Ryan Wydra admits he didn't have high expectations on the tennis courts coming into his first year of high school.
But the Hough freshman went on to surprise even himself.
Wydra beat out former North Mecklenburg No. 1 player Collin Black for the Huskies' top job before going undefeated in the regular season playing against a talented and experienced group of I-Meck competitors on his way to winning the conference tournament title.
"Just to beat out Collin was a huge achievement," the 15-year-old said. "Either one of us could have been No. 1. I think he's just as good as I am."
Wydra said he knew being No. 1 would be a challenge, but he didn't back down from it.
"I was going into every match just thinking, 'I'm going to play the best guy here ... someone older than me, someone who has played high school tennis before,'" he said.
"But I just tried to ignore that and play my game."
Wydra is a skillful player on the court, who uses his effective groundstroke to stay on the offense and keep opponents off balance. Not being a power hitter, he admits his focus is on ball placement.
"I try to force my opponent to move just enough until I can get that short ball to put it away," said Wydra.
Hough coach Alice Hansen said she has the perfect word to describe Wydra's style: methodical.
"He plans out what he's going to do - he sees the whole court sort of like a chess player," she said.
"He can evaluate who he's playing - what their weaknesses, their strengths are - and use that to his advantage."
Along with that, Wydra's positive outlook - his "life-is-good" approach - and the dedication he has for tennis is what separates him from the competition, said Hansen.
Wydra has been playing tennis since he was 10, playing competitively year-round at River Run for the past few years.
He explained that he plays four to six days a week regardless of the weather, taking only the week between Christmas and New Year's off, although even then he goes out and hits to keep his rhythm.
Wydra partially credits that work for his performance this year.
"I guess it's preparation meets opportunity," he said.
Wydra said he enjoys playing tennis because of the individual aspect of the sport.
"I like the idea that if I make a mistake, if I were to lose a match, that would be on me," the 6-foot-1 freshman said. "On a team sport, you can mask mistakes behind other players, but in tennis you can't do that."
Hough was 7-2, 5-2 in the I-Meck, this year, without any seniors on its roster.
"I'm proud of my boys," said Hansen, who's in her first season coaching.
Both Wydra and Black, who finished fourth at the I-Meck tournament, will compete in May 6's individual regionals and hope to play at states the following week.
The Huskies also have a chance to be wildcard selections for the dual team playoffs