James Wade

San Marino High's James Wade is the All-Area Boys' Tennis Team's Singles Player of the Year. (Raul Roa/Staff Photographer / July 6, 2013)

SAN MARINO — There’s a natural temptation to wonder just what kind of season San Marino High senior James Wade would have had without the presence of University High phenom Gage Brymer.

It seemed around every corner, at every championship opportunity, Wade would ultimately run into the nation’s top-ranked player and would ultimately be denied.

“In all honestly, Gage is just on another level. He’s a machine and his work ethic, from what I hear, is the best in Southern California,” San Marino High Coach Melwin Pereira. “I wanted to be realistic with James when we game-planned for Gage. So, I gave him two pieces of advice. The first was to try and take as many points as possible. The second thing was to improve against him each time.”

Ultimately, the two met on three occasions in 2013 with Brymer winning all three matches at Ojai, the CIF Southern California Regionals and at the CIF Southern Section Individual Championships.

Those two wins, coupled with Brymer’s 2-0 record versus Wade in 2012 (with one of those victories taking place during the Trojans’ dominating 15-3 triumph over the Titans in the CIF-SS Division I quarterfinals), could have easily left a sour taste in Wade’s mouth.

Yet, Wade was anything but bitter.

“He forces me to play my best and to try to limit my mistakes. Gage does just about everything right. He plays with power and finesse, has great footwork and an incredible serve,” Wade said. “So, I have to try and stay with him as best as I can.

“I’ve been frustrated in the past, but I realized if I keep on meeting him in finals, it must mean I’m doing something right and I’m doing well, too.”

Beyond the three defeats, Wade built a body of work second to none in the area and was unanimously selected as the All-Area Boys’ Tennis Singles Player of the Year by the sports editors and writers of the Pasadena Sun, La Cañada Valley Sun, Glendale News-Press and Burbank Leader.

“James was one of the leaders on this team, someone we all listened to,” Titans freshman Ryan Cheng said at the conclusion of the season. “If James was doing well, the team was doing well.”

The UC Davis-bound Wade was at the forefront of every major victory for the Titans (22-1), including at the very beginning.

The earliest omen for future Titans success was the team’s 5-0 start versus an all-Division I lineup. San Marino defeated Loyola (12-6), Palos Verdes (11-7), Troy (17-1) and Palos Verdes Peninsula (13-5).

Perhaps the pièce de résistance of the undefeated romp was a 15-3 victory over Harvard-Westlake, which was ranked No. 3 in Division I at the time, on March 5.

“That was pretty cool to go 5-0 against Division I teams,” Wade said. “All the previous years, we lost to Harvard-Westlake and Palos Verdes. When we took down those big schools, I think we all kind of thought that this would be a special year.”

Wade certainly did his part in the rout of Harvard-Westlake, winning all three of his sets, 6-1, 6-1, 6-1.

“James really got us going in that match,” Pereira said. “He wasn’t one of the vocal leaders, like Mark Lew, the team’s other senior, but he led us with his actions and play.”

As the Titans rolled to another undefeated Rio Hondo League team championship, Wade also claimed his own individual title in defeating teammate Cheng, 6-2, 6-1 for his second consecutive league individual singles title on April 23 at Live Oak Park.

“Winning the title this year meant so much more than last year,” Wade said. “After the end of last year, I recommitted myself to working harder on and off the court and proving to myself that I’m as good as anyone. That was my first step.”

Only two days later, Wade took part in arguably the most important non-playoff action of the season at the 113th Ojai Valley Junior Tournament.