Waukee's Will Ecklund makes next step in athletic career
After what has been a strong high school career so far, one Waukee boys tennis star now has a collegiate chapter to add to his resume.
Recently, senior Will Ecklund officially punched his ticket to be one of the newest members of Drake University men's tennis.
"It's hard to describe, it's a big weight lifted off my shoulders yet I'm excited for what's ahead because I'm not just preparing for my last high school year but my next four years," Ecklund said.
Ecklund's time as a boys tennis team member has been quite impactful. Since joining the varsity scene in just his freshman year, Ecklund was one of the top three leaders in both game and match wins. That led to a trip to state in doubles. He followed that up with an even stronger sophomore campaign with the 11th-most position one match wins (eight) and the seventh-best match-winning percentage in Class 2A. In fact, among sophomores, Ecklund ranked third in match wins, set wins (16) and game wins (94). All that helped Ecklund and Noah Burmeister earn a doubles title, the first in Waukee boys tennis history.
All of that has translated into a very appealing talent to collegiate coaches.
"I didn't know that I wanted to continue playing in college until earlier this year," began Ecklund. "When I finally made the decision it was like full steam ahead because we were behind and (needed to) catch up. It's very comforting to know I'm going to be doing what I love."
Ecklund's career has been about preparing for opponents. It wasn't as easy for Ecklund to find his collegiate path initially but his passion for the game helped make his decision in the end.
"I remember right before the NCAA had called off different sports, Drake had invited us to watch their team take on Iowa," said Ecklund. "My friends and I were one of four kids to show up and I remember going, the atmosphere was like, and just how different college tennis was. It then clicked in my head that this was something I could do. At that time I had no intention of playing in college but the experience really helped change my mind."
Ecklund's decision to stay local and join with Drake came among options to play at schools in Michigan and Texas. For the individual who was top-10 in his class each year he played, Ecklund's decision was rooted in local ties.
"Ultimately, it was just too far away for me to play in Michigan and Texas," started Ecklund. "Looking back on it, practicality-wise being closer fits my personality better. I also know so many guys who have gone onto the Drake tennis team. Hearing their experiences, it was something where you didn't have to look too hard for the culture factor. That was a big thing for me, when you know people on the team with real-world references, it made things a lot easier."
The decision also marks quite a big step in his tennis journey. Ecklund becomes the first member of his family to head off to college to play tennis.
"Tennis has been apart of my life probably since I was born," laughed Ecklund. "My mom plays tennis and my grandpa plays tennis to this day. I never started playing competitively however since I was nine or 10. My mom forced me to do it one day and it's just stuck ever since."
Now, Ecklund has a collegiate path ahead of him, something that wasn't as clear during the recruiting process.
"Recruiting was kind of brutal," joked Ecklund. "No one in my family had gone through the process so that was quite the learning curve. Then with COVID, we weren't able to get in front of colleges with a list of things we just couldn't do. But with Drake, I was able to see their campus and talk to people and have a positive experience."
Until Ecklund reaches the collegiate level, he will hopefully have one more shot at the high school level for his senior season. There's plenty of excitement surrounding Waukee boys tennis who looks to make a third straight state meet appearance.
"I'm really excited for the season ahead," began Ecklund. "We've got a lot of talent coming back and it should be a good season for us."