Marcelo Aguilar hasn't let the extra free time he's been given this spring go to waste, for his mind as well as his body.

Given that his senior season with the Olentangy Liberty boys tennis team was canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, he didn't have an opportunity to make a second consecutive appearance at the Division I state tournament.

In addition to helping to manage the tennis courts at Brookside Country Club and hitting with his personal coach and other individuals whenever possible this spring, Aguilar has focused on becoming mentally tougher as he prepares to play for Ohio Wesleyan.

"Tennis and work take up most of my time," he said. "I've been trying to read some books about tennis. The one I'm reading right now is 'The Inner Game of Tennis' by Timothy Gallwey. It just talks about how you have to learn how to do what comes naturally."

The Patriots had been practicing for less than a week when the OHSAA initially postponed and later canceled the spring sports season because of the pandemic, but first-year coach Adrian Tolentino had enough interactions with Aguilar since taking over the program in early January to be impressed with him.

Tolentino had coached Jones Middle School in Upper Arlington for three years before taking over Liberty's program.

"Marcelo is a one-of-a-kind player," said Tolentino, who also serves as Hilliard Davidson's girls coach. "I could tell from the start that whatever I would throw at (the players), whether it be conditioning or drills, he'd thrive. You can tell by his composure on the court. He's consistently controlling all the variables that he can and lets go of those that he can't. That's what makes Marcelo a phenomenal athlete in general. He's learned that important lesson that takes a lot of people their entire lives to learn.

"Marcelo is a natural leader. He's personable with his peers yet knows how to set the tone in the environment he's in."

Aguilar lost in the first round of the sectional tournament in singles as a sophomore but teamed with Vishnu Bodavula for last year's postseason. The duo won a sectional title and then placed fourth at district to become the Patriots' first doubles team to reach state.

Then at state at Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason, Aguilar and Bodavula forced Findlay's Drew Swisher and Max Hosey to a third set but lost 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 in the first round.

Bodavula played first singles and Aguilar was at second singles for much of last season as Liberty went 10-6 overall and placed second in the OCC-Buckeye Division at 4-1, behind Olentangy (5-0).

"(Being at state was) definitely one of my best memories," Aguilar said. "We all got to drive there and it was a lot of fun. We toured the facility and got to warm up on the center court. (Bodavula and I) complemented each other. My serve was one of our strengths and with him being at the net, he was able to complement my serve really well. I had bigger shots, but he was definitely more consistent. We were really good friends so we thought we'd have the chemistry to try our luck in doubles."

Ohio Wesleyan has been coached for the last five seasons by Rob Postma, who also has been the head tennis pro at Brookside for six years and teaches lessons at The Players Club in Hilliard.

Tolentino played at Capital when Postma served as the Crusaders' coach before taking over at Ohio Wesleyan.

Aguilar's father, Lou, is a native of Peru and was among those who got his son interested in tennis.

"I'm committed to Ohio Wesleyan, which is a Division III school and they have (two players) from central Ohio," Aguilar said. "I think they have a good, diverse team."

julrey@thisweeknews.com

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