'He's the best'

Tom Batters

Stephan Rauh is the winningest tennis player in Metamora High School history.

He broke the boys singles victories record (78 wins) earlier this season, and he beat some of the best players in the state along the way.

But he does not want to talk about that.

“It’s just a record,” Rauh said. “It will be broken someday.”

Rauh says this humbly, without a trace of arrogance. When he says it is just a record, he means it.

Other things are more important to him.

“I’ve been blessed in that I’ve had some great teammates here, and I have enjoyed being a part of the Metamora tennis program,” he said. “The individual records really don’t mean much. Being a part of this team is more rewarding to me.”

Redbirds coach Kelly Willard called Rauh a “great tennis player and an even better human being.”

“You want to talk about his tennis? We can sum that up pretty quickly. He’s the best player we’ve ever had here,” Willard said. “If you want to talk about him as a person, then we can talk for hours. You won’t find a nicer kid.”

Willard said Rauh does all the little things, like staying later to help pick up after practice. He will help the younger players on his own time, and he never once basked in the limelight or even used the word, “I” during competition.

“Recently, he was in a close match (his third match of the day) and I asked him how he felt, and all he said, was ‘how is the team doing? How badly do we need these points?’ He’s so unselfish.”

Rauh started playing tennis when he was a little boy. He would tag along to practice with his grandfather, Gene Schertz, the former Redbirds girls tennis coach. His older brother, Nate, was also a standout player at MTHS.

“I tend to do what my brother does,” Rauh said. “I look up to him a lot.”

Rauh, who is also an honors student and valedictorian of his class, made it to the state tennis tournament all three years of his high school career and he is likely to advance again this year.

Unlike other sports that are divided into classes, tennis only has one class, which means the best players in the state (including players from large Chicago schools) all compete against each other.

Winning a state title would take a Herculean effort.

“There are 128 kids there, and they are all good. If you finish in the top 32 at state, then that’s a pretty amazing finish,” Willard said. “Stephan has a great shot, though.”

Willard said Rauh’s natural talent and “court intelligence” make him one of the best players ever to compete in Central Illinois.

“When he was a freshman, he already had so much knowledge of the game,” Willard said. “He knew that you don’t win matches by simply out-hitting a kid. You win matches by out-lasting a kid. High school freshmen aren’t supposed to know that kind of stuff.”

Rauh also earned all-state recognition in cross country. He finished second in last year’s state final race at Detweiller park.

He plans to attend Wheaton College next year. He said he would like to continue playing tennis and major in pre-med.

“I’d like to go into medical school someday,” he said. “We’ll see where God ends up taking me.”