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  The Digital Collegian - Published independently by students at Penn State
Sports
[ Thursday, April 29, 1999 ]

Griesser excels after finding tennis for himself

By BRAD STRATTON
Collegian Staff Writer

Considering Mike Griesser's father played tennis in college and now teaches the sport, it isn't difficult to imagine the 8-year-old version of the No. 1 singles player for the Penn State men's tennis team.


PHOTO: Tom Williams
Penn State tennis player Mike Griesser prepares to smack a forehand earlier this season.

Tennis racquet glued to his hand, his father pumping his fists and barking instructional commands from the baseline.

Sounds dreamy, the ideal athletic upbringing -- well, forget all that.

None of it is true.

"I got interested in tennis on my own," Griesser said. "I wasn't pushed. Tennis was the last thing my father would push me into."

Whether he was pushed or willingly jumped matters little. What counts is the tennis player's track record, which includes the past two seasons in the No. 1 singles slot.

A kinesiology major, Griesser was named Academic All-Big Ten in 1997 and '98 and won the Penn State Academic Achievement Award in both those years.

"He balances everything perfectly," teammate and best friend Eric Meditz said.

Including the pressure that has come from four years as a starting Lion, four years during which he has posted an 83-56 overall singles record.

But before college, there were other passions. He was not swinging a tennis racquet at a young age, as Griesser got involved in other sports such as soccer, baseball and basketball. He said he never played football because he was "smaller and would have taken a beating."

Tennis, on the other hand, never entered the picture until Griesser was 11. The Carlisle, Ohio, resident did not fare well in early tournaments against children with more experience.

"I practiced two or three times a week," Griesser said. "I didn't have any kind of schedule."

At age 14, Griesser started focusing on tennis. He played all four years in high school and rose to become the No. 1-ranked player in the Western Tennis Association. He was ranked No. 40 nationally in the high school circuit.

"I loved it," he said, "but it was more of a social enjoyment. There were no crowds in junior tennis."

The step up to college tennis was a big one for Griesser. He broke onto the scene in the spring of 1996, posting a 9-1 record against the Big Ten en route to a team-best 21-6 record that season.

"He's great," ex-teammate Brett Englesburg said in a Feb. 1996 story in The Daily Collegian. "He's going to be one of the best players around. He's really tough. I think by the time he's a senior he'll be one of the dominant players in the Big Ten."

Watching Griesser play a match, at times pumping his fists and getting verbally emotional, one might expect Griesser to brag about his success. But he is quite the opposite. Through it all, he has managed to stay levelheaded and modest.

As Griesser prepares to receive his diploma, the future looms ahead. Always the proper student, Griesser intends to play professional tennis for only a few months before moving on to the working world.






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