Toby Boyer’s last words at the 2014 state tennis tournament were “I want to destroy him,” regarding state champion Nick Beaty of Wayzata.
This year, the job was done for the Forest Lake tennis player by a close friend.
In possibly the biggest upset of the season, Josh Gearou of Elk River knocked off defending title winner, Beaty, in a 0-6, 6-4, 7-6 (8) win in the Class AA singles semifinals.
With the match on the line numerous times in its three-hour span, Gearou sealed the win in style. The Elk ripped a shot down the line past a charging Beaty, then served a sharp cross-court ace to lock up the Wayzata champion for the win.
Boyer, a friend of Gearou’s since elementary school, said he wasn’t surprised by his buddy’s resilience against the defending champ, but admitted that he had kind of wanted a piece of Beaty in the finals for himself.
“I thought it could have gone either way,” Boyer said. “Josh played really well, you know; both are pretty good.”
As for Boyer, the tennis guru worked his way through the first leg of bracket play on Thursday, winning 6-1, 6-2 over Chase Johnson of Hopkins. Boyer then defeated girls state tennis legend Jessica Aney, of Rochester Century, in the quarterfinals, 6-2, 6-0.
In the semifinals, Boyer faced stiff competition in third-seeded Jackson Allen of Shakopee. After a 3-3 tie with Jackson in set one, Boyer pulled away to record a 6-3, 7-5 win over the sophomore.
Forest Lake head coach Greg Patchin said he was taken aback by the skill of Allen.
“This Shakopee kid, he was a little better than I thought he was,” Patchin said. “Toby had to bring out some of his A-game to make that win happen.”
While Gearou took care of Beaty, Boyer regrouped away from the courts, focusing on what he needed to do to earn his first state championship. In the hour leading up to the title match, Boyer relaxed with Gearou among spectators in the stands.
Having to take on a longtime friend in the state championship match isn’t an everyday activity, a matter Patchin and Boyer discussed briefly prior to the title match. Boyer admitted the situation was unique.
“We’ve played each other hundreds of times and been best friends since we were 7, so I mean, it was a little weird,” Boyer said.
Patchin said he wasn’t too worried about Boyer’s mindset, having laughed at the duo sitting together before their final high school matchup.
“It’s the funniest thing,” Patchin said. “They are very good friends, but when they step on the court, that’s when the rivalry begins.”
And so it did.
Boyer slipped on his red University of Nebraska-Lincoln headband and got to work.
Boyer jumped to an early lead in the championship match, winning 6-0 over Gearou.
The Ranger then eased into a winning pace to capture the state title in front of his grandparents, parents and brother with a second-set victory, 6-2.
After Ranger fans jumped over the barrier between seats and courts to hug a grinning Boyer, the new state champion said the win was “pretty sweet.”
“It’s just like everything you ever dreamed of happening when you’re a little kid come true,” Boyer said. “It’s just really great.”
The title didn’t come easy.
In 2013, one year after his brother, Dusty, claimed his fourth-straight singles state championship, Boyer was 26-0 heading into Class AA singles final. Boyer ended up falling to Joel Richards of Minnetonka in a near miss, 5-7, 6-3, 5-7.
Boyer suffered heartache again in 2014, losing in the finals to Beaty with another tie-break loss, 6-7 (4), 6-4, 2-6.
So the Ranger set out to finish his high school career with a bang and bring another title trophy to the Boyer household.
Boyer, a starting point guard for the Forest Lake basketball team, left the squad to pursue tennis training year-round. He competed on the United States Tennis Association circuit, where he faced and defeated Beaty a number of times.
Patchin said Boyer’s level of commitment paid off.
“I’m supremely happy for him,” a teary-eyed Patchin said. “All the time, all the drills, going to Texas to play, going to Missouri to play – I mean, he dedicated this whole year to winning that title.
And it’s nice when things fall together like that.”
Boyer closed out his high school career with an overall record of 163-15, having lost just twice in the past three years at the No. 1 singles spot for the Rangers.
The senior is set to compete for Nebraska this fall alongside Dusty, a standout singles player for the Huskers.
With Boyer’s quest for the state title accomplished, the Ranger closed out this tennis season with a different quote.
“I’m happy,” Boyer said. “I’m satisfied, and that feels pretty good.”