2020 High School Nationals Preview

Annie Roberts defends her 2019 HS title on her home courts in Portland. Photo 2019 Junior Nationals, photographer Kevin Savory

This coming weekend is the 33rd annual High School Nationals, being held in Portland, Oregon at the same Multnomah Athletic club that hosted last year’s Junior Nationals and the annual John Pelham Memorial IRT event.

Fun Facts about HS Nationals:

– this is the 33rd event: the first was held in 1988 and won by Jim Floyd (Michigan) and Holly Grey (Virginia). Holly would later marry hall of famer Ed Remen and now lives in North Carolina.
– There’s been two 4-time HS champions: Adrienne Fisher Haynes from 2000-2004 and Lexi York from 2012-2016.
– There’s never been a 4-time male champ; the closest we got was Taylor Knoth, who took it 2007-2009. Knoth lost in the quarters his freshman year to the 2006 winner Chris Coy.
– The tournament has been dominated by players from California and Oregon: 30 of the 66 singles titles awarded in its history have come from these two states.
– The list of past champs is littered with eventual pro tour champions. Sudsy Monchik won this title in 1991, Jack Huczek won it twice, in 2000 and 2001. Michelle Gould won it in 1989, Rhonda Rajsich twice in 96 and 97.
– Three different members of the Rojas clan have HS national titles: Marco Rojas in 2010, Mauro Daniel Rojas in 2014 and 2016 and current title holder Antonio Rojas.
– Interestingly, current IRT pro Sebastian ‘Patata’ Fernandez took the title in 2015 as a freshman, then again in 2018 as a senior, missing the two events in-between. He would presumably have had a great chance of a 4-peat.

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Here’s a quick preview of the Gold #1 Singles draw, looking at the top 8 seeds. They’re dominated at the top by players from Northern California.

In the Boys #1:
– Defending HS National champ and Stockton native Antonio Rojas is back and is the #1 seed. Rojas is the current reigning 16U and 18U US Junior national champ and is already one of the most decorated junior players in US history. He’s going to be tough to beat. See this link for a matrix of all US Junior National boys title holders: http://rball.pro/68C60E
– Last year’s finalist and East Bay resident Vedant Chauhan is the #2 seed. Chauhan has several junior national titles himself, was the runner-up in 14U in 2019 and lost in world 14U juniors in the quarters to the eventual winner Bolivian Jhonatan Flores. See this link for Chauhan’s match history in the PRS database: http://rball.pro/1EB9AD
– #3 is the player who vanquished Chauhan in last year’s 14U US final and who advanced to the final of 14U at Junior worlds, Fremont native Nikhil Prasad. Prasad himself owns 5 junior national titles and will be a favorite to make the final here. Prasad enters HS nationals for the first time.
– #4 Cody Boucher has competed at US Junior Nationals for the past few years, was the #3 seed here last year and was upset early.
– #5 is another Stocktonian, one with a great pedigree in Julius Ellis (son of long time IRT vet John Ellis. Ellis and Boucher met in the 2018 16U junior nationals event, and are slated to play into each other in the quarters here.
– #6 Cody Thomas made it to the quarters of the 2019 16U nationals event in 2019.
– #7 Rory Lampe was taken out of the 16U junior Nationals last year by #1 seed Rojas
– #8 Nathan Soltis made the 16s the last two years in the 16U draw at junior nationals.

Predictions: Its hard not to see Rojas repeating, and the #2/#3 re-match of last year’s 14U final between Prasad and Chauhan could be great.

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In the Girls #1,

– Defending champ Annie Roberts is the #1 seed and is playing in her home-town. Roberts is the two-time defending US 16U junior national champ and had a great run to the semis of Junior worlds last November.
– Roberts will not have last year’s finalist as a competitor, as Nikita Chauhan has graduated despite still having one year remaining in 18U. We look forward to seeing Chauhan at intercollegiates this year competing for UC Berkeley (my father’s alma mater).

