Iron Horses boys’ tennis team favored to win Class AA state title
At 74, Richard Shulz is effervescent as he talks about today’s youth and tennis, which is the primary focus of his days as he enjoys retirement, his grandchildren and his tennis players at Philip Simmons High School.
He hasn’t slowed down, and neither has his team.
“I’m so excited by today’s youth,” said Schulz, a native of Washington, D.C. who played tennis collegiately at Pembroke State (N.C.) back in 1963. “I don’t get paid a whole lot of money (to coach). But I really would pay to coach them. They get up at 5:45, and they are student-athletes. Sometimes, they get home around 7:30-8 o’clock at night and that’s a long time to stay focused for a lot of 12- and 13-year-olds.”
Here’s what Shulz wants you to know about the Philip Simmons boys’ tennis team as it kicks into gear for the 2019 season: The Iron Horses are the youngest team in the land - and the best team in the land.
The land, of course, is South Carolina, and the Iron Horses are the strong favorites to win the Class AA state title. Need proof? Schulz is already pricing state championship rings.
But in reality, the Iron Horses are a heavyweight in more than just the Palmetto State. They have some of the top talent in the south and have more depth than an American Idol reunion.
The No. 1 singles player, Cory Simon, is the No. 1 18-and-under player in the south, while No. 2 singles player, Max Smith, is the No. 1 16-year-old player in the south.
No. 3 singles player Mitchell Deames is the No. 5 player in the south in his age group, and it only gets more depressing if you are on the other side of the net vs. the Iron Horses. Shulz said 6-foot, 13-year-old Carson Baker is the only player he’s been associated with who has the potential to have a professional career, while the No. 5 singles spot is currently shared by J.D Sutterlin and Jake Smith, who has been battling nagging injuries. Smith, the younger brother of Max Smith, has defeated the No. 1 12-year-old player in the United States.
The depth is just as impressive. In a recent prestigious tourney in Florence, Keith Lemke (No. 12 singles) and Soren Spina (No. 15 singles) combined to play at No. 2 doubles and posted a 3-1 record in Florence. They would be top 5 singles players at most schools in the Lowcountry.
While the Smiths are brothers, PSHS tennis is a true family affair. At a recent match, the players had about 30 family members/fans turn out to root on the Iron Horses.
Again, the team is young. That means Shulz has geared the schedule to be local to avoid long trips, but not light on talent. The itinerary includes defending Class AAA champ Bishop England, Oceanside Collegiate, four-time defending SCISA state champ Porter-Gaud, defending Class AA state champ Academic Magnet and Wando, which should be in the mix for the Class AAAAA state title in May.
Then it’s on to the playoffs for the Iron Horses.
“We will be better than advertised,” Shulz promises.