Here’s a fun one to discuss during this slight break in the rball tourney schedule; what’s the best Father/Son combo in our sports’ history? How about Husband/Wife or Brother/Sister?
Here’s some opinions on each category from yours truly, with others that I considered. Did I forget someone? Am I totally wrong? Feel free to chime in.
1. Best Husband/Wife combo: Jack Huczek and Christie Van Hees Only husband-wife team where both sides have won tour championships. Both retired way too soon; I would bet money Jack in particular could still be making the back end of pro tournaments if he was still playing (he was born in 1983, so hes younger right now than Kane/Rocky/Alvaro).
There’s actually a slew of Racquetball playing couples with pro experience on both sides … i limited this to just the best and the top 3 honorable mentions. If you want to include the Pratts, Fowlers, Wachtels, Kirches, Hawthornes, or others, I wouldn’t blame you.
Another category where there’s lots of honorable mentions; I left out the Paraisos, the Doyles, Kerrs, and Odegards in particular. I sense there’s a lot of younger players in the junior ranks that could qualify here too.
Lots of good examples of brothers playing right now. Bredenbecks, Murrays, Kurzbards, Garays, Kellers, Acunas, etc. And there might be more in the Latin Americas that i’m not aware of, since there’s so many players with common surnames.
I thought of a few other father/son combos where at least we knew both sides played at a high level (examples: Schopiearys, Ullimans, Elkins). But I couldn’t think of a single instance of a top pro from our entire sport’s history who has a son playing at a high level right now.
With the win, these players qualify to represent the US in this year’s two International Racquetball Federation – IRF events: the Pan American Racquetball Championships in Columbia in April, and the Pan American Games in August in Peru.
Both teams are no strangers to international competition nor National doubles championships: combined these four champions now have an astounding 29 combined US national doubles titles between them.
These titles represent the nth title for each player: – Carson: 11th career National title. He won 6 with Jack Huczek, then has won 1 each now with Ben Croft, Jose Diaz, Jose Rojas, Sudsy Monchik and now Pratt. Rocky won his first title in 2004. He now sits 5th for National doubles titles world-wide. – Pratt: This is his 1st National doubles title; he’s made the semis a few times in the past with various partners in National events, and has one pro IRT doubles title (with Jansen Allen in 2016). – Ruiz: 12th career National title. She won 2 with Laura Fenton, 5 with Jacqueline Paraiso-Larsson, and now 5 with Tisinger. She is tied for 3rd globally for National doubles titles with Canadian Jen Saunders. First place is Canadian legend Josee Grand Maitre with 15 career national doubles titles, and 2nd all time is Ruiz’s former partner Paraiso, who has 14. – Tisinger earns her 5th title, all with Ruiz.
Click here for a list of all Amateur national doubles champions for the three major countries: http://rball.pro/4A22B0
Quick summary of the Men’s draw: the semis were chalk according to seeds: there #3 seeded Jake Bredenbeck and Jose Diaz took out #2 seeded Bobby David Horn and Mauro Daniel Rojas to reach the final. There, the two finalists split games and headed to a tie-breaker, eventually taken by the champs 11-7.
Quick summary of the Women’s draw: it was upsets galore here, with the 5th seeded team of Michelle De La Rosa and sister Danielle Maddux upsetting defending champs and #1 seeds Kelani Lawrence and Sharon Jackson in an 11-10 tiebreaker win en route to the final. On the other side, 3rd seeded Ruiz/Tisinger took out 2nd seeded and last year’s finalists Rhonda Rajsich and Sheryl Lotts in a tiebreaker to get to the final. The final was a 2-game win for the veterans.
—————————– The Tempe event also had a singles component, with players competing for qualifying points towards representing the USA in singles. Here’s a quick run-through these draws:
On the Men’s side, #1 seed Carson topped #2 Pratt in two games to take the draw. There were a few notable upsets by seeds in the earlier rounds (Thomas Carter over Mauro Rojas, and Erik Garcia over Robert Collins being perhaps the biggest), but the semis-onward more or less went as expected.
On the Women’s side, the #1 seed Rajsich also took the draw, taking out #3 seeded Lawrence in a rematch of the last two such National level singles draws. The quarters featured two pretty significant results: Hollie Scott trounced Sheryl Lotts in the quarters, and doubles specialist Tisinger took out #2 seeded Sharon Jackson 11-10.
(Reminder: I do not enter these non-National results into the database).
—————————– Lastly, a bit of opinion expression from yours truly based on a situation that arose and was talked about in some of the FB groups.