Roberts and Chauhan, coincidentally, were both just named the USA Racquetball 2020 scholarship recipients: see https://www.facebook.com/…/pb.164703169…/10158179520804529/…

– the #2 seed this year is Heather Mahoney, the two-time defending USA junior 14U champ and an incoming freshman for 2020. She already holds 8 USA junior national titles and is the reigning 2019 World Junior 14U champ and will be a favorite here.
– #3 is Alondra Canchola, a semi-finalist last year here.
– #4 is Arya Cyril, also a semi-finalist at this event last year and who lost 11-10 to Chauhan in the semis.
– #5 is Erin Slutzky, the 3rd seed last year and who is coming off a quarter final appearance at 16U junior worlds last November.
– #6 is Shane Diaz, who made the semis of US 18U junior nationals last year.
– #7 is Megan Carver, who lost in the quarters of last year’s 18U junior nationals to Diaz.
– #8 is Karena Mathew, who holds 4 junior national titles but none since she was in grade school. She’s coming off a 3rd place showing at last year’s 14U nationals and is a rising freshman ready to make some waves.

click here for a full matrix of all US Junior girls title holders: http://rball.pro/6D7917

Predictions: I think Roberts makes the final but loses to Mahoney.

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Follow USA Racquetball on Facebook for streaming, and look for Leo Ray Vasquez on the mike as always for US National events.

Jason Mannino Career Retrospective

Mannino up for the Hall. Photo via Geoff Thompsen/Double Donut Studios

Hey racquetball fans. Long-time touring pro and former IRT commissioner Jason Mannino is up for the USAR Hall of Fame this year. Like we published with fellow HoF candidate Gregg Peck earlier this fall, here’s a career retrospective of Jason with some stats and lists of accomplishments:

Mannino overcame a near-fatal car accident at the age of 18 to become one of the most accomplished players in the sport’s history. Read on for a career summary.
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Junior Career

Mannino hails from Staten Island, NY, the same area as Hall of Famer Sudsy Monchik, and being just 3 months apart in age frequently competed throughout their junior and professional careers. Often times these two dominant players would meet in the finals of state, regional and national competitions and would trade off as title holders.

Mannino and Monchik also frequently teamed up as doubles partners and won multiple junior national titles throughout their junior career.

Junior Career Accomplishments:
– 3-time USA Junior National champ
o 14U National Champ in 1990
o 16U National Champ in 1991 (as a 15-yr old)
o 18U National Champ in 1992 (as a 16-yr old

-5-time USA Junior Doubles national champ with Monchik
o 18U in 1993
o 16U in 1990
o 10U, 12U and 14U titles previous to that for a full sweep with Sudsy

– 18U World Junior Singles champion in 1994

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Professional Career

Mannino turned pro soon after the end of his junior career, when he was offered a contract with Spalding upon winning the 1994 Junior 18U world title. His first pro main event qualification was at the Jan 1995 Atlanta tourney. In his first full season on tour as a 20-yr old, he finished in the top ten on tour. He improved even more in the 1996-7 season, finishing 4th and kicking off more than a decade of being ranked in the top 5 on tour.

He competed across two distinct “eras” in the sport, and faced off against legends like Cliff Swain and Sudsy Monchik in the first part of his career, then Rocky Carson / Jack Huczek / Kane Waselenchuk in the second part of his career. Despite frequently competing in the back ends of tournaments against multiple year-end tour winners, he won 22 titles in his career and made the finals of another 18.

Mannino competed at the top of the tour for an astounding 16 seasons, competing at a high level well into his 30s and becoming one of the most long-serving pros in the history of the game. His playing career only ended at 35 so that he could take the opportunity of running the pro tour; he finished his final touring season ranked 4th.

Professional Career Accomplishments:
– IRT Pro tour champion: 2002-3 season
– 16 years on tour; 15 top-10 finishes, 14 top-5 finishes
– 22 career titles, 7th all time
– 40 career finals made, 9th of all time.
– 195 career appearances, 5th of all time
– 70.0% career W/L percentage (402-172), 11th all time
– 2-time US Open champion, 1999 and 2006
– Las Vegas Pro Nationals Champion 2001
– 1996: IRT Rookie of the Year
– 1998: IRT Most Improved player of the year

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Innovative Playing Style

Mannino’s playing style was revolutionary in our sport for two primary reasons: his tactical serving approach and his amazing retrieval capabilities.

Coming into play at an age in our sport dominated by power servers (Swain, Monchik, John Ellis, Doyle, Drew Kachtik, Andy Roberts, etc.), Mannino developed a unique serving style that was not really seen prior; the “Junk serve.” Not a lob serve, but not a drive serve, he pioneered a serving style that involved deception, placement and guile to de-emphasize the power of his opponents and often times force loose service returns for easy points.

