Ian Freer concluded his final year at St. Francis the best way he possibly could. The Golden Knight defeated Tyler Pham of Newport Beach Corona del Mar, 6-2, 6-3, to win the CIF Southern Section Individual Singles Championship, and he looks to gain more accolades over the next four years as he begins playing tennis for Claremont McKenna College in the fall.
“It was definitely special for me,” said Freer. “It was big because tennis is such an individual sport. I’ve played tournaments my whole life, but what made this special was having the support of all my friends, family and St. Francis community.”
Members of the St. Francis community reached out to Freer prior to his accomplishment, including alumni and SFHS President Father Tony Marti, who traveled to Seal Beach to watch the tennis standout play.
“That was very unique,” said Freer, who is ranked No. 52 on the Tennis Recruiting Network. “Typically when I play tennis, it’s only friends and family who know. This time, alumni reached out to me about the match. It was something cool. Tennis doesn’t get much recognition, making it a special experience. I remember seeing teachers and administrators there too. It really was cool because it was graduation week.”
The extra support helped Freer bring home a CIF-SS plaque, a feat no other Golden Knight has ever accomplished. It was also the first CIF-SS victory for longtime tennis coach Ron Zambrano.
“It really was unexpected,” said Freer, whose father Brad played tennis at La
Cañada High School. “I didn’t think I’d make it that far.”
Freer certainly wants to accomplish more at the next level and had a list of universities and colleges with good tennis programs. He wanted a good balance of academics and athletics, narrowing his list to about 10 schools. Freer, whose brother Jack plays at Whitman College in Washington, visited schools such as UCLA, Middlebury College in Vermont, Amherst College in Massachusetts and CMC. While at Claremont, Freer realized he wanted to attend a smaller school and ultimately opted to play for the Stags.
“I really liked the tight community of Claremont and how it’s student first, then the athlete,” he said. “The [CMC] coach understood that. It really clicked, and I felt at home with Claremont. I visited the school on March 30 and stayed with the team overnight.”
Claremont head coach Paul Settles didn’t have to do much to convince the four-star recruit about the tennis program. The Stags were the No. 1-ranked team in NCAA Division III last year and placed second overall. The squad has reached the NCAA Elite Eight the last 10 seasons.
“They’re a top-five team in Division III every year,” Freer said. “Every year, the expectation for the program is to compete for a national championship. That would be my expectation every season. I feel like I can come in and contribute right away.”