Siblings helped Quaker Valley HOF inductee succeed on tennis court
By Nathan Smith
Published: Wednesday, July 24, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Living in a house with three other tennis players, John Houghton said there wasn't much of a sibling rivalry growing up with his brother Rick or sisters Kate and Annie.
Instead he benefited from having other athletes to compete with at any time.
“It was more friendly competition and more practicing,” Houghton said. “We were never in the same age group so we never had to play each other. It was great living together because we had a hitting partner any day of the week.”
It paid off as Houghton finished his high school career as one of the most decorated players in Quaker Valley history, winning three WPIAL championships and one PIAA title in four years as the Quakers' first singles player. His success on the court led to him being chosen as a member of the 2013 Quaker Valley Sports Hall of Fame induction class.
“I was fortunate enough to be healthy through my entire high school career,” Houghton said. “That played a huge role in my success. I was taking good care of my body and that allowed me to play the best tennis possible.”
As soon as he stepped on the court as a Quaker, Houghton found success.
As a freshman, he captured the Section 3-AA title, defeating Pine-Richland's Brett Warren, 6-2,1-6, 7-6 (8-6).
Warren would get his revenge though as he defeated Houghton, 6-3, 6-3, for the WPIAL Class AA title.
From that point on, Houghton didn't lose another match in WPIAL play. His sophomore and junior years were highlighted by WPIAL Class AA title wins. His lone losses those two seasons came in the PIAA championship.
Houghton finally captured the elusive state title as a senior, defeating Central Columbia's Grett Bennett, 6-0, 6-4, in the finals to cap off an undefeated season. He credits the Quaker Valley team's success — the Quakers captured the PIAA Class AA team title the week before — that season for making him more relaxed heading into the PIAA singles tournament.
“When our team won the state title, I didn't feel the pressure as an individual,” Houghton said. “It is a great accomplishment. I was really confident heading in.”
Houghton continued his athletic career at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point — as did all three of his siblings.
“The college game was different because players are more willing to play longer points,” Houghton said. “I had to focus more on my stroke. Cross training more in the weight room was also important.”
He served as the Black Knights top singles player all four years and was a three-time all-Patriot League honoree.
He was the Patriot League Tournament MVP in 2005 as Army reached the NCAA tournament that year as well as 2006.
“I think reaching the NCAAs my sophomore and junior year was our biggest achievements,” Houghton said. “Traveling with the team to Texas Tech and the University of Virginia those years was a lot of fun.”
Houghton is now preparing to make a move to New York where he will begin studying for an MBA at Cornell University. He is also going to continue serving in the Army in a reserve unit.
But when the Quaker Valley ceremony rolls around in September, he will take a break from his studies to make a return to Leetsdale and catch up with his family, teachers and former coach Ed Perry at the Hall of Fame weekend.
“It is a great honor to be inducted,” Houghton said. “So many great athletes have come through Quaker Valley. There have been so many great soccer teams and athletes in basketball and football. It is extremely humbling.”
Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @NSmith_Trib.
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