Canyon Teague of the Gahanna Lincoln High School boys tennis team knows he will be the underdog in his opening-round singles match in the Division I state tournament.
That's fine with the junior, who placed fourth in the district tournament May 18 and 19 at Hilliard Davidson. After losing in a qualifying match at district the past two years, he is happy just to be competing at state.
The top four finishers in singles and doubles at district qualified for the state tournament Friday, May 25, and Saturday, May 26, at Ohio State.
Teague opens against Perrysburg's Jeffrey Schorsch, who was the Northwest District champion.
"There are so many emotions that come to mind in my head right now," Teague said after defeating Big Walnut's Nathan Randall 6-2, 6-3 and Dublin Jerome's Kent Seitz 6-4, 6-4 in the first two rounds at district on May 18 to secure his first state berth.
Last season at district, Teague and Stephen Cheng lost to St. Charles' Grant Dolven and Weston Niermeyer 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 in a qualifying match.
"I made a vow (after that loss) that I was going to work harder than anyone to make it (to state)," Teague said.
To keep his promise, he had to undergo rehabilitation after sustaining a stress fracture in his back in December. He missed four months of training, including the first month of the season, before being medically cleared to play.
After beating Randall, Teague had to get past Seitz, a two-time state qualifier in doubles, to secure a state berth.
"I didn't have any problems getting back into the game today," Teague said after qualifying. "My serve was on and I've been working so hard on all my overheads and groundstrokes. It all came together."
But on May 19, it was a different injury that led Teague to forfeit the third-place match against Reynoldsburg's Cameron Raglin. He pulled a stomach muscle in a 6-2, 6-1 loss to eventual district runner-up Hiromi Nakayama of Dublin Coffman in a semifinal.
"Canyon was in a lot of pain and we didn't want to risk him not being able to play in the state tournament," coach Chris Schwinnen said. "He's going to rest up and be ready for the tournament.
"Whether you're coming in as a third or fourth seed, you're going to have to face someone really good in the first round."
Also competing at district for the Lions were the doubles team of Alex Gavrilov and Sam Raybuck and the doubles team of Daniel Emoff and Eric Chen. Both were eliminated in the first round.
Gavrilov and Raybuck lost to New Albany's Ameen Farwana and Jordan Rabe 6-3, 6-2 and Emoff and Chen lost to eventual district runners-up John Buchan and Leon Cai of Coffman 6-3, 6-1.
"We had a couple of mistakes, but it was a good match," Gavrilov said. "We've played together since seventh or eighth grade. I think we underachieved for part of the season, but I guess we put it all together when it mattered."
"I think we played hard, but it was pretty tough," Chen said. "We didn't have the right mindset to play them."