Over the course of his high school career, Drew Jackson’s accomplished a lot as the Wheelersburg Pirates’ No. 1 boys tennis hand.
He’s gone an astounding 77-9 in three seasons as a varsity player for Wheelersburg while winning at least 25 games and SOC II Player of the Year in each of his three seasons at the varsity level. He’s gone an amazing 58-0 against non-state qualifiers — and has racked up a 19-9 overall mark against those who have qualified at the state realm — while qualifying for state twice himself.
And get this: Jackson’s still got one more full year to get even better, and perhaps terrorize the entire Southeast District to an even greater degree than he already has.
The Pirates’ latest star in the sport of tennis may have fallen to Lexington’s Benton Drake by a 3-6, 4-6 tally in the first round of the 2018 OHSAA Division II Boys Singles Tennis Tournament at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason, but with all that Jackson has already accomplished over his first three years of varsity play, there’s certainly nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, it’s just the opposite.
“I’m really proud of the way that I have played over the first three seasons,” Jackson said. “It’s been a really nice experience. I’ve really enjoyed my time at Wheelersburg because of all of the teammates and coaches that I have had that have supported me and helped me along the way. I’ve had really tough competition, so winning three straight SOC II titles is a huge accomplishment for me, and I’m just trying to continue to push further and get better every day.”
The junior, who has went 27-3, 25-3, and 25-3 over his three seasons of varsity action, dropped just one regular season bout — a 6-1, 3-6, 2-6 setback to fellow SOC I rival Brandon Nibert of Waverly on March 26. Jackson then proceeded to win out from there on in — including a 1-6, 6-2, 6-0 victory over Nibert on April 10 in regular season action and a 6-2, 6-2 win over Nibert in the SOC II Singles Championships — until the sectional finals, when Nibert defeated Jackson, 6-0, 6-2, in the Division II Southeast Sectional Championship.
And as one can imagine by the scores, the rivalry that Jackson has with Nibert is a very competitive, but friendly rivalry.
“Brandon’s a tremendous player,” Jackson said. “He does an excellent job of returning volleys, and his entire game is very smooth. The games that we’ve had have been great, and that’s great for the fans to watch two players battle it out like that. It really says a lot about Southern Ohio as a whole considering that we were the two best players in district competition this past season, and it represents our community in a good and positive way, so it’s always good to play Brandon. I always enjoy it.”
In district play, Jackson, who received a first round bye along with Nibert, defeated Steubenville Catholic Central’s Mike Irvin, 6-2, 6-3 and Claymont’s Pau Caudet, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, to clinch a qualifying berth in the state tournament — defeating Caudet, who held an unblemished record on the year, in doing so. Jackson then took the Division II East/Southeast District Championship by default due to an injury that was suffered by Nibert.
As a result of the aforementioned, Jackson became the first male tennis player from Wheelersburg to reach two single tournaments in singles play, and put his own stamp on Wheelersburg history by becoming only the third player in Wheelersburg boys tennis history to advance to the state tennis tournament twice. Dustin Burleson and Arron Burleson, who both advanced one time each in singles and doubles, were the additional pair of standouts to advance.
The progress in Jackson’s game, however, is one that the now senior-to-be credits his teammates with forging.
“I’ve had a really good group of teammates that have supported me along the way,” Jackson said. “I couldn’t have done this without them. In my freshman year, we had a really good team. We won the SOC Championship (in 2016), and I had a couple of teammates that really helped me develop as a player and allowed me to build up my own game over the next two years. They have been really instrumental in my development. This year, I enjoyed playing with each one of my teammates, and I’m just really looking forward to next year.”
At the state realm, Jackson, who fell by a 2-6, 0-6 tally to Hamilton Badin’s Noah Connaughton in 2016, put together a very impressive display in the opening round by taking his opponent in this year’s version of the tournament, Drake, to 19 games before falling in a valiant effort. Drake fell to the eventual OHSAA Division II Singles Champion, Cincinnati Indian Hill’s Andrew Pregel, in the quarterfinals.
“It came down to a couple of points here and a couple of points there,” Jackson said. “I just wasn’t winning the 50-50 volleys. However, I came so close to winning them, and I played really well throughout the entire match, so I’m proud of myself for that. I’m proud of the way that I have competed and the sportsmanship that I have shown throughout the season.”
The success that Jackson has had so far in his career, and the improvement that the junior showed in 2018 alone, however, has the top singles tennis hand in the area starving for more. As one of 10 players that will be coming back after appearing in the Division II State Tournament, the senior knows that now is the time to make a serious statement.
“I want to win the SOC Singles Championship for the fourth year in a row, and win sectionals and districts as well,” Jackson said. “I’d like to get to the second day (of the 2018 OHSAA Division II Boys Singles Tennis Tournament), if not win it.”
However, regardless of what happens, Jackson knows that he’ll always have a very important supporter in his back pocket.
“My Mom (Becky) is a really good coach,” Jackson said. “She is supportive in everything that I do. She’s helped me, she always believed that I could win, and she’s very encouraging. I really appreciate her for that.”