CHARLESTON, W.Va. — More than 40 years after Tom von Dohlen played high school tennis, he made his return to the state tournament.
He was at the Charleston YMCA on Thursday to watch his son, also named Tom, make his debut at states as a senior for Greenbrier East.
“It’s worse than when I was playing,” said the elder von Dohlen, who played at George Washington High School and the University of Georgia. “It’s far more stressful for me than when I was on the court.”
The younger von Dohlen is the No. 1 singles player for Greenbrier East. His state tournament stay in singles was brief, as he was eliminated by Parkersburg South’s Grant Tebay, 8-5, in Thursday morning’s opening round.
“This is pretty much the first year I’ve taken tennis seriously,” said the younger von Dohlen, a senior who will also attend college at Georgia. “I had the biggest jump in my game this year.”
Von Dohlen lost in the regional quarterfinals last season, so he didn’t qualify for states.
“This was my last hurrah,” he said.
When he reported for his morning match against Tebay, he was instantly recognized as the son of Tom von Dohlen. The elder Von Dohlen was the state runner-up in singles in 1970 and ‘72, and reached the state semifinals in 1971.
Both von Dohlens are known for their serve.
“My serve, definitely,” the younger von Dohlen said. “People say I look like him when I serve.”
The von Dohlen family moved to Lewisburg in 1994. Tom Von Dohlen attended medical school at West Virginia University, completed his residency in internal medicine in Charleston and finished a cardiology fellowship at the Medical College of Georgia. He was a course doctor for The Masters in 1986. He now cares for patients at the Greenbrier Valley Medical Center.
He said he never pushed his son to follow in his footsteps — athletically or academically.
“I taught him when he was little, taught him fundamentals, and he’s basically been a seasonal player,” the elder von Dohlen said.
The changes in the last 42 years, he said, are immense. He remembers when the interstate between Charleston and Huntington did not exist, and he didn’t haul around a bunch of fancy racquets.
“They were wood,” he said. “The game is a whole lot different now. We were all pretty much serve-and-volley players in those days; tried to get to the net any time we could.”
The younger von Dohlen is going to Georgia on his own merit. He’ll study theatre and political science, with an eye toward acting or a role in government.
“I like to argue,” he said with a laugh, “and I guess I like to be the center of attention.”
The younger von Dohlen liked being on the big stage Thursday, too, even if it was short-lived.
“I enjoyed it,” he said. “All the pressure was off once I got here.”
His stay at states will continue in doubles. Von Dohlen and his doubles partner, Cordel Bostic, defeated John Marshall, 8-5, to advance to the quarterfinals at No. 1 doubles.