Thanks to Shari Coplen, who sent along some old magazine scans she got from one of the early pro champions Steve Serot, we now have the full Men’s singles and doubles draws from the 1973 IRA (now known as USA Racquetball) national championships.
Serot featured prominently in both events and kept copies of the material throughout the years. He also provided full bracket scans (!!) for both draws. Read on for a fun trip down memory lane.
The Singles draw from 1973 nationals is amazing: 102 players. I have never entered a bigger draw.
Top 10 seeds: 1 Charlie Brumfield 2 Rubenstein, Ron 3 Schmidtke, Bill 4 Lawrence, Paul 5 Serot, Steve 6 Michael Zeitman 7 Bo Keeley (Steve Keeley) 8 Porco, Ken 9 Charles H. Garfinkel 10 Jerry Hilecher
Other notables in the draw: – #15 Charlie Drake, who eventually became the commissioner of the pro tour in the early 80s and the CEO of Leach industries (one of the major sponsors of the sport). – #17 Steve Strandemo, who was a regular touring pro for a decade and one of the sport’s first big-time teaching pros, running clinics for years after retiring. – #24 Davey Bledsoe, who would go on to win the 1977 nationals and who passed away in Dec 2019 – #26 Randy Stafford, who now curates the Racquetball Museum (and who just got it back online: http://racquetballmuseum.com/ ) – #72 Chuck Leve, who wrote several books on racquetball and was inducted into the USAR Hall of Fame in 1997. – #91 Marty Hogan … which has the be the lowest he was ever seeded in a tournament in his life.
The draw went nearly chalk in its later rounds, with 15 of the top 16 seeds advancing out of the 32s (only the #8 seed was upset early), then 7 of the top 8 seeds making the quarters. From there, #1 and defending champ Brumfield took over, advancing past #5 Serot in the semis, while #7 Keeley beat the #2 and #3 seeds to advance to the final. Brumfield took the title in a breaker over Bo in the end.
The tournament is a throwback to the very early days of the sport, and the players involved in this event show as much.
Top Seeds: 1 Luciw, Mike & Rudusz, George; the 1972 champs. 2 Porco, Ken & Evans, Bill: Porco was part of the 1971 winning team. 3 Brumfield, Charlie & Serot, Steve; two of the best of the early touring racquetball pros during the sport’s infancy. 4 Souders, Roger & Charleson, Dave; Charleson would win the title in 1974. 5 Hilecher, Jerry & Wong, Kenny; Both St. Louis based and part of the core group of St. Louis natives that dominated early. 6 Keeley, Steve & Drake, Charlie; Keeley is the legendary character of the sport. 7 Dunn, Bill & Thurman, Bill were both early touring players and both played a number of NRC and IRA pro events from 73 to 77. 8 Johnson, Galen & Wirkus, Joe 9 Stafford, Randy & Davey Bledsoe 10 Strandemo, Steve & Strom, Ron
Also playing was a young Craig McCoy (the 15th seed as a 16yr old), and under-seeded Bill Schmidtke (the 1971 and 1974 Singles national champion), and seeded 44th a very precocious Marty Hogan, playing in his home-town at the age of 15.
The 5-time pro tour champ Brumfield, teamed with the lefty Serot, blew through the draw and were never really challenged in the event. They topped the #5 seeded Hilecher/Wong team in the final 1,15
thanks to Shari and to Serot himself for retaining this information. As always, if you can find the draw sheets for an old event, i’ll put it in.
Welcome to the last event of the 2020 IRT mid-west swing, and its a special one. “The Lou,” a long-running IRT satellite in Sun Prairie, WI (outside of Madison), has stepped up this year for the first time to become a Tier 1 event.
This represents the first time the IRT has had a full tier 1 in the state of Wisconsin since 2004, and this is the first time ever going anywhere except Milwaukee within the state for a major event.
Fun fact: the very first US Amateur Nationals event was held in Milwaukee in 1968. The first major racquetball tournament ever held, won by Bill Schultz over Hall of Famer Bill Schmidtke in the final.
There’s 34 players in this singles draw. There’s not a pro doubles draw but there is a healthy Men’s Open draw filled with top players that will be fun to watch.
The draw is missing two major names: #3 Rocky Carson picked up an injury (or perhaps came back a bit too soon from his Dec 2019 surgery) and misses the event. This is pretty notable; in 20 years on tour full time this is just the third event he’s missed. Also missing the draw is last week’s champ #6 Daniel De La Rosa (also reportedly out with a knock), which has to be a bummer b/c he’s been playing some of the best ball of his career this month.
