Illini of the Week October 14: Aron Hiltzik

By Lucas Wright

Editor’s note: The Daily Illini sports desk sits down each week and decides which Illinois athlete or coach is our Illini of the week. Athletes and coaches are evaluated by individual performance and contribution to team success.

Little brothers always get the short end of the stick.

They have the inherited burden of being compared to their older siblings.

Eli Manning will always have to look up to Peyton’s records, the Baldwins will always be reminded of Alec’s success and Dave Franco will forever be known as James’ little brother.

Big brothers cast a looming shadow that seems to sometimes hide the success of their younger counterparts, but getting out from under the shadow is not impossible.

The newest little brother candidate trying to make his own name can be found on the Illinois men’s tennis team — sophomore Aron Hiltzik. Aron is coming off one of the biggest wins of his career, an upset over No. 2 seed Nicolas Alvarez of Duke at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association All-American Championships in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Aron is the brother of Illini senior Jared Hiltzik, whose list of accomplishments is nothing short of impressive. Jared’s résumé sports multiple first-team All-Big Ten selections, an appearance in the NCAA singles quarterfinals and a top-15 spot in this year’s national preseason rankings.

Jared is also a two-time All-American.

For Aron, he was labeled at a young age as the “little Hiltzik brother” by Jared’s friends and teammates.

“He was always playing in the age divisions two years above me, so I would go to his games and get to know his teammates,” Aron said. “They always knew me as that little Hiltzik, or that little talented kid.”

Aron quickly became more than just that little talented kid when he began training with his brother and showed that he was just as good as the boys that were two years older than him. This helped build a sibling rivalry, which Aron says helps motivate each of the them to this day.

“His biggest thing is that he always has to be better than me and it motivates both of us because I really don’t like that he always has to beat me,” Aron said. “But he kind of has to because he’s the older brother, so it’s kind of interesting how it works.”

Although he competed at or near his brother’s talent level throughout his childhood, Aron’s age resulted in him being the second to each tennis milestone in their eerily similar careers.

Aron and Jared were each the top recruits in the nation in their respective classes upon committing to Illinois. They each won the Stowe Sportsmanship Award at the USTA Boys’ 18 National Tennis Championships before entering college. They finished their freshman seasons at Illinois each with 29-win seasons and First-Team All-Big Ten recognitions.

Despite being second to each prize, Aron and Jared’s mother Arlyn Stern-Hiltzik says that there were never any problems with envy in their relationship.

“Aron was always giving Jared accolades for his accomplishments, so there was never that jealousy between them,” Arlyn said. “There was always good vibes for them.”

All in all, Aron says that everything he has gone through with his brother has been for the best.

“I know that if he can do it, I can do it,” Aron said. “If he can be an All-American, I can, it’s just something that has always motivated me and I think that also motivates him.”

The brothers say that their relationship has been helpful to each of them throughout the years. Jared relishes his past experiences and gives advice to his younger sibling, while Aron values the time he can spend learning from his brother and having his support to fall back on, as he goes through his career.

Moving forward, Aron says that the next step in his career is to fine-tune and understand his game so that he can compete and consistently win at the collegiate level.

Aron sets high goals for himself, saying repeatedly that he wants to be an All-American and compete for titles at the college level.

Looking ahead, he has even bigger plans for his professional career.

“The big picture is always going to be going professional,” Aron said. “I want to go on the ATP tour and go to Wimbledon and all the big tournaments.”

Even if Aron has more success in his professional career, Jared says that he will always have one thing he can hold over Aron for the rest of his life.

“Even if he becomes No. 1 in the world and I don’t, he’s still always going to be my little brother.”

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