Mount Airy tennis player Mitch Kessler has received the Charlotte Weatherly Yokley Memorial Award.
He follows in the footsteps of his brother Matt who received the award two years ago.
The honor is named after the Mount Airy tennis player who died in an accident 23 years ago.
“This award has nothing to do with how great a player you are,” said Pam Yokley Greenwood, Charlotte’s mother.
The player is selected for displaying “the love, desire and determination that Charlotte had for the game,” she said.
Rather than focusing on a won/loss record, the players vote for the person that shows the best sportsmanship, enthusiasm, good manners and a never-give-up attitude, she said.
Girls’ tennis player Jade Hughes earned the honor last year, and Matt Kessler in 2012.
“Mitch is a very dedicated young man and has a lot of determination and desire,” said Greenwood. “He definitely deserves it. He put forth a tremendous amount of effort. And he’s very focused.”
Being worthy of the award has a lot to do with sportsmanship, Greenwood said. She noted that she never saw Mitch lose his cool on the court and he exhibited nice courtside manners as well.
Mitch also recently received the Alan McGee Award as given by Ed and Sarah Lee McGee. The award goes to the male athlete with the highest grade-point average in the high school.
The parents of Alan McGee established the honor in 1973, a year after their son died at 15 years old following a head injury suffered in a football game with South Stokes. Three-sport athlete Garrett VanHoy received the honor last year, and football placekicker Dylan Wright in 2012.
Over his four years, Mitch Kessler earned many honors for his tennis accomplishments.
He was a four-time all-conference member who reached the state tournament all four years. He was named to the Team Connection All-State Team three out of four years — and the only year he missed the team was his junior season when he was hampered by a badly strained abdominal muscle.
For both his junior and senior seasons, Mitch was the Northwest Conference Player of the Year.
As a freshman, Mitch played the second seed behind his brother Matt at the top seed. Mitch went undefeated the entire season in singles (19-0). With doubles partners Jordan Lawson and Eric Belton, he amassed a 25-3 record on the season and finished second in the state in 1A.
As a sophomore, Mitch was 17-1 in singles, 23-2 in doubles playing primarily with Jordan Lawson. He and Lawson won the 1A regional and finished in the top four in the state.
After Matt graduated, Mitch switched to singles for conference, regional and state tournaments.
He was 12-1 in doubles and 18-3 in singles. He lost in the first round of the state tournament while suffering from his injury.
This past spring, Mitch went 18-2 in doubles and 26-3 in singles. He won his fourth-straight conference championship (two in doubles and two in singles) and finished in the top four in the state.
Mitch never lost a singles match on his home court, pointed out Mount Airy tennis coach Rodney Pell. He was 39-0 at home in singles and 35-2 in doubles — a winning percentage of 97.4.
Over his four years, Mitch won 80 singles matches and 78 doubles matches for a career record of 158-15.
For all his achievements on the court, several college tennis teams wanted Mitch to join their schools. However, the young man committed to N.C. State for its biomedical engineering program.
While tennis has been great, Mitch said he wants to study and research neurological diseases like ALS, Huntington’s, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
Any nuerological disease is devastating, he said, and it feels like research in this area is behind some other fields.
If he attacks the books the way he attacked practices and matches, Mitch is sure to be a success.