This was the USA National Doubles Championships. It determines the United States champions in the various divisions and helps select representatives (in both singles and doubles) of our country in international competitions.
So why were there foreign nationals who represent other countries internationally in the draw?
A bit of history: the “US National championships” were, for a time, open to all countries. In fact, the US National amateur singles champs in 75 and 75 were both Canadians (Wayne Bowes and Lindsay Myers respectively). In 82 the then named “AARA” changed the requirement to have the US national singles only be open for US citizens. This is (coincidentally or not) right around the time that the first “international” championships were held; in the 1970s there was just the tournaments held in the USA, and even the professional year end championships declared “National champions.” I don’t ever recall a situation where there was even a question about someone’s citizenship competing for the USA national team … until now.
It says pretty clearly on the entry form that you have to be a US citizen or “have a citizenship application in process.” Understood; some people hold dual citizenships. But how is it possible we’re letting players who have represented other countries internationally (quite recently) compete in the US championships?
There were three examples of this situation this past weekend: – Sebastian Fernandez: He competed in US team qualifying in doubles. Fernandez represents Mexico in juniors, where he was the runner-up in Junior worlds just last November, entered Mexican National Singles last February, and entered the Mexican World Selection event in June. How is he competing in a tournament to represent the USA just a couple months later? – Erik Garcia: hails from Chihuahua, now attending college in the USA … and represented Mexico in Junior worlds in 2013 and competed in Mexican amateur nationals in 2014. Yet he was entered into BOTH singles and doubles USA national team qualifying events.
(Note: post publishing i’ve been informed that Garcia is in fact a US Citizen, born in US. Which then begs the question; how is he playing in Mexican national events? Its the same issue but perhaps in reverse).
– Melania Sauma Masis: has been representing Costa Rica in various junior and senior events since 2009, including playing in the 2017 PARCs and the 2018 Caribbean games. Clearly grew up in CRC, but now attends the host college of this past event (ASU). Less of an issue for Sauma Masis in that she didn’t compete in the National team events (since the application says that “all other divisions are open to US Citizens and residents) … but she did compete for a “US National title” against US citizens, which some have a problem with.
I get that these players may have dual citizenship, which technically would have allowed them to enter the tourney (it was reported that Fernandez does; but I’m not sure how the other two possibly would). I suppose the bigger question is this: how can someone just switch back and forth like (especially) Fernandez has done? Olympic athletes can switch … but they have to wait a few years in-between competitions. Professional Soccer players can switch from one country to another, but only once, and only before officially representing a country at the senior/adult level (at which point they are permanently “capped” to a specific country).
Internationally, there’s a long history of players switching countries. Among others, Ruben Gonzalez, Veronique Guillemette, Natalia Mendez, Mario Mercado, Maria Jose Vargas, and most recently Brenda Laime have switched countries … but i’m not aware of anyone switching to and back like we’ve now seen out of Fernandez over his career.
To take this to the extreme, consider these hypotheticals. Daniel De La Rosa is married to a US citizen and now lives in Arizona (I have no idea if he now has a US passport, if he’s applied for citizenship, etc; this is a hypothetical). He has always and continues to represent Mexico … but lets say DLR plays in Mexican Nationals in February and gets knocked out early but really wants to go to Peru for the Pan Am games. Would you be ok with him then entering USA nationals in May to try to earn a spot? Also hypothetical: Kane Waselenchuk has now lived in Texas nearly as long as he lived in Canada, and marred a US citizen years ago; would you be ok if he entered US Nationals in May?
I think we need some guidelines going forward, where players have to declare to represent one country or another and stick with it. I’m ok with switching countries, but you have to have a legitimate connection, and you have to “sit out” a period of time to prevent venue shopping for IRF representation.
PS: I want to emphasize this point; i’m not making a political statement here. Its more about the inherent conflict of interest that exists.
Happy Holidays! During this little break in the tournament action, here’s some content for everyone to argue about. 🙂 This is my current Men’s World Top 50. Thanks to the ever-widening popularity of the sport, multiple tours and the inability for some top players to play the International Racquetball Tour regularly, the IRT rankings do not really give a full picture of the current state of the world game. This attempts to do so.
I have rankings divided into “groups” so this isn’t a hard and fast 1-50 necessarily, as I’ll explain as we go.
Usual caveats: this is my opinion. No offense intended if you think someone is too high or too low. This is for entertainment purposes only. Its mostly stat/match result based. Its tough to do pure 1-50 b/c of game style match-ups (i.e., a guy in the 30s always beats a guy in the 20s for some reason, but can’t beat anyone in-between). Also, one big win over a top 10 player does not make you a top 10 player … i’ve noted solid wins for players below the top of this list, but look for consistent results over and again before rising up the ranks.