In the meantime, Mannino’s “getting” ability on the court was perhaps the best ever seen on tour. Mannino could retrieve balls that no other player in his time could get, diving all over the court to extend points and rallies. Mannino could anticipate where kill shots were going and would literally begin diving before a shot was executed, and could return kill shots from mid-air. He set the athletic standard for generations of diving players to come.

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Professional Tour Leadership

Mannino retired in April 2010 to take over the professional tour as owner and commissioner. He succeeded Dave Negrete and became the 8th pro tour commissioner in men’s pro tour history. Mannino took over the tour at a critical time; economic downturns in the 2010 time-frame forced major sponsors out of the game and cancelled marquee events. Mannino was able to resurrect the Ektelon Nationals in California for a time, and stabilized the number of tier 1 events for the better part of the 2010s.

However, Mannino’s lasting impact on the tour may be the rule changes he implemented immediately upon taking over as commissioner. The IRT returned to two serves for the first time since Aug 1990 in an attempt to improve the excitement of the serve. Additionally, in response to complaints from fans and sponsors, Mannino implemented anti-arguing rules and pace-of-play statutes in an attempt to improve the quality of the product as the sport moved more fully into a streaming/broadcast focused mode.

Mannino sold the IRT tour in June 2017, ending more than 20 years of direct involvement (as a player or in management) of the men’s professional racquetball tour.

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Coaching and Mentoring Career

Mannino has partnered with Fran Davis for more than two decades to teach Racquetball Camps all across the country and internationally. Davis and Mannino are the primary instructors of the most popular annual Racquetball camp series in the nation and have taught hundreds of players over the years.

Mannino is a co-author with Davis of Championship Racquetball, published in 2011.

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Personal

He hails from Staten Island, NY and studied at St. John’s University before turning pro. He currently resides in San Diego, CA. He transitioned to a career in Real Estate upon leaving IRT management. He continues to work with Fran Davis Racquetball as a coach and mentor. He is married with two sons who have continued his athletic pedigree by excelling in youth baseball.

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Conclusion

Mannino’s pro record speaks for itself; he’s one of the most accomplished pro players to ever play the game. He continued to have an impact on the sport after his playing career ended, and continues to this day. He more than belongs in the Hall of Fame.

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International Racquetball Tour
USA Racquetball

2019 Arizona IRT Pro-Am Preview

R2Sports link: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=30719

The IRT has released the draws for this coming weekend’s Arizona IRT Pro-Am, so its time to do a preview!

(to see the released draws before they’re available on R2, follow the IRT on facebook where they’ve been posted as of Noon Tuesday 10/22/19).

The IRT returns to Arizona for the first time in many years; the tournament is being held on the campus of Arizona State University, which has become a popular spot to host major tournaments. ASU’s campus in Tempe has held USAR National doubles every year since 2005, has hosted a slew of USAR intercollegiates championships in that same time (including 2019’s tournament), and hosted the USAR National singles event in 2017.

But, its been a while since we’ve seen either pro tour head to Arizona at all. The last time a tier 1 Men’s event was in Arizona was in May 2003, when the school hosted the season ending Pro Nationals event. For some historical context of that event and season: Huczek beat Alvaro Beltran in the final, it was the last event in Mannino sole year end title, and the top 4 seeded players in the event were all were upset in the quarters (Mannino, Swain, Waselenchuk and Ellis). Waselenchuk lost to Carson … one of the three career wins Rocky has on his long-time nemesis. Before 2003, you have to go all the way back to the mid 1990s, when a regular tour stop was held in Phoenix for several seasons, and before that the mid 1980s when the Arizona Pro-Am featured winners like Hogan and Brett Harnett.

The Ladies tour hasn’t been to Arizona in more than decade itself; in Feb 2008 the WPRO Fireball Pro-Am featured a final
between the 1 and 2 seeds, as Rhonda downed Cheryl on her way to the 2008 year end title (Longoria was just starting on tour and finished 6th that season).

So, great to have pro racquetball back in Arizona. Thanks to tournament director Jim Winterton for his efforts and sponsorship.