Other top 20 players missing: #14 David ” Bobby” Horn (who has stated he’s stepping back from touring for financial reasons), and #18 Andres Acuña, who may be heading back to his home country to help with a big tourney starting up next week.
is it a flip draw? Yes. The 5th-8th seeds are: – Moscoso: ranked 7th, 5th highest seed in draw, seeded 8th – Murray: ranked 8th, 6th highest seed in draw, seeded 5th – Portillo: ranked 9th, 7th highest seed in draw, seeded 6th – Bredenbeck: ranked 10th, 8th highest seed in draw, seeded 7th.
Obviously, Moscoso is hardest done by, flipped into the #8 spot meaning a meeting with Kane in the quarters. Jake would have been in the same quarter he got flipped into anyway without the missing top seeds. Portillo gets a big break and is in line to face #3 seed Parrilla, who he beat recently. Biggest benefactor has to be Murray, who gets out of a Kane quarter and instead feeds into #4 Beltran (who he’s never beaten, but has been playing close).
A comment about the impact of 3 straight events; it seems to have taken a toll on some the tour’s older full-time players: – Kane (age 38): missed the middle event – Rocky (age 40): missed 2 of the 3 events – Landa (age 31) fft’d out of Lewis, wonder if he’s still showing any ill effects of the injury this weekend.
Of course that being said the tour’s oldest regular (Beltran, age 41) has made all three and shown no ill effects, so maybe its more coincidence and less causation.
—————————— Lets preview the draw. Here’s some notable qualifying matches that i’m looking forward to:
In the round of 64: – #28 Minnesota native Lee Meinerz takes on former top-10 touring vet Costa Rican #21 Felipe Camacho. I like what I saw from Meinerz last week; he can give Camacho a match here for sure. He puts pressure on the ball on every shot and could push for an upset. – #22 Mexican Alan Natera Chavez takes on #27 Anthony Martin in a solid first rounder. Natera lost out to Pratt in the 64s last weekend but will shoot for a better result this weekend. – #23 Bolivian Kadim Carrasco takes on #26 American Justus Benson in the opener; 21-yr old Texan Benson has gone one-and-done in four straight tourneys and will be looking to break that streak here.
——————————- Projecting the 32s: – #16 Javier Mar likely takes on #17 Sebastian ‘Patata’ Fernandez in a very tasty match between two solid players. Somehow Fernandez gets exactly the 17th seed for the second straight event, meaning he has to play that extra match before facing a top opponent. Last week he qualified into the #1 seed; this time around he won’t be favored to repeat the feat. Mar slots into the brutal #16 seed, meaning that with a win he faces Kane in the first round of the main draw instead of the quarters (as he did in last year’s US Open) or later. A great match either way to see where Fernandez’ game is these days. – #13 Thomas Carter likely takes on #20 Javier Estrada for the second week running. Estrada took him out in a breaker last week; will we see a different result here? – #11 Mario Mercado Valenzuela likely vs #22 Natera; Both these players were taken out last week by the same guy (Charlie Pratt Racquetball): now they slate to face off for a spot in the main draw. Mercado’s season has been hit and miss: he’s got solid wins and surprising losses. its anyone’s guess here. – #15 Eduardo Garay likely takes on #18 Adam Manilla. Manilla surprised everyone with his run in Austin and has committed to the tour full time; he has his hands full though with Colombian Garay, who beat Landa in Austin two weeks ago and is moving up in the world.