I hope you enjoy!
1. Kane Waselenchuk Large Gap to #2: Kane is head and shoulders ahead of anyone else.
2. Rocky Carson Smaller Gap to #3-6; Rocky still has a lead over the next group and continues to demonstrate it on the court.
I have these guys 3-6, and they’re constantly changing positions. Up until the Mexico Open I had Landa above Montoya, but then Montoya got him H2H. Honestly, I think they’re a coin flip for #3 and #4 right now. Meanwhile, DLR is 3-6 H2H against Landa across senior events so i’ve got him just below Landa … just beat Parrilla and Montoya to win in Monterrey, but lost to Montoya at Mexican Nats earlier this year. Parrilla beat Landa at the past US Open but for me day in, day out is slightly below these other three. On any given Sunday though, these four can all put losses on each other. It is not a surprise that these four were then fou semi-finalists in Monterrey earlier this month.
Moscoso has wins over the guys ranked 3-6, but just lost to Montoya at Worlds and lost to Murray at US Open. I know some people think he should be higher (ahem, Sudsy 🙂 ) but i’ve got him just a hair below. Mar is an enigma; he’s demonstrated the ability to beat all the guys ranked 3-6 and has in the last couple of years, but not quite consistently enough to break into that group. Murray has wins over Montoya, Landa and Moscoso in the last few events; he’s becoming much more consistent winner as of late. Lastly you have Alvaro, who has been showing his age but then turns around and trounces the likes of DLR in Portland. He’s still a tough out, week in and week out but has been consistently slipping down this ranking over the past couple of years.
One last comment on my current top 10: a quick breakdown by country:
And the one American player is nearly 40. The next generation of dominance in our sport is coming from south of the US border.
I call this group the “retired but could still make noise if they weren’t” group. Jose retired after three straight finishes at #5 on tour, and he didn’t retire because he was losing suddenly. Mejia hasn’t played in a while, enough that we may want to remove him, but when we last saw him playing WRT events he was beating consistently those ranked just behind him in the next grouping. Marco Rojas retired after two 7th place finishes on tour, and has winning career records against DLR and Landa, and against guys in the next grouping (Horn, Jake), so its no surprise he’s still this high. Lastly Tony Carson consistently demonstrates he can continue to win, with wins over DLR and Parrilla in the last two IRT events he’s entered.
Here’s where it starts getting tough. This group here is a mix of international players we rarely see, leading World Racquetball Tour players, and mid-ranged IRT players. You may argue that I have Polo too high; but every time he plays an IRT event he makes noise. He’s coming off an elbow injury and is 35 though, so he may be slipping. Horn has some wins against higher ranked players and won 2018 US Nationals in a draw that included Jake, Pratt and Jose Rojas. Pratt has some h2h wins over players in this group, over Beltran, and beat Mar en route to the 2017 Pan Am final. Franco has recent wins over Landa and DLR, and has a solid argument to be higher. Mercado too; he’s 2-2 vs Murray career but just 1-5 against Horn and this feels about right. Iwaasa took several years off, but has not lost his touch, taking Mercado to the edge at Worlds twice and making the Finals in the WRT Canada event in a draw that featured several guys in this group. Keller Vargas won the 2018 Pan Ams over Montoya and Horn, but lost to Franco at Worlds; I used to have him much higher and wonder if he’d be a top 10 player if he played the tour regularly. Lastly Jake; he’s one of the few players to have wins over Kane, DLR and Rocky ever, but has struggled to beat players in this group or the grouping above lately and has been slightly slipping down in this ranking after having some early IRT season struggles.
Croft is pretty much retired, so not much recent to go on; he beat Horn but lost to Jake in a singles event in Denver earlier this year. Estrada, Natera and Ochoa are all rising Mexican players to watch out for. Estrada beat Landa at Mexican world selection event, just beat Beltran in Monterrey and has played Montoya tough twice this fall. Natera has recent wins over Mar and others in this grouping. Ochoa has recent wins over Beltran, Parrilla, and Mar and may very well be higher. Cardona used to be in the next group up as the reigning king of the hill in the WRT but has been losing ground to the likes of Horn and Jake and the youngsters rising up in Mexico over the past year or so.
