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State Tennis Semifinals

CBC's A.J. Woodman won the Class 2 boys tennis singles state title May 25, 2019, in Springfield, Mo. Woodman is the Post-Dispatch All-Metro boys tennis player of the year. Michael Gulledge, Special to STLhighschoolsports.com

CBC's A.J. Woodman had accomplished a lot in his first three years of high school tennis. He teamed with Clayton Maack to win a state doubles title as a sophomore and finished third in singles as a junior after debuting with the consolation singles state title as a freshman.

One thing was missing from Woodman's impressive resume, and he took care of that May 25 at Cooper Tennis Complex in Springfield when he won Missouri's Class 2 state boys singles championship.

That capped off an undefeated season in which Woodman did not lose a set, although that was tested in a 6-3, 7-6 victory against Jeremy Ouyang of Ladue in the Class 2 title match.

"The goal all season was to win state in singles," said Woodman. "It was very satisfying to be able to follow through and achieve that goal."

Woodman began playing tennis when he was 7 years old and started in tournaments when he was 8 in Toledo, Ohio.

CBC coach Peter Demos said Woodman's game had a great foundation from his earliest days on the court.

Woodman moved to St. Louis in the second semester of his seventh-grade year and immediately began training with local professional Troy Bray.

"There were a lot of things to like about A.J., but first and foremost was his talent," Bray said. "And he is one of the most coachable kids I have ever had. He is very open-minded and he listens."

It didn't take Demos long to realize that he had a special player at CBC.

"He was a little guy as a freshman, but unlike some other sports, you don't need to be the biggest or strongest guy to be successful in tennis," Demos said. "He did grow a lot coming into his senior season and that made him even a better player. He already had the unbelievable eyesight and was so quick and fast at the net and had a great volley, which helped him win the doubles title with Clayton. And I think he has the best second serve of anybody I have seen in high school for a while."

But Demos said he was just as impressed with Woodman's work ethic.

"I remember a time last season when we had a grueling two-hour and 15-minute practice," Demos said. "Everybody had left except for A.J. He was sitting on the bench and I asked him why he was still here. He said that he was waiting for a guy from Missouri Baptist to hit with him."

That work ethic, combined with the talent, resulted in tremendous success in high school as Woodman's combined record of 15-2 at the state tournament shows.

A once-in-a-generation talent, 2018 Parkway South graduate Carson Haskins, slowed Woodman's goal of becoming Missouri's singles state champion. Haskins, who is now playing at Indiana University, won four successive Class 2 titles from 2015-18.

"I have never seen a better high school player than A.J. other than the guy from Parkway South," Demos said.

Staley's Carson Gates, who finished second to Haskins for two years in Class 2 singles, also graduated in 2018.

That opened up the singles draw for Woodman, who took full advantage.

"You get to see different levels of players through high school, many who you play year round," Woodman said. "But it is fun to play them on the big stage. I love the team atmosphere of high school tennis and that is something I am looking forward to at West Point."

Woodman will depart for the United States Military Academy at West Point on June 28 to begin training July 1.

He also will play for the Army men's tennis team.

"I had never thought about the service academies before I starting looking at colleges," said Woodman, who was the Post-Dispatch Scholar Athlete from CBC. "That changed when I met with the Navy coach at a National Clay Court Tournament in Florida between my sophomore and junior years. I liked what he said and it eventually came down to Army and Navy."

Woodman gave his commitment to West Point in February of his junior year.

Bray said he thinks it will be a great match.

"I think he will get better as a tennis player in college," Bray said. "He has dedicated himself with work in the gym and gotten stronger and more explosive the last couple of years. His big serve and big forehand are his biggest weapons and the last couple of years he has learned to compete harder.

"He has the discipline and focus on the court and the willingness to work."

Those traits should translate well for Woodman at West Point.

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