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The Men’s draw has 37 players, a good mix of southwest-locals and traveling regulars. Who is missing this weekend? The top 8 players are here, including Bolivian Conrrado kevin Moscoso Ortiz Racquetball, who moved up to being ranked 8th on the back of his US Open final appearance. However both the 9th and 10th ranked players (Rodrigo Montoya Solís and Sebastian Franco) are missing. Other top 20 players missing include #13 Mario Mercado,
#15 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez, and #16 Jose Diaz. Diaz missed the first two events on the year, both east-coast based, perhaps for travel related issues. But now he misses a west-coast event; are we seeing him stepping back officially from touring? Perhaps so. Along the same note, former top 8 player Mercado has now slipped to 13, and former top 8 player Jansen Allen is now outside the top 20.

Also missing from this draw are a slew of players from Mexican hot-beds like Juarez and Chihuahua; both of which are easy drives to Tempe. I would have initially expected, like we used to see with WRT events in the south western part of the country, a junket of carpooling of Mexican players heading to the event. But, unfortunately, there are a couple competing events this weekend (an IRT Tier 4 in El Paso,Texas State Singles & Doubles, but most notably, a big RKT tournament in Mexico City). The Mexican event’s top 8 seeds (GFranco,
Mar, Estrada, Natera, Ochoa, Cardona, Nieto, and Cuevas) are all IRT regulars these days and players who would be pushing for the 16s or the quarters if they were here. Furthermore the El Paso event pulled two other top Mexican players (Eduardo Garay Rodriguez and Jaime Martell Neri) away from the Arizona event. We’ll do quick previews/wrap-ups of those events later this week, but if you’re wondering where these guys are … well there’s your answer.

The Arizona draw does the “flip” seeding, so the 5-8 seeds are jumbled. 5th ranked Parrilla is seeded 6th, 6th ranked DLR is seeded 7th, 7th ranked Murray is seeded 8th, and 8th ranked Moscoso is seeded 5th. Probably goes without saying that this flip most benefits Moscoso, who achieves a top 8 rank and seed for the first time in his career and avoids Kane until a possible semi-final meeting, and most penalizes Murray, who is forced into Kane’s quarter.

One last thing worth noting: the IRT has listened to fan requests with the streaming schedule and will be streaming significantly more matches this weekend. Check out the match times on the bracket; the streaming schedule allows for double the matches to be shown at each round throughout the weekend. The plan is to stream no less than 8 qualifying matches on Friday, then have staggered start times Saturday to show more of the 16s before streaming all the qtrs/semis/finals as normal.

Broadcast schedule; 8 friday, 5 sat, 1 sun. That’s a lot of matches for us fans, and a lot for Mr. Dean DeAngelo Baer to call … but is awesome for those of us remote.

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Lets preview the draw highlighting matches that I think are compelling.

In the 128s: five play-in matches to get to the 32s, mostly with Texas/Arizona locals battling it out, but also including traveling
players like Jim Douglas (Oregon) and Thomas Gerhardt (from VA).

In the 64s:
– Ruben Baez takes on Chilean veteran Francisco Troncoso. So, in case you don’t know who Baez is … he played in the Pueblo lower tier IRT event in March, entered as the 27th seed, beat Jake Bredenbeck in the quarters and lost to Horn in the semis 13,14. He’s a very solid player
who can make waves in this event if he plays the way he did in Pueblo and gets the right match-ups.

– Set Cubillos Ruiz continues his challenging travel schedule by returning to the states just a few days after competing in (and winning) the Barranquilla Open in his home country of Colombia, right on the back of competing in the US Open, to take on a play-in winner between Douglas and Arizona’s Preston Tribble.

– Gerhardt vs Justus Benson: Gerhardt is a tough player from Virginia who frequently competes in both indoor and outdoor venues: if he gets past Arizona’s Coy Jay Rogers, he can make life difficult for Benson. Justus is coming off of two straight one-and-dones in IRT events, including a loss in Laurel to Pennsylvania amateur Geoff Heskett, and needs to get his season going.

– Nick Riffel vs Anthony Martin: Martin is a Utah local with just a couple of results on his resume; he played the Atlanta IRT
event earlier this season and took Gerardo Franco to a breaker. This might be a closer match than IRT touring regular Riffel wants at this juncture.

– The younger Bredenbeck brother Sam Bredenbeck gets a solid opener against infrequent IRT participant Daniel Neri; Bredenbeck has some really solid results lately, with wins over IRT regulars like Carter and Riffel at the 2019 Lewis Drug.

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In the 32s:
– #16 Adam Manilla takes on #17 Andrés Acuña; great match between two solid up and coming young players. I like Acuna here; he’s on a roll and has been improving at every stop.