Sudsy made the semis of the US Open last year by beating Allen, then beat Diaz but lost to Jake in an WRT event so this seems about right (thought I wouldn’t argue if you thought he was higher). Allen has had some solid wins against the likes of Beltran, Mercado, Murray lately, and beat Diaz in the Laurel season opener, and may be a bit higher. Lastly you have the younger Rojas, who has consistently beaten players below here but not too many above and who has the game to start breaking through and moving up.
This grouping could benefit from more head to head meetings; would Allen beat the likes of Estrada, Natera and Ochoa if they played? Here’s hoping for some more IRT events held in Mexico to get more full draws.
32. Cliff Swain; even though he hasn’t played in more than a year, I still think he could beat anyone listed below here. I’m hoping he plays some more pro events and tries to break some of Ruben Gonzalez‘s more amazing feats of reaching the end stages of pro tourneys at advanced ages.
As with the group above, its tougher in this area to really rank guys sequentially because there’s not a lot of h2h to go on. Gerardo Franco probably has an argument to be higher, with recent wins over Sebastian Franco, over DLR and Jake in Cincy18, etc. I’ve got Lalo just ahead of Sebastian on account of his h2h win at Junior Worlds, but Lalo has lost multiple times to Gerardo Franco in the last year so this trio feels right. Martell has great wins (Landa, Jake, Horn), but then also has early tourney losses in recent WRT and amateur events. Garay has wins over guys in this grouping and against the likes of Parrilla and might be higher. Alonso plays the guys in this grouping tough, has wins over Parrilla in the past but needs more consistency.
Landeryou has h2h wins over both the next two guys below him hence the ranking, but not much else to go on. Reid has a win over Mercado and a US Open title in Men’s open in a draw that featured many players in this group or just below, so this ranking makes sense. Green has reigned over Canada racquetball for two decades but may be retiring and most recently lost to Landeryou at Canadian Nationals. Longoria has some wins over the likes of GFranco and Estrada and may have a case to be a bit higher. Lastly Manilla just took out Mercado in Laurel18 and has had a promising start to the new season, so this seems about right.
Herrera is a long-time IRT vet, just took the 2018 US Open Men’s Open draw over Acuna in the final and beating several Honorable Mention players along the way. Acuna has some solid wins recently (Portillo, Camacho, even Horn at the US Open) and may have a good argument to be higher. Rios doesn’t have much to go on recently but has good wins internationally in the past. Garcia is the 16U reigning world champ who has beaten a few of the HM players in limited adult tourneys. Mollet is the Cuban #1 who makes noise whenever he enters (beat Camacho h2h at Central American games in 2018 for example). Camacho has some wins over higher players (Fernandez, Allen) but has losses to players right in this group so this feels about right. Bousquet had some solid wins over HM players in 2017.
And it should be noted, there’s a slew of HM players below who might very well be in this group, or slightly higher. In fact, as I typed this I wondered if any number of the below players shouldn’t be in this 40-50 range.
Honorable Mentions: I can’t tag more than 50 players per post, so nobody below is tagged, but here’s the players just outside the top 50 by category:
———————— HM Int’l players: Fernando Kurzbard, Jose Daniel Ugalde, Juan Salvatierra, Francisco Troncoso, Andres Gomez, Teobaldo Fumero, Luis Perez, Christian Wer, Hiroshi Shimizu, Lee Connell, Set Cubillos, David Garcia
HM Mexican Players: Edson Martinez, Rodrigo Garay, Rodrigo Rodrigez, Alejandro Almada, Edwin Galicia, Miguel Rodriguez Jr., Daniel Neri, Erick Cuevas Fernandez, Alan Palomino
HM USA IRT Regulars: Thomas Carter, Robert Collins, Scott McClellan, Troy Warigon, John Wolfe
HM USA periodic players: Taylor Knoth, Nick Montalbano, Majeed Shaheen, Matthew Majxner, Maurice Miller, Brad Schopiery, Luis Avila, Brent Walters, Tim Prigo
HM USA Up and comers: Kevin Vasquez, Erik Garcia, Jordan Barth, Nick Riffel, Mauricio Zelada, Wayne Antone IV, Justus Benson, Danny Lavely, Lukas Le,Dylan Pruitt, Kyle Ulliman, A.J. Fernandez, Sam Bredenbeck, Sunji Spencer
HM retired pro players: Alex Ackermann, Gilberto De Los Rios, Kris Odegard, Ricardo Monroy, Anthony Herrera, Shai Manzuri, Javier Moreno ——————————
Phew. Hopefully I didn’t miss anyone; let me know in the comments if you think I did. Look forward to your commentary. Happy Holidays!