Wong Aces Tennis and Academics at Willamette

Biology Grad will Study Bio-Medical Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis

By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director, (503) 370-6110

SALEM, ORE. -- Willamette University men’s tennis player Joshua Wong ’13 put together an outstanding senior season this spring.

Wong went 14-3 at #1 singles, including a 10-1 record in Northwest Conference action. He and freshman Sam Wexman ’16 were 10-5 at #1 doubles, 10-2 in the NWC.

Wong’s incredible season helped him become a four-time First Team All-Northwest Conference selection. He reached the finals of the USTA/ITA Northwest Regional in the fall of 2012 and was ranked as high as 18th in the nation and sixth in the West Region by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association.

This spring, he defeated the #1 player for NCAA Division I opponent Portland State University and earned wins over the top player for nationally ranked NCAA Division III teams from Whitman College, University fo Wisconsin-Whitewater and Middlebury College (Vt.). Wong also reached the Round of 16 at the prestigious Ojai Tournament for the second time in his career.

He attained a 48-21 singles record in his four years at Willamette during spring competition. He received the J. Henry Booth Award as the top senior male student-athlete by developing and demonstrating strong leadership skills and outstanding athleticism, while maintaining a high rank of scholarship.

It's quite a list of achievements for someone who did not foresee playing tennis at the collegiate level. What makes it even more special is that it almost didn't happen.

He came to Willamette planning to focus on academics and give up tennis. He would participate in the 3/2 engineering program, in which students complete three years at Willamette and two years at a cooperative institution, receiving both a bachelor of arts degree from Willamette and a bachelor of science degree in engineering at the second institution.

“Tennis was not on my mind when I came to college,” Wong said. “It (academics) was going to take up all of your time. For me, academics was going to come first.”

However, an admission form asked for his interests and he listed tennis. He was soon contacted by former tennis coach Toby Krauel, and Wong found out that he could manage the demands of both academics and tennis.

“Tennis was such a big thing in my life in high school. Being able to get both at Willamette was fortunate for me,” Wong said, with his love of the sport evident in his animated reply.

It all goes back to growing up in Hilo, Hawaii, where his family – and his father in particular – were very involved in his tennis career throughout high school.

"My dad would call me before and after my matches," Wong said. "I remember all the time my family invested in me … it was such a commitment.”

The closeness of his family and their commitment to his development also prepared him to seek out new challenges. As a result, he traveled across the Pacific Ocean with several other students and counselors from Hilo High School to look at colleges on the West Coast during his senior year.

“We came on a college trip,” Wong recalled. “And we went to about 11 colleges in six days,”

Willamette was one of the stops. In the mingled memories of nearly a dozen campus tours in less than a week, Wong especially remembered the beauty of the campus and the winding and flowing Mill Stream.

“There’s some water here,” Wong recalled with his trademark smile. “It’s not the ocean, but it’s enough.”

During his first three years at Willamette, Wong’s parents traveled to the mainland once or twice each season to watch him play. In 2012, the team played several matches in Honolulu and Wong earned a victory over the #1 player from the University of Hawaii-Hilo. Wong’s parents and family flew to Honolulu to see him in action.

“We were able to meet up with them,” Wong said. “It was a lot of my extended family. That was definitely one of the highlights of the trip for me."

Despite his success, however, Wong considered giving up tennis after each season at Willamette and focusing solely on academics. His exceptional senior year almost didn’t happen.

"A lot of it had to do with my injuries,” he said, noting that he was having problems with his wrists. "I think that influenced my mood. I really enjoyed the team aspect of it, but I wasn’t having as much fun."

Even so, Wong was named First Team All-Northwest Conference as a freshman, a sophomore and a junior. Wong ultimately decided to complete his four-year degree in biology at Willamette and then pursue a master’s in bio-medical engineering.

He also returned to full health and began thinking of all the time his family put into his development as a tennis player.

He made a commitment to himself and to new Head Coach Rick Wood to have an outstanding senior season.

“I took practice a lot more seriously. I was able to really focus. Being in better shape gave me more confidence,” Wong said. “Telling my brain that I can do this has had a positive effect on the way that I play.

 “I wanted to see where I could be by giving it my all … just a bunch of off-court stuff,” Wong said. “I think that has made the greatest impact on my performance. Win or lose, I want to be playing at my best.”

The renewed effort, plus all of the support he has received from his family, has helped him experience great success on the court while graduating from Willamette. He achieved a 3.70 cumulative grade point average. And he’s done it all with a smile on his face, plenty of laughter and a sunny disposition.

A new challenge lies ahead. Wong has been accepted into the graduate bio-medical engineering program at Washington University in St. Louis (Mo.).

“There’s a lot more out there and a lot of experiences to be had,” Wong said. “I’m glad I ventured off the big island for that.”

Joshua Wong '13 has graduated from Willamette and will attend Washington University in St. Louis to work on a master's degree in bio-medical engineering.

Joshua Wong '13 has graduated from Willamette and will attend Washington University in St. Louis to work on a master's degree in bio-medical engineering.

Joshua Wong achieved a 48-21 record in singles matches during his Willamette career.

Joshua Wong achieved a 48-21 record in singles matches during his Willamette career.