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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
By CHRIS GIRANDOLA Times correspondent
Published May 31, 2007
Shaye Wali took student-athlete to a different level this past spring. Because of credits lost due to transferring from an Orlando school, Wali had to pile on classes to graduate on time. An additional four to his regular class load of seven courses, in fact. Wali graduated, all the while cruising through the county and making the state finals in singles and doubles. "I probably proved more people wrong in graduating, " said Wali, who finished with a 2.7 grade point average. "It required a different type of attention than what I did on the court."
Most impressive accomplishment: His stretch run in school aside, Wali's dominance against county competition on the court was evident throughout his career at St. Petersburg. This year, he went 10-0 in the county and finished 15-1 overall.
He reached the Class 4A finals for the first time but lost, 4-6, 6-1, 3-6 to Jupiter's Ronnie Hulewicz. This came a day after playing three grueling matches and on a day when he won the doubles quarterfinals and semifinals with Aaron Ellison.
"It was actually shocking to see him there, " St. Petersburg coach Alan Turnquist said. "He had played a bunch of matches and the kid he faced in the finals only played singles. He did a tremendous job in being able to reach both."
College plans: Because Wali had to concentrate on school and wanted to make an effort to reach the state finals, he played fewer junior tennis tournaments, preventing college coaches from seeing his game. But Wali plans to compete in several camps this summer to showcase his skills. His choice if they knew? "Pepperdine. I would love to play in Malibu." Who wouldn't?
Did you know?: Wali never lost against county competition, going 30-0 in three years at St. Petersburg. He won the region title twice and went to the state tournament three times.
Quotable: "It's been a blessing to have him with us, " Turnquist said. "When other coaches saw him play this year, they said it looks like a grown man playing against kids. I'll have to come back down to earth next year."
Coach of the Year Irene Tharin, Palm Harbor University
She kept her kids level-headed throughout the season and helped them knock St. Petersburg from the top of the county rankings in boys tennis. In the decisive doubles match for the conference title, the Hurricanes ended St. Petersburg's four-year stretch as champions.
Aaron Ellison, St. Petersburg, Sr.
Jorge Guerra, Northeast, So.
Ed Corty, Canterbury, 8th
Fabio Pagani, East Lake, Sr.
Robby Nichols, Lakewood, Sr.
Michael Koppelman, St. Petersburg Catholic
Kirk Kucin, Clearwater Central Catholic
Justin Fish, Palm Harbor University
Alex Fish, Palm Harbor University
Stefan Cerf, Seminole
Calvary Christian: Peter Barr, Lucas Spoerl; Clearwater Central Catholic: Jose Lazaro; East Lake: Matt Herrick; Osceola: Ryan Frazier; Seminole: Dan Lang, Richard Wilson; Shorecrest: Matt Kopelman, Francisco Rodriguez, Andrew Roy