CHEYENNE – Nolan Gerdes recalled the first time he met Grant Redman.
It was in kindergarten, well before either picked up a tennis racquet.
“I remember seeing him in ... class, (and) he was hiding behind his mom,” Gerdes said with a laugh.
Little did either of them know they would become best friends after that first encounter years ago.
So much so that they made a pact to go out for the Cheyenne East varsity tennis team their freshman year in 2016. Gerdes played No. 2 doubles that season, while Redman played No. 3 doubles.
They have done nothing but shine for the Thunderbirds since returning to the court as sophomores. This is Redman and Gerdes’ third season as a doubles team, and their second as East’s No. 1 tandem.
“We were disappointed when we didn’t get on a team our freshman year, because we thought we would,” Gerdes said. “But then sophomore year it happened, last year it happened, and this year it happened.”
The goal wasn’t always for the friends to play doubles together. In fact, they just wanted to be on the same team freshman year. Then, after they got to know each other more and studied one another’s tendencies on and off the court, they naturally meshed.
“We’ve come to learn each other’s playing styles and know each other’s limits, and we can both compensate for each other’s limits and provide our own strengths to the team,” Gerdes added.
It’s hard to spot the buddies together without one of them laughing, but they are players with two completely different personalities on the court. Gerdes likes to provide a calming presence in a laid-back way, while Redman is more of the “hardcore guy.”
“He pumps me up when I need it,” said Gerdes, “and I bring him down when he needs it.”
Redman echoed Gerdes on that note.
“I try to be relaxed, but I get caught up in the moment a lot,” he said. “Playing together, you realize after three years that I’m the kind of guy that is pretty hyped up all the time.
“We play better when we’re just relaxed and enjoying the game. We seem to press sometimes, and that’s when we play worse. We try to just relax and play the game.”
The two have had a run of success in their prep careers. After bowing out in the first round of the 2017 state meet, they won a match over Torrington in the consolation round. Then, after being eliminated from state title contention last fall, the East standouts bounced back with a pair of consolation wins, including a 6-3, 7-5 triumph over Green River.
“We had one of our best matches ever against the Green River team, and we can both say that we played our hearts out that game, and we played with an actual reason, and I think this year we need to play with a reason, rather than just coming out here and playing for fun,” Gerdes said. “We need to put our heads in the game and actually go for something.”
The East seniors opened up the 2019 season in style Thursday afternoon by defeating Cheyenne South’s Wyatt Ebben and Raymond Dougherty, 7-6, 6-2 at the East tennis courts.
The familiarity Gerdes and Redman have with one another is something T-Birds coach Roger Zwonitzer covets.
“That’s the stuff, to me, that means the most is the relationships,” the coach said. “Of course, we like to play good tennis, but those are the things that mean the most. That’s the thing I’m most proud of as a coach is to see these guys develop into great human beings.
“They’ll be competitive. The experience will hopefully come through in those close matches.”
That’s the goal: Win state. And having competed in the state tournament each of the past two seasons, the East doubles squad is eager to take that next step. If they need any motivation, they turn back to the pact they made a few short years ago.
“I hate to lose,” said Redman, “and I know that we’ve got the chemistry better than anyone else in the state and that we have a good shot at winning.”
Bison, T-Birds split duals
The South boys won their first dual of the season Thursday, beating East 3-2. Brendan Lock topped Mason Paskett, 6-0, 6-1, at No. 1 singles. Fletcher Mothershed downed Kaiden Brown, 6-4, 6-0, at No. 2.
The Bison’s final win of the afternoon came at No. 2 doubles where Justin Valdez and Josiah Moyte topped Nick Colgan and Nathan Zastoupil, 7-5, 6-3.
In addition to Gerdes and Redman’s won at No. 1 doubles, the No. 3 doubles tandem of Logan Davis and Marty Zhang won, 7-6, 7-5.
The East girls won their dual 5-0. Lexie Woolridge topped Torisha Brown 6-2, 6-2, in No. 1 singles. Grace Regeski defeated Jessie Foster, 6-0, 6-0, at No. 2 singles.
The Bison do not have any doubles teams and had to forfeit all three spots.