By Bailey Turner
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story first appeared in Hawk Talk Monthly, the official online e-magazine of the University of Iowa Athletics Department. To read the February issue, click HERE.
IOWA CITY, Iowa — University of Iowa men’s tennis student-athlete Nikita Snezhko’s road to the lineup wasn’t easy. The native of Plymouth, Minnesota, was set to start his collegiate tennis journey along with the other student-athletes in his recruiting class in August, 2018.
That didn’t happen.
Snezhko wasn’t on a full scholarship, so there was an effort to get in-state tuition. He picked up a job at the front desk at the Hawkeye Tennis & Recreation Complex, a position many students do part-time for extra money. He worked 30 hours every week as an attendant and helped with tennis clinics along with taking six credits at Kirkwood Community College to fulfill his obligations to obtain in-state tuition.
“He put in work on top of that. He was working out on his own on the court and in the gym,” said Mellecker Family Head Coach Ross Wilson. “He continued to hit balls with anyone that had free time, and he played in as many tournaments as he could.”
Every time the Hawkeyes played a home match, Snezhko was a spectator. But why was a recruit so sought after by different schools that invested in the Iowa program?
“He wanted to be here,” Wilson said. “Throughout the recruiting process, it was us and Nebraska. After he came on his first visit, he knew he could improve his game and this was the best scenario for him.”
After a year of gaining residency, he was finally able to join the team. Snezhko found his niche playing No. 3 doubles with junior Joe Tyler. The tandem won four of its last five matches and he earned a varsity letter.
“He put a lot of work in to be on our team,” said Wilson. “There is honestly not a lot of student-athletes at the University of Iowa who can say they went through the things Nikita did to become part of this athletic department.”
It showed how committed Snezhko was to become a Hawkeye. His dedication came to fruition in the fall when he made the ITA National Fall Doubles Championships.
“He has improved so much,” Wilson said. “His willingness to get on the court, whether it’s with coaches or teammates when no one is around and to play tournaments, shows how much he loves tennis. I think in some ways this is a good thing because he is a big guy who is growing into his body, which is important. I think things are coming together for him and down the line, he can be a staple in our singles lineup. He can be a starter in doubles, especially after making it to Fall Nationals.”
Snezhko and his teammates look to make bigger strides during the 2020 campaign and achieve the ultimate goal, earning an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.