BY JEFF FALK
MOUNT GRETNA – Old age and treachery will always beat youth and exhuberance.
Well, not always. Especially when the youth is big, strong, quick and battle-tested.
On a picturesque Thursday night, 17-year-old Ben Clary downed forty-something Mike Rohrbach 6-0, 6-2 in the final match, to claim the singles’ championship at the 52nd annual Mount Gretna Men’s Club tennis tournament. Clary started the match in dominant fashion, winning its first seven games, and kept applying the pressure throughout, despite Rohrbach showing serious signs of life late in the second set.
It was the first ever meeting between Clary, the one-time student, and Rohrbach, the long-time coach.
Yesterday’s outcome simply validated Clary’s standing as the top player in Lebanon County and one of the finest scholastic competitors in District Three. In addition to repeating as the Mount Gretna Men’s Club champion, Clary, a senior-to-be at Palmyra High School, is the possessor of two Lebanon County scholastic singles’ titles and three Mid-Penn Conference championships.
Rohrbach, the tournament’s director, is the head coach at Cedar Crest and a six-time Mount Gretna champion. But before this year, he hadn’t been to a Gretna final in seven summers and hadn’t won a match in the event over the past two years.
“The level of competition here is just as tough as the high school tournaments I play in,” said Clary. “There’s a lot of good players here. The competition is just as good as at the county tournament, or any tournament.
“This is definitely my tournament,” continued Clary. “Going back-to back feels good. I felt comfortable at the end. I hit my shots. This is one of my favorite surfaces.”
“I knew it was going to be a tall task,” said Rohrbach. “But it’s tougher than it looks. After the second game, it was apparent his game was much stronger than mine. I didn’t even sniff game points. He’s that good of a player.
“He just kept going stronger and stronger,” added Rohrbach. “I really appreciated his calmness. He played within himself. He’ll be fun to follow this spring.”
With the first set in his back pocket, Clary opened the second by holding serve. Rohrbach followed suit to capture his first game of the match and tie the set at a game apiece.