Simon Kauppila owns the record for most wins in a tennis career at Marquette. And family bragging rights.
He broke was set by his older brother, Jacob.
Kauppila finished with a career record of 143-30. It’s the most tennis wins in Rockwood school district’s history.
“I was happy and definitely shot him a text,” Kauppila said. “It means a lot to have a school record, but in terms of the season it was not the most important thing in mind. I was aware, but that was never really a goal, just something that came along with the journey.”
Marquette coach Alex Nelle coached the two brothers, who were together for one year with the Mustangs.
“After the season was over, I met up with Simon and Jacob while they were hitting with each other and it was clear to see how much the record meant to Simon,” Nelle said. “He made a few comments to his brother about who owns the record and their winning percentage.”
The record-setting win came when Kauppila beat Summit’s Arnav Purshottam in the Class 2 District 3 team tournament.
Kauppila would go on to add five more wins after he beat Purshottam before the season ended.
“When he broke his brother’s record, he was excited as that was one of his goals going into the season, but he didn’t show a lot of emotion at the time,” Nelle said. “He was more interested in celebrating the team winning the district title than his individual accomplishment.”
Jacob Kauppila remembers when held the record.
“When I set the record, I really didn’t have too many thoughts about it,” Jacob said. “It didn’t feel like I had won that many matches because the losses are what stick in your head. But in hindsight, I didn’t think it was going to get broken this soon.”
Jacob, who is playing at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, got an inkling his record was in jeopardy.
“Nelle and Simon were both harassing me at the start of the season about how he was most likely going to break the record, but I always used to quip that there’s a bunch asterisks on his path to the most wins,” Jacob said.
He pointed out Simon didn’t start as high in the lineup in his freshman year.
“I claim the competition was better when I played,” Jacob said. “He also hurt his hand in the middle of the season and had to miss a couple matches gave me a little glimmer of hope that he might not reach it. But he did and I respect him for sticking with it so I have to hand it off to him.”
Jacob said he was “in the heart of my tennis season at Bates so I wasn’t following Marquette tennis as closely as I should’ve” so he was unaware he was no longer the record holder at Marquette.
“I think I found out maybe a week later while I was on the phone with my dad (Gary),” Jacob said. “He kind of just dropped it in the conversation with the intention to ruffle my feathers.”
So, who is the better player?
“That’s like asking whose better between Steph and Seth Curry,” Jacob said. “Obviously I’m Steph.”
Simon didn’t entirely disagree.
“It feels good to brag a little to him, but right now we both know he would probably beat me at the moment,” Kauppila said. “But if we we’re the same age, I’d say we are very similar.”
Good-natured brotherly kidding aside, Simon enjoyed a solid career at Marquette.
He was a member of the Mustangs’ team district champion in each of his four years in the program.
As a senior, Kauppila won the Class 2 District 3 singles title with a 6-2, 6-0 win over Purshottam.
His tennis career began when he was young.
“I started playing tennis by tagging along with my dad and brother who would play quite often, and I would hit every once in a while, but I didn’t start playing competitively until my freshman year during the spring season,” Kauppila said. “I did it because it was fun, and I would get to play with my brother, which my parents loved.
“I would go to Jacob’s matches so I knew how the team was run and how the season worked, but I wasn’t sure I was going to play tennis until eighth grade.”
During Jacob’s freshmen year, Nelle said he got to meet Simon.
“At that time I didn’t know if he would play tennis in high school or not,” Nelle said. “Simon excelled at soccer and basketball at a young age, so he could have easily chosen one of those sports to focus on as he entered high school. Luckily for Marquette, he decided that he could do multiple sports, which greatly benefited our tennis and soccer teams.”
In his freshman year, the Mustangs reached the Final Four.
“We did finish fourth, which was well deserved,” Kauppila said. “I was just starting to play, so I would say my game has improved dramatically, but I played No. 4 and didn’t lose until state. A special memory was winning doubles with my brother and winning the clinching match in singles against CBC to make it to state. Obviously we would like to have finished better, but you can’t complain with a Final Four trip.”
Nelle said Kauppila’s role was huge on that team.
“Without Simon, we would not have gone to the Final Four during his freshman year,” Nelle said. “He played No. 4 singles for us that year and won every singles match he played that year except for the one against Rock Bridge in the semifinals. Besides giving us a win every time in singles, he also gave us a great chance to win every match at one doubles with his brother.
“Those two went 27-5 that year in doubles and when you factor in Simon’s singles wins with his brother’s excellent record at the one singles position, it was not hard to see how we won so many matches that year. Without the Kauppila brothers, we don’t even come close to the Final Four that season.”