– #9 David ” Bobby” Horn takes on Baez in a re-match of the CSU-Pueblo shootout semis that was so close. Can Baez turn the table here? Horn missed the first two events of the season with injury, played solidly at the US Open and then took a dominant win on his home court two weekends ago to win the Bay Club Open over a solid draw that included a win over Charlie Pratt in the final. I expect a close match here.

– #14 Thomas Carter takes on the winner beween Gerhardt and Benson; Carter’s been playing solid lately, with a win over Diaz at the US Open and taking two very good players to breakers in losses (Keller and Carson). I like Carter to move on here.

– #10 Lalo Portillo takes on the younger Bredenbeck; Eduardo is now in the top 10 and he’s earned it. He’ll move on here despite the challenge from the improving Bredenbeck.

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Projecting the 16s: Assuming qualifying goes as I expect, here’s some interesting 16s to look for

– #8 Samuel Murray vs #9 Horn: 8/9 is always tough, and these players have split their 3 meetings somewhat evenly. Horn won their most recent meeting, in Florida in April, in two close games. I’ll go with Horn backing up his excellent win in Pleasanton with the upset here to move into the qtrs.

– #5 Conra Moscoso Ortiz vs #12 Sebastian Fernandez: another brutal draw for the teenager Fernandez, who had to play former top 5 touring pro Marco Rojas in the first round of the Bay Open and lost in a breaker, and now funnels into the red-hot Moscoso, fresh off of a solid run to the US Open finals. This is the hard part about being a player ranked in the teens: you have to start getting wins over top 8 players to move into the top 8, and every draw is an uphill battle.

– #6 Andree Parrilla vs #11 Jake Bredenbeck: a great throw-back match-up between two long time WRT players. They’ve met 6 times in top level events: Jake won their first 3 meetings (all in the 2015 time-frame), while Andree has won the last three meetings (all in the 2019 calendar year). The matches are always close, so I’ll predict another Parrilla tie-breaker win. After a solid opening to the season, Parrilla has lost two winnable matches in Laurel and the US Open to see his ranking (which had peaked at #3) slip a bit, and he needs to be making semis regularly to take the next step.

– #7 Daniel De La Rosa vs #10 Portillo: These two met in Atlanta in Sept, and DLR advanced in a tie-breaker. Portillo has been rapidly moving up the rankings, but has also now exited at this juncture (the round of 16) in seven straight IRT events. He needs a high-profile win over a top 8 player. But, is DLR the right guy? This event is essentially a home event for him, hailing from Mexico but now living in Arizona the next town over from Tempe. He’ll have family cheering him on and could be primed for a solid run.

– #2 Rocky Carson vs #15 Carlos Keller Vargas: wow, two straight brutal round of 16 draws for Carson, who gets no benefit from the #2 seed in having to play a solid international player in Keller who has more than a few titles to his credit. They’ve played twice: at the 2011 Pan Am games and at the 2019 Bolivian grand slam, both two-game quarter final wins for Carson. So advantage Rocky … but Keller ran through this list of names to take the 2019 Pan American Racquetball Championships title: Coby Iwaasa, Horn, Beltran and Pratt. So if he gets hot, he can get wins.

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Possible Qtrs:
– #1 Kane Waselenchuk over #9 Horn; they’ve only played a handful of times, All Kane wins. Their last meeting was in Florida in April 2018, Kane’s first event back after his knee injury, and Horn played a solid game against the hobbling and distracted Kane before losing in two. Kane’s got his focus back now, and will try not to look past this match at his possible semis opponent.

– #5 Moscoso over #4 Beltran: they’ve met twice; once a dominant Beltran win at the 2015 Pan Am games, the other a dominant Moscoso win at the Bolivian grand slam earlier this year. I think we’re more likely to see the latter result than the former here; Moscoso has the same shooter mentality as Beltran, but can drive serve with the best of them, keeping Beltran from setting his feet and likely leading to a lot of 3-point rallies on his serve.

– #3 Alex Landa vs #6 Parrilla: Landa has had a nice start to his season; two semis and a quarter, to maintain his #3 ranking for now. But Parrilla matches up well here: he’s beaten Landa 5 of the last 6 times they’ve faced each other going back several years. Parrilla’s playing style matches up well with Landa, he can hang with his shots and can retrieve well. I look for Landa to hold serve, but barely. And an upset here would not surprise me.

