By Jenny Phillips
Only a sophomore, Chris Wiechert PZ '14 has already proven himself as a force to be reckoned with on Pomona-Pitzer's tennis team. After earning first team All-SCIAC, West Region Rookie of the Year and ITA National Rookie of the Year accolades as a first-year a season ago, Wiechert has continued to be a key in the Sagehens' success. This year, though, he is not worried about racking up more individual awards. Wiechert has his sights set on team success and a national championship.
Like most other kids, Wiechert played many sports growing up. It was not until after his older brother took up tennis that Wiechert himself picked up a racket and his true athletic talent emerged. At just 12 years old, Wiechert was already playing in junior tournaments across the country, competing against top regional and national opponents.
While Wiechert was excelling on the high-school courts—placing second place at Oregon's state tournament two years in a row—his older brother played varsity tennis for the University of Oregon. Through his brother, Wiechert saw the time commitment that Division I sports required and decided that he wanted to play tennis at a smaller college.
"I didn't want tennis to be my entire life," Wiechert said. "That definitely contributed to the [college] decision."
Wiechert also knew he wanted to go to school in California. Growing up in Eugene, Oregon, Wiechert was sick of the Pacific Northwest's non-stop rain. He was ready to play tennis in the sunshine. All these criteria made Pitzer College the logical choice. Wiechert's decision was solidified when he visited Claremont and met the coaches and team. Wiechert felt immediately at home in Claremont.
After starring in high school tennis, Wiechert continued to be a standout at the collegiate level. As a sophomore, he is the number two singles player and on the number three doubles player, a large contributing factor to the Sagehens' success. Wiechert's hard work and determination is also well respected by his teammates.
"Chris is one of the toughest competitors I've ever played against," said teammate Tommy Meyer PO '12. "He fights right until the end every single time."
Despite having played top-ranked players across the nation, Wiechert explains that he has had no problem finding competition at the Division III level.
"I'm not winning every single match by any means," he said. "I still have to work hard and keep practicing."
Being part of the Sagehens has brought one major change to Wiechert's game, though. He is now a lot more involved in the team aspect of tennis. In high school, Wiechert focused most of his efforts on singles, not only playing for his high school team, but competing in many junior tournaments as well.
"I like the idea of competing by myself," he said. "I like having everything in my control and being able to play up to my ability."
At the collegiate level, singles matches have a great effect on a team's regionals and nationals qualifying chances. Wiechert knows that every match he wins gives his team another point, which takes them closer to the NCAA tournament. Playing singles matches side-by-side with his teammates has helped remind him of the importance of team success.
"Having my teammates playing next to me is motivating," he said. "The individual part is in the back of my mind, but when I'm playing, I'm focusing on my team."
Wiechert has also contributed to the team with his doubles play, something he never concentrated on in high school and did not have the opportunity to do in junior tournaments. He and Alex Groth PO '12 have been partners for two years now, and Wiechert has found doubles to be a very enjoyable experience.
"He's made it really fun for me," Wiechert said of Groth. "I don't feel any pressure when I play with him."
Whether it is doubles or singles, Wiechert is prepared to see his team go far in the postseason. The Sagehens have already beaten the fifth-ranked team in the region and have had the opportunity to compete against many other top programs.
When asked about the individual awards he hopes to earn this year, Wiechert shrugged indifferently.
"What's most important is how far the team goes," he said. "It's way more fun to celebrate with thirteen other guys than by myself. They're the ones that make me better in practice every day."