Putting the brothers together to play just happened, Nelle said.
“Having two older brothers myself, I knew Simon and Jacob would have brotherly fights at times during that season,” Nelle said. “When the season started, my plan was not to have them play doubles together, but due to another player getting injured, we had to put them together in doubles. Looking back on that decision now, I think that was one of the best things that we could have done for Simon’s career.
“He got to experience how difficult it was to play at such a high level and how hard his brother worked to be successful at tennis. I think the experience from that year is what motivated Simon to become the No. 1 player his sophomore year and to improve each year.”
Kauppila became the No. 1 singles players in his last years with Marquette. He won district doubles titles as a sophomore and junior.
“I made it to state with Jack Shi my junior year where we finished seventh,” Kauppila said.
For his senior year, he had one objective.
“My goal was to make it to state,” Kauppila said. “I came up just short in team and individual. But I’m still hungry and am looking forward to improving in college.”
Kauppila’s high school career ended when he lost 6-4, 6-4 to Ladue’s Jeremy Ouyang in the Sectional 2 meet.
“It was a close match,” Kauppila said. “He just made me play a lot of balls and beat him. But I just didn’t have the shots that day and came up a little short. I was definitely sad because my whole playing career started here.”
Kauppila gave his all in the match, Nelle said.
“Simon was upset after the match, but he also knew that he lost to a great player, so there was nothing to be disappointed about,” Nelle said. “He congratulated Jeremy on his victory and wished him good luck at state, and by the next day Simon started preparing for the team sectional and quarterfinal matches that weekend.”
Kauppila played well in his final campaign at Marquette, Nelle said.
“Looking back on his senior season, I couldn’t be prouder of Simon. He was such a security blanket for our team, as we knew that we could count on him for two wins in almost every match,” Nelle said. “It was a shock in the middle of the season, when he got hurt and missed two weeks, but he still came out and supported his teammates.
“When he returned from the injury, he led the team to our fourth consecutive district title and the quarterfinals of the state tournament. My only regret was that he didn’t get to end his career in Springfield at the state tournament.”
Kauppila will be playing college at Brandeis University.
“Brandeis has a tremendous program right now, as they just finished their season ranked in the top 10 of Division III tennis,” Nelle said. “I think going to such a strong program will be great for Simon, as that will continue to push him to improve and by the time he his a senior, I think he will be playing an important role on their team.
“Since Brandeis is such a strong program right now, I look for Simon to start his career towards the back half of their lineup. As
time goes on though, I think Simon’s work ethic will cause him to move up the lineup and be successful in his matches.”
Jacob is happy about his younger brother’s college choice.
“I’m honestly excited for him which I don’t say often. He’ll be stepping onto a top 10 team in the country that’s young and still on the rise,” Jacob said. “I’m jealous of his opportunity to be a freshman entering a team that will be strong contenders for the national title. Hopefully he will be able to prove himself to coach (Ben) Lamanna and earn a spot in the lineup and be a good asset for the team.
“Bates plays Brandeis in one of the first matches of the spring season, so besides that, I hope he does well.”
Kauppila is looking forward to playing there.
“It is a good fit,” Kauppila said. “On my visit I just loved everything about it from the team to the campus and I was pretty clear I wanted to go there. I’m excited for college because it will be fun to be in a super competitive atmosphere every single day, and hopefully playing against the team every single day will help improve my game.
“High school flew by and I will miss all my teammates and coaches.”
Nelle noted he will miss having Kauppila around the program.
“It is hard to accurately describe what Simon has meant to this program. Everyone knows about his success on the court, but he did so much more for our program over the last four years than just that,” Nelle said. “He was a tremendous role model on and off the court, he was a great student in the classroom, and probably the most important thing, he was one of the highest character individuals I have ever coached or been around.
“Being able to coach him and be around him for the last four years, will always be one of the greatest things in my coaching and teaching career.”
The two have developed a tight relationship.
“Ever since his junior year finished, I knew it would be tough to watch him finish his career. Simon and I have grown close over the years, and so it will be different next year not having him on the team,’ Nelle said. “At different points this year, I tried to take some time to just sit back and watch his matches, as I was well aware of how lucky I was to coach such a talented player and I didn’t want to take that for granted.”
Nelle added the parents deserve recognition, too.
“I would just like to thank Gary and Mary Anne Kauppila for everything they have done for me the last seven years,” Nelle said. “They have done an amazing job raising three outstanding young men, and I consider myself extremely lucky to be able to say I coached two them, as Noah was an outstanding track and field athlete, so he didn’t play tennis.
“Our tennis program and Marquette have forever improved because of the contributions that the Kauppila’s made on and off the court.”