Chagrin Falls junior Andrew Zimcosky won his second straight Division II singles tennis state championship on Saturday while the Orange duo of Chika Nwaozuzu and his brother Joshua Nwaozuzu gave the Chagrin Valley Conference a clean sweep of the state tournament by winning the doubles competition.
Zimcosky opened the tournament with a 6-1, 6-1 win over Cincinnati Summit Country Day’s Elizabeth Fahrmeier and then went on to beat Columbus Wellington School’s Griffin Biernat in the quarterfinals, 6-2, 6-3. A 6-2, 6-1 semifinals win over Seven Hills freshman Avi Mahajan set up Zimcosky with a rematch against Orange’s Ben Pomeranets with the state title on the line.
Zimcosky and Pomeranets weren’t strangers.
The two played in the CVC championship game with Zimcosky winning the three-set match. Pomeranets by default in the sectional championship game and he claimed a 7-5, 6-4 win in the district title bout.
But, on Saturday, it was Zimcosky that came out on top with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory that sealed his second state title. He won his first as a freshman in 2019.
The Nwaozuzu brothers cruised into the semifinal with 6-0, 6-3, and 6-1, 6-0 straight-set wins over Cincinnati Country Day’s Kasey Chopra and Matt Castrucci and Lexington’s Karl Etzel and Ethan Remy.
They won back-to-back three-set matches in the semifinals and finals to win the state title.
“It feels amazing,” said Chika Nwaozuzu, a freshman. “We’ve been working hard all season and to know that the work did pay off, it feels really satisfying.”
The Orange tandem defeated Indian Hill’s Tejas Pisati and R.J. Pofenberger in the semifinals, 6-4, 6-7, 6-1.
The Lions also needed three sets to beat Columbus Academy’s Arie Tuckerman and Jack Madison in the championship bout, 3-6, 6-2, 6-4.
“It was our energy,” Chika Nwaozuzu said of the slow start in the finals. “We didn’t have enough energy. We weren’t focused enough and I think the next two sets we brought back our energy and it was a lot better.”
Joshua Nwaozuzu also felt the Lions were a bit off at the start of the finals match.
The scouting report indicated the Lions had a far more difficult matchup in the semifinals, and with the injuries the Nwaozuzu brothers were battling through, they struggled to play with the same intensity in both matches.
“I have an elbow injury and Chika has his shoulder injury,” Joshua Nwaozuzu said. “I have a couple more injuries than my elbow but that’s the main part, so if I play at 100-percent it’s at the detriment of not being able to play really as hard the next day or the next match.”
With a win in the semis, the Nwaozuzu brothers may have overlooked their championship-round opponents. They learned quickly that it was a mistake to look past the 2019 state runners-up.
“We played those guys and they were not a walkover in any fashion,” Joshua Nwaozuzu said. “They were in these state finals just as much as we were. That was our fault for not coming out there and not treating them with the respect, not giving them the respect that they deserve. We figured it out and came back and worked hard.”
The victory was the 18th straight for the Nwaozuzu brothers as they remain undefeated this season with, hopefully, two matches remaining. They’ll travel to New Albany on Sunday, May 30 to play Columbus Academy in the Final Four of the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association state tournament.
“I’m not in a celebratory mood yet, not until we take this team state,” Joshua Nwaozuzu said. “I’d love to say happy thoughts but we haven’t won team states yet. The job isn’t finished, that’s what it comes down to at the end of the day. You have to win team states. You’ve got people that worked really hard to get us where we’re at. It would be ashamed to squander that opportunity, especially during my senior year.”
The Nwaozuzu brothers are the third members of their family to compete at the state tennis tournament. Blessing Nwaozuzu qualified in 2017, 2018, and 2019. She placed fourth as a junior in 2018 and lost to the eventual state champion in two of her three appearances.
“My sister has always had a tough draw for districts, states, and sectionals,” Chika Nwaozuzu said. “Four years in a row, she had some tough draws so I wanted to bring home some medals for our name. She had a lot of tough draws and matches and she never got to win states so I really wanted to win states for our school and for our family too.”