ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF)–The IHSA boys state tennis tournament will be held the next three days in the western suburbs of Chicago. One of the top contenders in class 1A is a tennis player here in Rockford.

Rockford Christian senior Finley Buelte spends a lot of time on the tennis court, and it shows. He’s a gifted player.

“I’m working hard. I’m playing two hours a day. This is my third today,’ said Buelte after a practice session Tuesday at the Boylan Tennis Center. “I’m just trying to be as best prepared as possible for State.”

Buelte is the number two seed in 1A behind only Rock Island Alleman’s Nicholas Patrick. Buelte has state experience. He finished sixth last year at state. His game has only gotten better since then.

“I’ve worked a lot on attacking the ball more, so getting more drive on it, spin heavy ball instead of just passive get the ball back. So, I’m just working on putting those points away when I get the opportunity.”

Buelte travels to a racquet club in Arlington Heights three or four times a week to practice. When he stays in Rockford he often works with Branden Metzler. Metzler was a three-time NIC-10 singles champion at Auburn and a national runner-up in singles at NCAA Division three Kalamazoo College.

“Branden here in town gives me the best competition, and he’s been there done that.”

Tuesday the two of them spent a fair amount of time working on Buelte’s serve. You don’t contend for a state championship without a strong serve.

“That’s going to be one of the key points, because my serve is a strong suit,” said Buelte. “As long as I get that going, I’m pretty good.”

The defending state singles champion in 1A, Max Braun of Champaign has switched to doubles this year to play with his brother. Braun defeated Buelte at State last year in the quarterfinals. Buelte has mixed emotions about not getting a rematch with Braun.

“At first I was excited (to learn Bruan moved to doubles) because he’s a solid player, but the competition is always nice. I would love to play him again.”

How hungry is Buelte going into State, and how comfortable and relaxed is he?

“I’m pumped. Very excited, but also nervous. I’ve worked hard. I’ve got to end the year with a bang and end high school with a bang.”

Buelte’s father Rob is Rockford Christian’s tennis coach. Three other Rockford Christian players will also compete at state Chatham McIlroy in singles, and Christian Ciembronowicz and Brandon Istad in doubles. Buelte plans to play for Division III DePauw University in Indiana next year.