Cyrus Mehta, 1967-2018, Captain Of Yale’s 1989-90 Championship Team  
by Rob Dinerman

photo courtesy Dave Talbott

Dateline October 6, 2018 --- DSR is sad to report that Cyrus Mehta, Yale Class of ’90, a four-time all-American and captain his senior year of the only Yale men’s squash team that has gone wire-to-wire undefeated in the 57 years that have passed since  the 1960-61 season, died this past Thursday in London at the age of 51, three years after being diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer of the bone marrow. He is survived by his wife, Tessa, and Alia, Mehta’s 19-year-old daughter by his marriage to his first wife, Jane, who died of cancer in 2009.

  After achieving high junior rankings in his native India, Mehta arrived at Yale in September 1986 at a time when Yale squash, after a number of years in doldrums, was readying itself to challenge its Big Three rivals Princeton and perennial champ Harvard. His game was characterized by graceful court coverage and the ability to punish opponents with nick-finding salvos and wrist action that enabled him to change his shot late enough in his swing to keep his foes on their heels. As the second half of that decade progressed, he and his classmates Alex Dean, Jeff Hoerle, James “Tuffy” Kingsbury and Chris Hunt, along with Tom Clayton and Erik Wohlgemuth, both Class of ’89, and John Musto ’91, improved every year, to the point where in ’89 they finished in a three-way tie with Harvard and Princeton for the Ivy League title and won the inaugural edition of the postseason Potter Cup tournament. Then in 1989-90, they took the final step, defeating Harvard 5-4 in both the dual meet (with Mehta contributing a vital point with his win over Jeremy Fraiberg at No. 2) and the Potter Cup final, in which Yale, trailing Harvard four matches to two, got comeback wins from Darrow and sophomore Garrett Frank (who saved five fifth-game match-points against him), setting the stage for Musto’s rallying win from two games to love down against Crimson No. 1 Mark Baker in the last match on court. One week later at the Intercollegiate Individual championships at West Point, Mehta advanced to the final, defeating his teammate Musto in the semis before losing to Harvard captain Jon Bernheimer.

  At the team banquet that spring, Yale’s five seniors were named co-recipients of the Skillman Cup, the team MVP Award, which had never previously been bestowed on more than one person, in recognition of the enormous contribution that all of them had made, both individually and as a quintet, to the tradition of Yale squash. On a roster comprised largely of effervescent types and large personalities, Mehta was the team’s quiet, dignified leader, looked up to by his counterparts for keeping them focused and centered, and described by ’88 captain Keith Flavell as “the soul of one of the most eclectic but closest group of squash players and friends, that likely ever played.”In addition to reaching the ’90 Individuals finals, Mehta also won the ’88 Yale Open and played with distinction throughout the 1990’s in New York (while pursuing a career in banking which began at Chemical), including winning the ’94 Yale Club championship, reaching the final of the Metropolitan Open, Yale Club Invitational and New York State Open in 1992 and playing on Yale Club teams that won championships in New York’s highly competitive A League.

  The Mehtas moved to London in the fall of 1999, a few months after Alia was born. Though the Yale squash community was fully aware of his illness in the wake of an open letter he wrote in August 2015 disclosing his condition, there were enough intermittent periods of remission and optimistic reports of golf rounds, cricket games and extensive travel, to create some hope among his Mehta’s many friends  throughout the world that he might conquer his illness after all. His death therefore came as something of a shock, as perhaps was best expressed by Kingsbury, who wrote, “Wow, this is so hard to understand. To me, Cyrus is the epitome of health, grace, positivity and joy.” Musto, his partner atop the championship Bulldog lineup, sounded a similar theme: “Hard to find the right words. Cyrus was such an inspiration with how he lived….such an honorable, decent, great guy.” Yale’s longtime coach Dave Talbott has already announced that the 2018-19 Eli team will be dedicating the forthcoming season to Mehta’s memory, and that a lasting honor will be created in Mehta’s name in conjunction with Yale squash.