HOLLAND — Cristian Castro-Gonzalez has to use quick feet when he is competing.
It works for him in wrestling as he tries to make the first move on an opponent — and it works in tennis where he has to stay on the move to finish a point.
There are very few athletes who compete in both wrestling and tennis, but Castro-Gonzalez has made it work for him.
“Wrestling helps you with your stamina and keeps yourself in shape. Tennis is a lot of explosiveness and getting to spots and gives you a good amount of agility for wrestling moves,” Castro-Gonzalez said.
His tennis improvement culminated by winning the OK Green Conference championship at No. 3 singles on Saturday, 6-2, 6-2 over Zeeland West’s Drew Schippers.
“It meant a lot. I was just trying to play my game. I knew (Schippers) was a tough opponent. He beat me the first time and I beat him the second time. So I knew the third would be a good match. I stayed focused and tried not to get mad at myself. He is a consistent player so I had to try to outsmart him a little bit.”
Castro-Gonzales leads the Dutch into this week’s regional tournament.
Holland tennis coach Kyle Kreps said Castro-Gonzalez has continued to improve and focus on what it takes to improve.
“Cristian came in as a freshman and we knew he was pretty talented. We knew he had some natural ability and we knew he had a chance to be special,” Kreps said. “He hits with a ton of power and I think this year, he realized he doesn’t always have to play that way. He has added more tools to his game, and I think mentally is really where the growth has come. He is strong out there when things get tough — he digs deep.”
Remaining calm can be difficult in tennis, especially if things aren’t going well. Kreps said the sign of a mature player is not letting emotions affect the match.
“He is always calm. As a coach, I never know if he is winning or losing, unless I am looking at the cards, and that is great to see,” Kreps said. “That says a lot.”
This is the second year for Castro-Gonzalez at No. 3 singles, which has also helped.
“He kind of took it on the chin last year, but I think it was a good learning experience,” Kreps said. “He came out and has been one of our strongest flights this year. It was huge that he could win conference. Coming in as the No. 2 seed, we knew he had a chance.”
Now, Castro-Gonzalez is hoping to earn another big chance on the tennis court next year.
“I hope next year to go for first singles and maybe doing this all over again,” he said.
— Follow Sports Editor Dan D’Addona on Twitter @DanDAddona and Facebook @Holland Sentinel Sports.