——————————- Projecting the round of 16: – #1 Kane Waselenchuk takes on the Mar/Fernandez winner; Kane took last week off and should be refreshed as compared to either player here, who are doing play-ins and working on two-three straight weeks of play. – #8 Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo vs #9 Rodrigo Montoya Solís]; Great match for the 16s. Montoya beat Moscoso in both 2018 Worlds (en route to the gold medal) and in the 2019 Pan Am games (en route to the gold medal). Both matches were close. Both are hard hitters, with great diving abilities. Moscoso has a slight knock sustained in Austin that still seemed to be bothering his mobility on the court in Sioux Falls. I’ll favor Montoya here. – #5 Samuel Murray likely vs #12 Carlos Keller Vargas: another intriguing match; Murray knocked Keller out of the 2019 Pan Am games in the quarters, but Keller upset Murray in the 32s of the US Open (a big loss in the season’s biggest event for a top 8 seed). I like Murray here. – #4 Alvaro Beltran likely vs #20 Estrada: These two met just last week at this same gate, an 8,9 win for Beltran. Can Estrada flip the script in a week’s time? Is three straight weeks and a ton of court time too much for the 41-yr old Beltran? – #3 Andree Parrilla likely vs #14 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez; Parrilla has not been enjoying the mid-west swing so far: two one-and dones in a row in Austin and Sioux Falls. He’s now been beaten in the 16s three times this season: he had just one upset prior to the quarters the entirety of last season. If he wants to keep his top 4 seed, he needs to be making semis regularly. First up: an old WRT adversary in Franco. Parrilla is 4-0 against him in the old tour; they havn’t met professionally since 2017. I suspect Andree advances. – #6 Lalo Portillo vs the Natera/Mercado winner. Match-ups matter: Portillo has a couple of wins over Natera in RKT local events in the last year, but lost to Mercado two weeks ago in Austin. Which Portillo shows up this week? The guy who looked absolutely dominant in a run to the finals last week? Or the guy who lost three straight round of 16 openers in Nov, Dec and Jan? I’m going to go with the former and project another run here for the youngster. – #7 Jake Bredenbeck vs #10 Sebastian Franco; they’ve met 7 times in pro/IRF events over the years: Jake leads 4-3 and won their most recent skirmish; a RR affair at the 2019 Pan Am Games in Peru. I like Jake here; he’s been playing more consistent all season, while Franco has been missing events and taking upset losses. – #2 Alex Landa vs #15 Garay. How hurt is Landa? He was really struggling against Murray last week before retiring. Next week is US Nationals, where he’s playing with Sudsy Monchik in an attempt to qualify for the US team … which I have to think is pretty darn important to him given all that transpired with the Mexican federation last year. Meanwhile, Garay is tough and just beat an un-injured Landa in Austin two weeks ago. I sense another upset here, whether its Garay beating him on the level or Landa protecting his arm.
—————————— Projected Qtrs: – #1 Kane over #9 Montoya: Kane’s 3-0 against the young world champ … but their most recent meeting in Portland in Dec was closer than it had been before. I sense a pattern in kane’s “close” matches; when a top player is playing well, they’ll hang with Kane for most of each game .. you’ll see scores like 8-8 or 10-9 … then poof, Kane hits another gear and suddenly its 15-10 game over. Its tough to play flawless racquetball for two straight hours against the GOAT; how close can Montoya come this time? – Beltran/Estrada winner vs Murray; Which ever Mexican advances, i’ll favor over the big Canadian. It’ll be either Beltran (who’s never lost to Murray), or Estrada (who, if he beats Beltran it means he’s “on” this week and will be tough to stop). – Parrilla over Portillo: I don’t think Parrilla is going to get upset three tourneys in a row; he’s never lost to Portillo in an IRT or WRT event (but did lost to him last year in SLP local event). But it’d be quite a statement if Lalo made another run. – Garay over Jake/SFranco; if Garay tops Landa, no reason not to think he’d also get a win here.
I know I keep predicting wins for Estrada and Garay in particular; something about their games really strikes me as solid. Maybe i’m crazy, but both players have power, athleticism, good wins on their resumes and are growing tourney by tourney. What can I say, i’m a sucker for upsets.
——————————- Semis: – Kane over Estrada – Parrilla over Garay
Finals: Kane over Parrilla.
Andree has come an awful long way from the 0,0,0 beating he took in the US Open 2016 at the hands of the king. Parrilla took a game from Kane in Syosset last season (though, to be fair Kane was nursing a hand injury), and was dominated in their most recent meeting (Portland semis). Look for Andree to find unique ways to keep this close but for Kane to pull away.
Look for Streaming in the regular places; follow the IRT on facebook and sign up to get notifications when they go Live. Look for Dean DeAngelo Baer, Favio Soto, Pablo Fajre and the IRTLive crew all weekend on the mike, calling the shots!
This year’s version of event is the 52nd iteration of the event, and is as far as I know the longest running racquetball tournament in existence. It was first held in 1968 in Milwaukee, where two legends competed in the final (Bill Schultz defeated Hall of Famer Bill Schmidtke in the final).
Record holders for Most National Titles? –Rocky Carson holds 7 National titles, winning his first in 2000 and his most recent in 2017. Interestingly, despite still being ranked #2 on the pro tour, Rocky did not compete in the 2018 version, nor is he in this weekend’s draw.
– Rhonda Rajsich holds 11 National titles, winning her first in 2004. She’s also the defending champ, the #1 seed this weekend and has won the last eight National events.
Your defending champs are David Horn and Rajsich. I’m not entirely sure how Horn drops to the #3 seed behind Jake in particular (who he has bested round for round in the last few national qualifying events)., but would have had to play Pratt in the semis regardless so its a minor seeding nit.
