COLUMBUS — Jacob Dunbar has already made history as the first Medina County singles player to qualify for the state boys tennis tournament in three consecutive seasons.
Additionally, the Cloverleaf junior completed his three-year prep career without a regular-season loss — and with three Suburban League and sectional titles on his resume.
Dunbar also captured his first Oberlin College Division I District crown last weekend, leaving only one goal to be accomplished: Winning the state championship.
His quest for the top prize begins today at the Ohio State Varsity Tennis Center, where he faces New Albany senior Rathnakishore Giri in the opening round. Match time is 9 a.m.
“I’m a little nervous because there is some pressure on me, but it’s good pressure because a lot of people expect me to do well,” said Dunbar, who is 32-0 on the season and 93-5 in his career.
“There won’t be any real surprises this year because, for the most part, I’ve played everyone in the field at some point. When you think about it, though, a (tournament) draw is a draw. You’ve got to beat everyone at some point in order to win the championship.”
Sixteen singles players qualified for state, putting each of them four wins from the title.
As a district champion, Dunbar would not play another No. 1 seed until the semifinals, which take place Saturday at 9 a.m.
Giri finished fourth at the Hilliard Davidson District, while Dunbar’s quarterfinal opponent would be Dugan Delp of Toledo Central Catholic (second at the Bowling Green District) or Mason junior Luke Tsai (third at the Centerville District).
“All signs are positive — even perfect — for Jacob right now,” Colts coach Mike McGee said. “He has been totally dedicated to this goal since last year’s state tournament. I know he’s going to have fun and do very well.”
Dunbar finished fourth at state as a freshman, which equaled the highest singles finish in county history, but was beaten in the quarterfinals of the 2012 tourney by Perrysburg’s Jeffrey Schorsch.
Though he already shares the county record of three state singles wins with his older brother Ethan and Medina’s Patrick Thompson, Dunbar said early elimination in 2012 has fueled his fire for the last year.
“The experience I gained was valuable, just like it was when I was a freshman and I wasn’t ‘supposed to win’ any matches at state,” he said. “But last year also taught me that sometimes you can play well, but other players are even better on that day.”
Adding another layer to the potential drama of this weekend, Schorsch won the Bowling Green District and is on the opposite side of the bracket. So is Walsh Jesuit junior Aaron Sandberg, who Dunbar defeated in the Medina Sectional and Oberlin College District finals.
Also on the bottom half of the bracket are Hudson senior Steven Boslet, St. Ignatius sophomore Nathan Griffin and Mason senior Miguel Cepeda. Ethan Dunbar, then a Cloverleaf senior, swept Cepeda in the first round of the 2010 tournament.
In another fun storyline, four-time Gazette MVP Ethan will be in attendance at state — and will team up with Jacob on the University of Richmond men’s tennis team in the fall.
“I’ve been pretty strong all season, but it will be nice to have my whole family here with me,” said Jacob, who stands 6-foot-1. “We’ve obviously shared a lot of great moments together because of tennis.
“I’m just going to play my game and have fun, but I’m definitely going out and trying to win the tournament.”
McGee will also be serving as a chair umpire at the state tournament, but not in matches involving Dunbar or during time periods when the Colts standout is playing.
The Cloverleaf boys tennis and swimming coach earned his first major officiating assignment in the fall, when he was chosen to work at the state girls tennis tournament.
“It’s going to be a very busy experience, but I’m more relaxed than I’ve ever been going to state,” said McGee, who is making his sixth state appearance as a coach.
Contact Brian Dulik at email@example.com.