When Swedish exchange student Johan Klausen arrived in the United States last summer, he wanted to soak up as much American culture as he could.
He could easily knock off some of the must-do items on his list, such as making trips to New York and Washington D.C., and taking full advantage of all the fast food options on the U.S. mainland. But when Klausen started taking classes at Brunswick High School, he was just as eager to partake in activities that might make him a bit uncomfortable, including playing tackle football for the first time ever.
“Honestly, I got beat up all the time,” said Klausen, who played wide receiver and safety for the Railroaders’ junior varsity team. “I’d never done it before. I never got tackled before.
“From playing tennis to American football, I just got beat up, but it was so much fun.”
In doing so, it became evident that Klausen wasn’t the type of person who became overly obsessed with the final outcome of competition. It’s a trait that helped him earn a place in the Brunswick tennis history book.
Klausen defeated Francis Scott Key’s Brandon Bimestefer 7-5, 6-4 Saturday in the Class 1A West boys singles region final at Baker Park. In doing so, he became the first Brunswick tennis player to win a region title since Gretchen Unger did so for the Railroader girls in 1999.
Klausen and a host of other Frederick County players claimed titles under the MPSSAA’s new playoff format, which includes regional competition in four classifications.
Oakdale’s Rani Jones (2A West), Middletown’s Gage Kirkwood (2A West) and Urbana’s Abigail Min (4A North) all won singles crowns. Tuscarora’s Emily Miller and Mackenzie Chapin (3A West) claimed a girls double title while Middletown’s Alexa Orlando and John Kaminski (2A West) took home a mixed doubles crown.
Urbana claimed the 4A North team championship as Kevin Li (boys singles), Sophie Nelson and Jessica Wu (girls doubles) and Aaliya Husein and Anish Babu (mixed doubles) all finished as region runners-up. Tuscarora won the 3A West team crown, with Karthick Sankar and Julia Slivka earning runner-up finishes in boys and girls singles, respectively.
Klausen has much more experience in tennis, having played since he was 10 years old in Nynäshamn, Sweden. Brunswick co-head coach Lee Zumbach calls his serve his most powerful weapon, especially because he doesn’t dial it down after a fault on his first serve.
“Anybody who plays him, they’re thinking he’s faulted on the first serve, and they’re going to get a little patsy second serve,” Zumbach said. “No way with him. It’s just about as aggressive as his first serve.”
And when he gets his serve in, Klausen aggressively charges the net and seeks to end points quickly with powerful ground strokes. But he couldn’t lean on that strategy on Saturday because his serve lacked accuracy, leading to many more double faults than he’d like. That’s where his calm demeanor helped him persevere. Being level-headed, Zumbach said, has allowed Klausen to dig out of numerous holes throughout the course of the season.
“[Before the match], I was like, ‘What happens happens,’” Klausen said. “I’m going to do my best.”
His tennis IQ also helped. Brunswick co-head coach Larry Collins said Klausen relied more on finesse than power to overcome Bimestefer, who also proved he could handle power when Klausen’s serves did find their target.
“The bigger factor was the ability to move his opponent around to a position where he could win a point versus the way he likes to play, which is have a bigger serve and not have quite so many long points,” Collins said.
After the match, the news of being the first Brunswick player to claim a region title in 20 years rendered Klausen giddy.
“I just [was] happy to represent Brunswick [at the state tournament],” Klausen said. “A lot of people say Brunswick isn’t that nice. But honestly, I like it at Brunswick. It’s a small school, and you get to know a lot of different people.”
Both Zumbach and Collins praised Klausen just as much for his ability to mesh with the rest of the Railroaders’ tennis team and share some of his knowledge with his teammates. During practice, Zumbach said, Klausen is more than willing to toss tennis balls to teammates during drills.
“He has longer-term ambition to do some coaching in tennis,” Collins said. “He’s been as much of a teacher as I have been.”