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CHS tennis player reflects on stunning soph season

by Andrew Alonzo | aalonzo@claremont-courier.com

It’s been just over a month since Caleb Settles, a rising junior at Claremont High School, was named the 2022 Inland Empire boys varsity tennis player of the year. The title was awarded to Caleb by the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin following the 16-year-old’s recent season as a versatile doubles and singles player for the Wolfpack.

For a majority of the 2022 season, Caleb partook in doubles matches and occasionally subbed in to play singles.

“I was a little surprised at first because I wasn’t playing the highest position on my team,” Caleb said. “But obviously I was still pretty pumped to get the award.”

His numbers and record tell just one side of the story. Across all competitions — Palomares League, tournament and CIF play — Caleb recorded 32 wins and four losses in doubles play, and 11 wins and two losses in singles.

On the other hand, according to his mother and his tennis coach at CHS, Kathy Settles, the reason Caleb was identified as the boys tennis POTY was because, “he reached a level in doubles with three different partners,” which had never been seen before in high school tennis. Settles added Caleb was “sort of the core doubles player in those three different partnerships.”

In Palomares League play, Caleb’s partner was then junior Lance Lao. The two went undefeated in doubles play in league and led the boys tennis team to its seventh straight league title in seven years. Caleb was named Palomares League doubles MVP. He also went undefeated in league singles play.

At the prestigious Ojai tournament, Caleb reached the semifinals with a second partner, Ronald Chen. The duo fell to eventual champions, Warren Pham and Advik Mareedu of Valencia High School in Palencia.

At the CIF-Southern Section doubles play at the Ford 2022 boys individual tennis championships, Caleb went out in the round of 16 with his third partner, rising junior DJ Brownlee, losing to eventual champions Sanghyuk Im and Konrad Walter Wu of Irvine’s University High.

As a freshman Caleb was part of the tennis team that won the Division 1 CIF-SS tournament. Last season the team slowly but surely creeped up the CIF-SS rankings, moving up to the number six spot in April. The team was invited to play in the CIF open division tournament which consisted of the top eight high school tennis programs in Southern California. Though the Wolfpack lost in the first round to Corona del Mar High, they went out fighting, losing 10-8 in its debut at the open division.

“It was pretty rewarding,” Caleb said. “It’s pretty unique considering we aren’t an Orange County school, where like a majority of the best tennis players in Southern California live.”

“Our program is kind of in the elite status in this [Claremont/Los Angeles County] area just because the hotbed of tennis is in Orange County and maybe the west side,” Settles said. “A lot of the teams that are in the open division are kind of regular teams that are always in the top eight. So, for us to break into that top eight, I think was a huge accomplishment.”

Talking about his team’s recent success, Caleb said, “We did the best our school has ever done before,” noting the boy’s [successive title] and invitation to the open tournament. While Caleb recognized that his older brother, Christian, played on some “pretty good teams” in the past at CHS, the younger sibling made clear that it’s his name which is currently part of the “best team the school had ever seen.”

“It’s kind of nice knowing that I played on better teams than him,” Caleb said.

“It’s all about the status in the family,” Settles chuckled.

Caleb has been playing tennis since he was five years old. The Settles family thrives on the game: mom is the coach at CHS, and Caleb’s father, Paul Settles, is the men’s tennis coach for Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, and Caleb’s older brother Christian plays for Trinity University.

“Tennis tends to be in a lot of what we do,” Settles said.

“I think everybody kind of pushed themselves during the year just cause we all had the open division in mind, and we wanted to, one be in it, but two be able to succeed in it,” Caleb said. “I think everybody was pretty motivated the entire year and I think that helped me push myself and my teammates push each other.”

Despite his humble nature — when not talking about his brother — Caleb said the award means much to him. A teenager of few words, he said to bring the award to Claremont High School was “pretty cool,” and to be able to win it at all was “fun” and “cool.”

Though he’s on summer break and his next high school season doesn’t come around until spring, Caleb continued to practice on the CMS courts last week despite the blistering conditions.

His summer training regimen consists of “lots and lots of tennis,” he said.

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