state singles championship in Class AA for the Scots in 1953.

23. Andrew Davids (Topeka West) -- Davids was a multi-time state placer for West in doubles, placing as high as second, and went on to play at Emporia State. Davids is currently the head coach at Olathe South.

24. Austin Davids (Topeka West) -- Davids was a state runner-up in 5A in singles and doubles and he and Andrew finished their career No. 1 all-time in Kansas for high school doubles wins.

25. Alex Sherer (Rossville) -- Finally getting a chance to play high school tennis as a senior, Sherer became the first player in Rossville school history to win a state tennis title, capturing the 2021 3A-1A singles crown. Sherer will play college tennis at Kansas Wesleyan.

READERS CHOICE AWARDS

1. Danny Williams -- Was a city high school standout, an All-American at Johnson County Community College and a Missouri Valley doubles champ, but may be best known as a teaching professional, working with many of Topeka's top players.

2. Sumeet Patel -- No. 20 in Best of the Best Top 25 (see capsule above).

3. Austin Davids -- No. 24 in Best of the Best Top 25 (see capsule above).

4. Andrew Davids -- No. 23 in Best of the Best Top 25 (see capsule above).

5. Drew Hanson -- No. 13 in Best of the Best Top 25 (see capsule above).

6. Kevin Hedberg -- No. 5 in Best of the Best Top 25 (see capsule above).

7. Branden Joost -- No. 15 in Best of the Best Top 25 (see capsule above).

8. Tommy Hunter -- No. 3 in Best of the Best Top 25 (see capsule above).

9. Chance Joost -- No. 16 in Best of the Best Top 25 (see capsule above).

10. Alex Sherer -- No. 25 in Best of the Best Top 25 (see capsule above).

Next up: Women's track and field Top 25 Best of the Best and Readers Choice Awards.