Jake Liebler and the Baldwin Wallace tennis team know the balance between student and athlete.
The Medina High graduate was one of 10 Yellow Jackets honored by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association as scholar-athletes. To earn the distinction, a player must be a letterwinner of sophomore or higher standing and hold a grade-point average of 3.5 or better for the academic year.
“I didn’t really do anything special,” Liebler said. “I just focused on good time management. I work, too, so I had a strict schedule for myself.
“(Coach Brian Rector) is good with priorities. If we have a test or a presentation we need to work on, that is more important than tennis. It is acceptable to miss a practice or match for school work. We’re all Division III athletes and we know we’re not going on to play professionally. Coach is a big advocator of us getting our professional careers lined up.”
The ITA also honored the Yellow Jackets as an All-Academic team, which requires a cumulative GPA of 3.2 or higher. Baldwin Wallace finished with a 3.82. The only schools to finish with more individual scholar-athletes were the University of Chicago (15), Johns Hopkins University (11) and Haverford College (11).
“I think our biggest accomplishment is having 10 letterwinners with at least a 3.8 GPA,” Liebler said. “I haven’t heard of any other teams with a higher GPA.”
A three-year letterman, Liebler finished his year with a 16-8 record at singles and 6-3 in doubles action. Baldwin Wallace went 24-5 overall and 7-1 in the Ohio Athletic Conference. The Yellow Jackets took second in the OAC Tournament.
The year was a transition for Liebler. With the addition of Kyle Patterson and Dominic Polifrone, Liebler moved from fourth singles to sixth singles. The additions also cut down Liebler’s matches in doubles.
“Singles is singles,” Liebler said. “It’s the same mindset whether you are playing sixth singles or fourth singles. I play to win. Not playing in doubles let me focus on singles. It’s better for my body. At the end of my sophomore year, I was beat up. Everything just hurt. At the end of this year I felt good.”
This summer is an even bigger transition. Liebler finished his undergraduate degree in three years, something he credits to a strong post-secondary program at Medina. Without much break after spring semester, Liebler started right into an MBA program at Baldwin Wallace. He will compete as a graduate student for his final year of eligibility.
“My biggest focus will be the MBA,” Liebler said. “I started the week after school let out and I’ll finish May of next year. I also work for the Cleveland Indians. I’m there about 25 hours a week. Hopefully, I’ll continue to make an impact there and when I get out in May I’ll have additional opportunities with the team.”
Contact Jonathan Huff at firstname.lastname@example.org.