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De Pere graduate walks a new path

By Rich Palzewic

Contributing Writer

DE PERE – Despite his parents not playing tennis, Nicholas Balthazor – a De Pere High School senior – is one of the best players in the state.

“I have to thank my brother Nathan for getting me going,” Balthazor said. “He was always hitting a ball around. Naturally, because I saw him playing, I also got into it. I was about nine years old at the time.”

Nathan attends Marquette University and plays on the tennis team, while sister Norah, who is sandwiched between the two brothers in age, attends Butler University and also plays tennis.

“I committed to Butler last October,” Balthazor, who will study finance, said. “I had about five other collegiate offers. I liked Butler even before Norah committed there, but I think the chemistry of the team will be great. I’m excited to go there.”

A different path

Believe it or not, this is Balthazor’s first season playing at De Pere.

During his freshman season, he attended a tennis academy in Arizona.

“I was there for about six months,” he said. “That was my freshman year going into my sophomore year. It was grueling – I’d play five hours of tennis daily. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced. I wasn’t a fan of it because I didn’t have the kid part of my life. I was only 13 or 14 years old, so I’d either be playing tennis or doing school – it was very strict.”

During his sophomore year, he took online classes through Wisconsin Connections Academy.

“That was due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Balthazor said. “Then during my junior year, I was focused on getting recruited, so I played in a lot of USTA (United States Tennis Association) tournaments every weekend.”

Through subsectionals, Balthazor said he was 19-0 and hadn’t dropped a set all season.

“The most games I dropped during a match was three,” he said. “My hardest match was against Lincoln Marshall from Marquette.”

Balthazor said he stays focused when playing – even against lesser competition.

“My main goal is to win a WIAA Division 1 state title,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to win state – it’s been a goal of mine since I was young. I’m the only undefeated player in the state right now, so I think I’ll be the No. 1 or 2 seed at state.”

The individual state tournament will take place Thursday-Saturday, June 1-3, at Nielsen Stadium in Madison.

Future at Butler

Balthazor said he’s hopeful to jump into the Bulldogs’ lineup next season as a freshman.

“Between now and then, I need to work on being more aggressive,” he said. “If things go right, I fully expect to compete for a spot.”

When asked what his strengths are, Balthazor was quick to answer.

“My serve and my forehand,” he said. “I can serve it about 120 mph.”

All in the family

Balthazor said he feels he could beat his brother – who will take his fifth year at Marquette to play one more collegiate season – in a match now.

“If you take Nathan as a senior in high school and me as a senior this year, I think that would be a good match,” he laughed. “If I’d play against him now, I think I’d beat him pretty handily.

Some of it is because I play more than Nathan – he doesn’t play as much now. I think he’d agree with me.”

Balthazor said Norah, a junior at Butler, “really enjoys playing on the women’s team.”

“She’s playing at like 3 (singles),” he said.

To follow along and view results of the WIAA state tournament, visit wiaawi.org.

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