– #2 Carson vs #7 DLR: Carson waxed a possible disinterested DLR in their last meeting (the season finale in Sarasota in April), but DLR had three straight defeats of Rocky before that and could be looking at this as a way to get his season back on track. Meanwhile, Rocky needs to rebound from his round of 16 loss on the sport’s biggest stage; he’s still safely in the #2 spot, but needs to continue to make finals to stay there. I like DLR here in the upset.

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Projected Semis:

– #1 Waselenchuk vs #5 Moscoso; well, this is what the people want. I think it may happen. A rematch of the US Open final, which featured a tight back and forth game 1 before Kane ran away with it in game 2. What did Moscoso take from that match? Hopefully he took away the need to work on his serving motion so that foot faults don’t dominate the conversation surrounding his game. A more consistent serving game with first/drive serves pacing his game will do wonders to help him drive the conversation against Kane. I still think Kane has the upper hand, but cannot wait to see this possible match-up if it happens.

– #7 DLR vs #3 Landa: two old adversaries meet again; i’ve got them meeting 13 times across pro and Mexican Nationals events over the years, with Landa holding a 6-5 advantage overall. Landa’s won their last 5 meetings … but those include two 11-10 wins (including the quarters in Atlanta in September). Point is this: these guys play close every time, they know each other’s game, and there’s just a knife’s edge between them. I will go with DLR getting the slightest of home court advantages and moving to the final.

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My predicted final: Kane over DLR. DLR’s sole win over Kane was in the ill-fated 2018 California Open, when Kane hurt his knee the round prior to DLR’s meeting and withdrew with the injury that ended up costing him 4 months and the 2017-18 title. They havn’t played since the final of the Lewis Drug in January, a 4,2 shellacking by Kane to take the high profile Sioux falls event. I like DLR showing some spunk in this match, perhaps with flashes of brilliance at times, but Kane winning in the end.

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As always, follow IRT for streaming options throughout the weekend, say high to Dean Baer online, and support pro racquetball 🙂

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International Racquetball Tour
LPRT
USA Racquetball
Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol
Federación Boliviana de Racquetball
Federación Costarricense de Racquetball

2019 Pan Am Games Preview

Pan Am Games 2019 in Lima, Peru

Welcome to perhaps the grandest international event in our sport; the quadriennial Pan American Games.

This is as close as our sport gets to the Olympic games right now. And they’re starting up this weekend, held in Lima,Peru.

This will be the 6th time Racquetball has participated in these games: they debuted in 1995, then have been in every iteration since (with the exception of 2007, when host country Brazil dropped the sport).

Here’s some lists of past Men’s and Women’s singles winners:
– Pan Am Games Men’s singles champions: http://rball.pro/C5106C
– Pan Am Games Women’s singles champions: http://rball.pro/0A12EC

The first Pan Am games Men’s singles champion was John Ellis in his final amateur match; he avenged a loss in the previous year’s Tournament of the Americas event to long time US international player Michael Bronfeld. The first Pan Am games Women’s champion was the legendary Michelle Gouldwho won a slew of international events along with nearly every Pro match she played in the 1990s.

The Women’s singles competition this year will feature two-time defending champ Paola Longoria who won in 2011 and 2015. She’ll be challenged by her country-woman Montse Mejia, who beat her earlier this year in the Mexican Nationals. She’ll also have to fend with top LPRT pros and international veterans like Maria Jose VargasFrederique LambertRhonda Rajsich and the like. And, just to add some intrigue, Guatemala’s Gaby Martinez has come out of “retirement” to compete … the same Martinez who beat Longoria in the 2018 Worlds final.

The two-time defending Men’s single’s champ Rocky Carson will only be playing doubles this event, so we’ll have a new champ. The 2015 finalist Alvaro Beltran will be playing singles, and one of 2015’s semi-finalists Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo may be the favorite in the event. But, don’t count out Moscoso’s Bolivian teammate Carlos Keller Vargas, who is the 2-time defending PARC champ, nor the USA #1 Jake Bredenbeck, who destroyed the competition in May to earn his spot, nor Canada’s Samuel Murray, who finished another solid IRT season and is a tough out.

Round Robins start this weekend, and then we’ll preview the knockout draw once it is announced.

