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On mission on court and off

Warren player heads to college

GURNEE – Former Warren Township tennis player John Westerberg has been able to keep himself busy in the summer, volunteering for mission trips.

“We’ve been doing that for four years,’’ Westerberg said of his work with the Village Church of Gurnee. “We do housework for poor people and help up on the roof replacing shingles.”

This summer’s trip went to Central America.

“We took two planes,’’ Westerberg said. “We went to Houston. And then to Guatemala City. I’ve taken six years of Spanish so I’m basically fluent.”

What he found out down there didn’t make him happy.

“We toured a ghetto,’’ he said. “And a women’s prison. There are lot of innocent people there. It kind of makes me mad. It is so wrong.”

Westerberg is now a graduate of Warren and plans to study chemical engineering at the University of Illinois. In the spring season, Westerberg teamed up with Sam Gudeman as they garnered honorable mention All-State selection in tennis. In addition, Westerberg won the Tom Pitchford Sportsmanship Award.

“I have some incredible kids, but John is incredible in both tennis and the classroom,’’ Warren tennis coach Greg Cohen said. “He’s a great tennis player. He’s a great student. He had a 4.3 grade point average. But he didn’t really care about his GPA. He is such a great teammate. He’s incredible with the younger kids. And he’s gone on all those mission trips.”

After the spring season concludes, Cohen runs a summer program that doesn’t discriminate against other schools’ players. Among those participating is Grayslake Central’s Joe Mudd.

“He’s a great kid and great student,’’ Cohen said.

Two gifted players from Antioch also have joined. They are two-time state qualifier Braden Ward and Sequoits’ freshman-to-be Kevin Boudreau.

“We get 25 contact days to work with,’’ Cohen said. “We used to go to the USTA tournaments. But they were super expensive.”

So the team took off for Naperville Central and East Moline.

“We played York in both singles and doubles,’’ Cohen said.

Westerberg was glad to pick up his doubles game this summer.

“It’s so much more fun,’’ he said. “There is much less stress.”

Westerberg also got to put his coach’s hat on.

“At the summer camps, we have kids at different levels,’’ Westerberg said. “I coached at many camps. And if I become a teacher after college, I might coach as well.”

These camps worked out the players. There was 16 days of drills along with match play for two hours.

Both Cohen and Westerberg are clearly fans of this spring and now summer sport.

“It’s a great sport,’’ Cohen said. “It’s a lifetime sport.”

Westerberg claims he wasn’t bragging but he’s a huge proponent of the Warren program.

“I think it’s one of the best programs in the state,’’ he said. “Our coach (Cohen) put so much into it. He believes in substance over style.”

One of the longer trips this summer was to the University of Illinois courts. They played a quad with Belleville East, Metamora and an all-star team from Champaign. Warren won two matches and tied with the all-star team.

Joining the tennis adventures this summer were Blue Devils Josh Ashley, Zach Blumberg, Tyler Cash, Mike Danos, Eric Grosskoph, Sam and Caleb Gudeman, Cameron Haevers, Daniel Nystrom, Sebastian Castanos, Sam Stemke, Brandon Reichel, Collin Schindler, Hershel Dave-Rege, TJ Harrigan, Brandon Reichel, Nick Skradski. Former Warren star Eric Seiler, now at Ripon College, helped out.

Also on Cohen’s staff this summer were Wesley Stoller, Neil Shah, Antioch graduate Kevin Boudreau and Round Lake graduate Tyler Stempinski.

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