————– Men’s Singles:
Lets preview some of the match-ups i’ll be looking for: In the 16s: – #8 Luis R Avila vs #9 Robert Collins; 8/9 match-ups are always tough, and this should be no different. Lefty touring pro Collins versus the defending outdoor 3-wall champ Avila, who periodically comes indoors and has some good wins on his resume. This is a good test for both. – #5 Adam Manilla vs #12 Woody Clouse; Woody Clouse back in action competing for the National team … for the first time since 2006. Clouse qualified for the team in 2005 and represented the US in the Pan American Games in April 2006, losing in the final to Canadian Kris Odegard 11-9. He also had several top 10 pro tour finishes during the deep mid 90s tour days. Now he’s back at age 53, playing in his home town. He faces off against fellow lefty Manilla, fresh off of a second top 20 season on tour with some good results. I think Manilla moves on but it’ll be a fun L vs L match. – #6 Thomas Carter vs #11 Nicholas Nick Riffel; two IRT regulars meet up; they faced each other 3 times in 3 months in early 2018, with Carter taking 2 of 3. Riffel had a tough end to his 2018-19 tour, forfeiting out of Syosset with an injury. Meanwhile Carter had a nice run at the end of the season, getting a couple of solid wins and making the main draw in both Florida and NY. Advantage Carter here. – #7 Dylan Reid vs #10 Jeff Stark; two West Coasters who have played more than a few times meet up in the first round. I think the podcasting Reid is favored here but they know each other’s game.
Man, lots of Lefties in action. At least four, maybe more. Something in the water in Denver maybe.
Projecting the Qtrs: – #1 Jake Bredenbeck vs Avila: Jake struggled with upsets all season … then blew it out in NY, taking out Pratt, Daniel De La Rosa and nearly beating Andree Parrilla. So which Jake shows up? – #4 Jose Diaz vs #5 Manilla: they’ve only played a couple times, but both matches were 3- or 5-game tiebreakers. I like Diaz here … in a tiebreaker. – #3 Horn vs #6 Carter: I don’t think they’ve ever played in a top-level event … so a first for everyone. Horn should win this one in two closer games. – #2 Charlie Pratt vs #7 Dylan Reid: another match-up of two upper northwestern guys, both hailing from Portland. Fly all the way to Denver … have a repeat of your tuesday night game. Pratt’s solid and advances here.
So i’m predicting Chalk to the semis … and then for some upsets to happen.
Semis: – #4 Diaz over #1 Jake: they’re pretty even career-wise h2h, but havn’t played in a year and a half. I like Diaz here. Diaz had the better season, nearly slipping into the top 10 and jumping Jake in the rankings. – #2 Pratt over Horn: They played in December in Portland, a close 2-game win for Pratt, and I like the year Pratt is having so far.
Final: – #2 Pratt over Diaz. head to head, Diaz has never lost to Pratt. But something tells me Pratt is on a mission this year.
—————- Women’s Singles: just 9 in this draw, but some good match-ups towards the back and one incredibly poor seeding job:
In the Quarters: – #1 Rajsich over #8 Cassandra Cassi Lee – #5 Kelani Lawrence over #4 Sheryl Lotts; here’s a seeding question. Lawrence made the Women’s singles final of the 2018 qualifier at Nat’l doubles, made the finals at 2018 Nationals, and made the finals at the 2019 Qualifier at Nat’l Doubles. So that’s basically the last three major National events…. how exactly is she seeded 5th in this event?? What more does she have to do to demonstrate that she’s basically the 2nd best American woman player right now? – #3 Hollie Rae Scott over #6 Adrienne Fisher Haynes – #2 Erika Manilla holds off retired LPRT legend Cheryl Gudinas
In the semis: – #1 Rajsich takes out Lawrence in a rematch of the last three major US national team final, instead of in the final like it should be – #3 Scott takes out #2 Manilla in a rematch of this year’s Intercollegiates semis.
In the final: Rajsich takes her 9th straight US title over Scott.
———————- Lastly, a note on attendance. There’s some separate conversations about the # of participants this weekend going on. Here’s a list of the participation numbers for the last 14 National Singles events (these are the “# of participants” from the r2sports page and should indicate unique players, not # of draw entrants):
The event held steady in the low 500s its last five years in H ouston, then spiked during its Fullerton years thanks to simultaneous IRT and LPRT events (some of the pro draws from those years were amazing; 70+ mens pros competing). But we’ve seen a precipitous drop in attendance over the last few years, including a 100+ attendee drop from 2015 to 2016, now not even able to clear 200 players this year. 191 players isn’t even close to what National Doubles got this year (306) and that number is basically halved from the beginning of the century.
I know there’s some fundamental industry issues that are driving down these numbers. But this is the NGB’s marquee event. You can’t turn back time and make it the mid 2000s again (to say nothing of the mid 1990s), but you can strategize other aspects of the event to make it more appealing to a larger audience, and I hope to see some turn around in the coming years.