Facebook news has been sparse on the event; unlike an IRF event, the host country more or less controls things and by all accounts it was difficult event to secure streaming rights on facebook. Which is a shame … since this should be the biggest event in our sport. Nonetheless, keep an eye out for enthusiasts posting live streaming links in the usual spots.

International Racquetball Federation – IRF
Federación Boliviana De Raquetbol – Febora
Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol
USA Racquetball
Racquetball Canada
LPRT
International Racquetball Tour

USA Racquetball Junior Nationals Preview

Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/2229209060725324/

r2sports home page: https://www.r2sports.com/portfolio/r2-event.asp?TID=30664

Welcome to US Junior Nationals, 2019, held this year in Portland, Oregon. Its the first time they’ve held this event in Portland since 2011 (though Portland basically holds every other HS national championship right now).

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We have several 2018 winners back to defend championships, and we’re guaranteed to have some new winners especially at the older levels thanks to graduations from the Junior ranks.

Here’s a matrix of all historical Boys Junior winners: http://rball.pro/A48C21

And here’s the same matrix for the Girls: http://rball.pro/61FFEC

Here’s a quick preview of the draws:

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18-U draws:

Boys 18U:

Cayden Akins is #1 seed; he was 3rd place in 18U and 2nd place in 16U last year, and represented USA at World Juniors in 16U, losing in the qtrs.

#2 seed is Antonio Rojas, who made the semis two years running in 16U, being eliminated last year by #1 seed Akins. Rojas is the reigning US High School champ and will be looking to make it a double (or triple) this weekend.

#3 Ben Baron made the qtrs of 16U two years running, then missed his first 18U tourney last year. #4 seed Dylan Pruitt made the semis of both 16U and 18U last year, losing the 3rd place game to Akins. #5 Micah Farmer made the qtrs of 18U last year, losing to Pruitt, and setting up a possible rematch in the qtrs of this year’s event. #6 Lucas Shoemaker made the qtrs of both 16U and 18U in 2018 and will be looking to improve. #7 Ivan Hernandez and #8 Cody Boucher will be looking to improve on qtr and round of 16 results last year.

Girls 18U:
#1 Briana Jacquet is the defending champ and will look to defend her title. #2 seed Nikita Chauhan was also the #2 seed last year and lost in the final to Jacquet. #3 Graciano Wargo was also #3 last year, lost in the semis but represented USA at Junior Worlds (losing in the qtrs). #4 Megan Carver will be looking to improve on last year’s qtrs appearance.

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16-U Draws:

Boys 16U: 
#1 Antonio Rojas (who is the #2 seed in 18s) leads the way and is looking for his first title since 2016. #2 is Timmy Hansen, who won 14s last year and is moving up an age group. #3 is Andrew Gleason, who made the finals of 14U Junior Worlds last November. #4 is Krish Thakur, who has 3 US jr titles but none since 2016. Other interesting players in the draw include #6 Julius Ellis, son of John Ellis and the latest from the Stockton junior pipeline.

Girls 16U

#1 Annie Roberts is back to defend her title; and she’s also the reigning High School national champ. #2 Erin Slutzky was also the #2 seed in 16s last year, losing in the final to Roberts. Both represented the US in Junior Worlds and ended up meeting again in the knockout stages, where Roberts advanced before losing in world quarters.

Trying to knock the top two players off will be the likes of #3 Heather Mahoney, last year’s 14U champ and losing finalist in 14U worlds. Mahoney has 6 US Junior titles to her name and will be gunning for the top players here. #4 Shane Diaz made the semis of 16s and the qtrs of 18 last year and will be a tough out.

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Other defending champs back to defend titles include:

– Boys 14U: Timmy Hanson, graduated to 16U and is the #3 seed
– Boys 12U: Nikhil Prasad, graduated to 14U and is #1 seed
– Boys 10U: Eshan Ali, graduated to 12U and is #2 seed there
– Boys 8U : Ashton Guiraud, graduated to 10U and is #2 seed there.
– Boys 8UMB: Ayan Shama graduates to 8U.

