Tennis wasn’t even Mark Gueswell’s favorite sport when he was a little kid.
Although he started playing the sport when he was 7, Gueswell’s No. 1 sport was basketball, and he always dreamed of lighting it up as an NBA star.
“I used to shoot hoops all the time when I was young,” Gueswell said. “Tennis kind of crept along, and I think during high school it finally took a spot over basketball.”
Not until his junior year at Windsor High School last year did Gueswell dream of tennis taking him to special places. That’s when Gueswell knew he had to work at his game to qualify as one of the top 16 players for the Class 4A state boys tennis tournament. Gueswell, a senior, did just that by sometimes playing five hours a day this past summer and traveling around the state to play in tournaments.
The 18-year-old fulfilled his dream of playing in the state tournament as a No. 1 singles player for Windsor. Despite losing 6-1, 6-1 to Cheyenne Mountain’s Stephen Moore in the quarterfinal round of the state tournament at Pueblo City Park on Thursday, Gueswell made history by becoming the first Windsor tennis player to win a match in the state tournament earlier in the day. Gueswell defeated Longmont’s Jake Fell 6-7 (4), 6-0, 6-1 in the first-round match. It was the second time Gueswell beat Fell this season. Gueswell was only the second Windsor player in the boys’ program to qualify for the state tournament.
“I’ve actually been dreaming about this for a long time,” Gueswell said. “It’s kind of almost relaxing that I finally did it. It gives me kind of a shiver in my back, and it makes me want more. I still want to get better and get ready for college.”
The 5-foot-7, 130-pound Gueswell, who entered the state tournament with a 19-4 record, plans to play tennis at Hastings College in Nebraska next fall. He’s already been accepted to the college and will talk to the coach about playing at the NAIA collegiate level. Gueswell’s four losses during the regular season came against state qualifiers, two from 4A and two from 5A.
Wizards tennis coach Scott Talbot said Gueswell became a more aggressive player this year.
“I think Mark took it to another level in the offseason of last year working on his game and working on being more aggressive, rather than just getting the ball back,” Talbot said.
Talbot said Gueswell worked on specific shots such as the drop shot that he used offensively to try and move his opponents around.
“In the offseason, he also played in some tournaments around the state against some of the higher-level players which helped improved his game as well,” Talbot said. “Mark moves around on the court very well. He’s got an extremely strong forehand and he really has increased his court sense as far as knowing where the ball is, where he needs to be and able to think a shot ahead of where he’s at. He’s able to strategize a lot better than he has in past seasons.”
Gueswell carries a 3.78 grade-point average and is a member of the National Honor Society. He’s also the co-president of the student council and plans to study computer engineering or computer science in college.
Gueswell has had the respect of his teammates being named team captain from his sophomore to senior seasons where he was also the No. 1 singles player. He played No. 2 singles as a freshman. He also plays in the basketball and baseball programs at Windsor.
“Mark is extremely intelligent. He’s a very funny guy, but he’s also a quiet leader,” Talbot said. “He’s not the kind of guy who is going to come straight out and make jokes all the time, but he definitely leads by example. He’s extremely patient and helpful with all the players on the team.”
Talbot said having a player such as Gueswell earn a state tournament spot will be good for the younger players in the program. Gueswell said he wants his younger teammates to see him not only as a good player, but someone who always encouraged and helped them.
“I think it gives people the thought they have a chance,” Gueswell said. “I know some of them think they’re out before the season even starts. To be honest, I didn’t even know if I was going to make (state) this year.”