Rick Peterson, Top Sports News Writer

By RICK PETERSON                                                                                                              


Entering Friday and Saturday's Class 5A state boys tennis tournament at Arkansas City, Topeka West has already swept city, United Kansas Conference and regional team championships and is considered one of the top contenders for the state title after finishing second a year ago.

Fv1c rDWYAAOO2yTopeka West varsity tennis players Ian Cusick, Caleb Weybrew, Miles Cusick, Carter Cool, James Maag and Caden McGee are all members of the National Honor Society in addition to being city, UKC and Class 5A regional team champions. [Photo by Rick Peterson/TSN]

Fv1dz IXsAAVg0GTopeka West's top six varsity tennis players posed for a picture with head coach Kurt Davids and assistant coach Shon Daniels at the recent National Honor Soccer induction ceremony after winning the UKC team championship. [Photo courtesy of Katie Shiflett]

And that may not even be the Chargers' most impressive accomplishment.

Kurt Davids' team of seniors Ian Cusick, Miles Cusick and Carter Cool and juniors James Maag, Caden McGee and Caleb Weybrew not only go into state with a combined 119-34 record on the season but all six have also earned the rare distinction of earning membership in the prestigious National Honor Society.

"I'm really impressed with my guys,'' Ian Cusick said.. "Sometimes they may act kind of dumb around me, but I'm really impressed that everybody was able to be in (NHS) at the same time.''

Miles Cusick agreed with his twin brother.

"We were talking about it at practice the other day and we're interested to see if you could find another team in the state of Kansas that has all six of their varsity in the National Honor Society, so it's definitely a cool thing that we all managed to do,'' said Miles, who teamed with Ian to win the Class 5A state doubles title in 2022.

While the Chargers' recent success on the tennis court has been well-documented, their academic success shows that the classroom is just as important to the team.

Cool, who will attend the University of Kansas next school year, is the valedictorian of the Topeka West graduating class of 2023 while the Cusicks rank in the top 10 and Maag, McGee and Weybrew are among the top students in the junior class.

"Actually, I take (academics) more serious than I do tennis,'' said Cool, a two-time city champ in No. 1 singles. "I'd say tennis comes second to my studies, but obviously I take that very serious.''

"I think I probably take my grades more serious than I do tennis to some extent,'' said Ian Cusick, who will attend KU. "They always say you're a student before an athlete and you have to make the grades if you want to play, so grades are pretty important to me.''

Miles Cusick said academic success is also important to his family.

"I think it's aways been emphasized in the Cusick household that we are student-athletes and even though we're very dedicated to tennis, we're also very dedicated to grades,'' said Miles, who will attend Kansas State.

McGee, who plays doubles with Weybrew, said academics is also emphasized in his home.

"I do (take it seriously), and part of that's because of my mom,'' McGee said. "She pushes me pretty hard and grades are really important and I take the classroom pretty much as seriously as I take playing athletics.''  

"There's two parts -- a student and an athlete -- and you have to do the student part first and then the athlete second,'' Weybrew said.

Maag, the city champ in No. 2 singles, agreed with his teammates on the importance of academics.

"It (NHS) is definitely an elite group of people so it's good to be part of the group that recognizes academic success,'' Maag said. "It's a great opportunity. I think it definitely says something about our coaches and how they strive for us to not only succeed on the court but to succeed off the court in academics.

"It's definitely something you have to balance out but at the same time you can't really play tennis if you don't focus on your academics as well. Coaches always tell us that academics are a big part and it's definitely something you need to focus on.''

Weybrew said he believes that doing well in the classroom has a carryover benefit in tennis.

"I think that if you're lazy with your grades then you're probably a little bit lazier on the tennis court,'' Weybrew said. "But if you try hard and work hard on your grades then you'll see that on the court, too.''

Added McGee: "It definitely helps and it relieves some stress because if you get your schoolwork done then you don't have to worry as much on the tennis court. When you get out here you can just play tennis. That's it.''

Coaches always have a lot to worry about, but Davids, the Kansas Coaches Association boys tennis coach of the year in 2022, said academics is one thing he doesn't have to concern himself with when it comes to this year's West team.

"Usually tennis players are good,'' Davids said. "I seldom chase kids around for tardies or grade issues and seldom have to bench people because of grades. And with these six, it's not a problem at all.''

Cool said he didn't necessarily begin his high school career thinking about becoming a valedictorian, but is proud of that achievement.

"I don't think I started with a goal like that but as I've gone on it became more obvious that was a real possibility for me,'' Cool said. "I always wanted to be at the top of my class but I couldn't say I set that goal going into high school.

"I'm proud of it, I think it's somewhat of a big accomplishment. My family's a lot more proud than I am, of course.''

And Cool is also very proud of his teammates.

"I think I'm more proud of that than for my own accomplishments,'' Cool said. "There's just a selective group of kids in our entire high school that are in NHS and to get all six of us in is nice.

"It's nice to know that we all value school very highly.''



At Kossover Tennis Center

Washburn Rural -- Singles: Mason Casebeer, sr., 28-4; Lawson Lobatos, jr., 18-10. Doubles: Dylan Dodge, jr., and Keegan Knudtson, fr., 17-5; Kiefer Von Lintel, sr., and Dylan Willingham, fr., 13-6.


At JC Louderback Tennis Complex, Arkansas City

Topeka West -- Singles: Carter Cool, sr., 30-8; James Maag, jr., 29-11. Doubles: Ian Cusick, sr., and Miles Cusick, sr., 34-4; Caden McGee, jr., and Caleb Weybrew, jr., 26-11.


At Walter Blake Tennis Complex, Pratt

Hayden -- Singles: Chris Hayes, sr., 9-17; Evan George, so., 9-19. Doubles: Gus Glotzbach, sr., and Joseph Luke, jr., 21-10; Daxton Ham, sr., and Eli Wahlmeier, sr., 15-12.


At Riverside Tennis Center, Wichita

Cair Paravel Latin -- Singles: Drew Fay, fr., 19-10.

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