National title for Iowa Central duo

Doubles crown for Gandonou, Padio is first in program history

Submitted photo: The Iowa Central doubles team of Amen Prince Gandonou (left) and Hod’Abalo Isak Padio hold their championship medals next to interim Triton tennis coach Kenneth Michaud on Friday in Plano, Tex. Gandonou and Padio won the NJCAA national doubles title.

PLANO, Tex. — Unseeded but also undaunted, the Iowa Central men’s tennis doubles team of Amen Prince Gandonou and Hod’Abalo Isak Padio captured the program’s first-ever NJCAA national championship here on Friday.

Gandonou and Padio took down defending gold medalists Bruno Nhavene and Reiya Komagata from Cowley County in a finals nail-biter. The Triton tandem prevailed by scores of 6-4, 7-6 and 11-9 (11-9 tiebreaker) to secure the crown.

“Just a very exciting moment for our program and our school — a little surreal,” ICCC interim coach Kenneth Michaud said. “To go from being ranked 17th nationally and unseeded for this (tournament) to winning it all…it’s special, no doubt.

“We knew going into (the week) that Prince and Isak had definite potential, especially with the way they were playing later in the year. A really good energy and synergy in recent weeks especially. They had an amazing day on Wednesday (defeating the Nos. 6 and 3 seeds), and the semis were rained out (Thursday), so they had to go back-to-back (Friday).

“It was just an incredible run.”

Gandonou and Padio posted a 6-4, 4-6, 10-5 semifinal triumph over the No. 7 seed. The pair automatically clinched All-American status with their performance.

“I think there was a lot of motivation coming from not being seeded,” Michaud said. “Being here (in 2023) helped, too. They learned a lot from a year ago. It calmed the nerves early.

“They came in with something to prove.”

The Tritons placed eighth overall in the final team standings. Tyler was the champion, with Cowley taking second.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $2.99/week.

Subscribe Today