– Girls 14U Heather Mahoney; entered 14s and 16s
– Girls 12U: Ava Kaiser: graduated to 14u, where she’s #3 seed
– Girls 10U: Lilian Ford-Cirmi: graduated to 12U and is the #4 seed
– Girls 8U: Alea Guiraud graduates to 10U and is #1 seed

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Other names of note playing:
– Ellis’ kids Jordan Ellis and Julius.
Tyler Aldinger, son of top PA amateur Travis Aldinger
Olivia Baer, son of IRT board member and broadcasting afficionado Dean DeAngelo Baer, who undoubtedly will be cheering her on and asking her to hit more “flattys.”
– California rball enthusiast Knox La Rue‘s daughter Tess in 14/16s.

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Look forward to Leo Ray Vasquez broadcasting all weekend; follow USA Racquetball on facebook for streaming and interviews.

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USA Racquetball

Kane Waselenchuk Retrospective

Kane announces his retirement.

A statistically focused review of Kane Waselenchuk‘s career.

On 4/28/18, minutes after winning the final event of the 2017-18 season, Kane shocked the racquetball world by announcing that he was “90%” sure he was retiring from full-time touring.

There’s all sorts of chatter here and there on this subject on facebook right now in the rball community, a lot of it inexplicably negative. So how about some positivity in reflecting on what an amazing career he’s had to date?

I’ll say this, from my perspective as the guy who tracks all of this data for www.proracquetballstats.com: Kane’s dominance is the reason many of the cool reports on the site exist, and I’ll be bummed to see him go and stop chasing records. There are not too many people in the professional sports landscape who get to say that they won their last match. As for the future, as a fan of the pro sport and someone who is always trying to predict who beats who in head to head match-ups, I’m also excited to see the next era of the sport, to see who steps up next year to challenge Rocky for the next title. It was always an inevitability that the current elder statesmen of the tour were going to step aside; i’m just surprised by who bowed out first and when. I sincerely hope he changes his mind and chases a 13th title (and beyond).

Its quite a few months away from the start of the 2018-19 season, and 90% isn’t 100%, so this whole post may be premature … but going under the assumption that we’ve seen the last of Kane full time on tour, I thought it’d be fun to put out some fun stats on his career. Every one of these figures can be found by running a report on the website, but if you have any questions how to see these data points for yourself, i’m always available.

Pro Tour Titles:
– 12 pro tour titles; 6 more than the next closest competitor (Cliff Swain‘s 6 pro titles)

Some Tournament title stats:
– 110 pro tournament wins, 39 more than the next closest competitor (Cliff’s 71 “known” tour wins)
– Tournament win percentage of 68.3% for his career. To put this in perspective, if 68.3% was his MATCH won/loss percentage
he’d still be top 15 of all time.
– He reached the finals in 74.5% of the tournaments he ever entered. Think about that fact; 3 out of every 4 tournaments for his career featured him in the final.
– He won the 7th pro event he ever entered (same as Cliff and Sudsy Monchik in terms of fastest ever).
– He owns 13 US Open titles, triple the closest competitor.

Wins and Losses
– “Retires” with a career record of 553-50, a .917 winning percentage. 
– He’s so far ahead of the 2nd best player in terms of career W/L percentage (Marty Hogan at .844) that he could lose 50 straight matches and still be in the lead. Fifty. This to me is the most amazing stat about Kane’s career.

– 13 of his 50 career tour losses were forfeits where he never even took the court (either through injury or missing a tournament after the draw had been made). So some would like to say his career W/L record is even more impressive than it already appears. 
– Most wins against him: Cliff Swain, who finished 9-13 head to head against Kane.
– He’s had just 12 losses in the last decade, most by forfeit.
– There’s just one player in the history of the tour who has a winning record against him: John Ellis , 2-1.
– He’s 73-3 for his career against Rocky Carson, who was his closest competitor for most of his reign.
– the last on the court loss he suffered was to Jake Bredenbeck in May 2016, retiring in the 5th game after winning the first two and suffering an injury.
– The last on the court, non-fft related loss was to Jose Rojas in Sept 2013. Prior to that you have to go back to Jan 2009, a semis loss to Alvaro Beltran. That’s nearly a decade ago.

Streaks
– Won 19 consecutive tournaments entered between Jan 2009 and Jan 2011.
– He owns the top six consecutive tournaments won streak of all time, each of which is in the double digits.

– Compiled a 134 match on the court winning streak, between Jan 2009 and Jan 2012.
– Also had additional such streaks of 108 matches and he retires with an intact 61 match winning streak on the court. He owns the longest three such match winning streaks in pro tour history (Marty’s great 1976-77 season is the fourth longest winning streak).

– Completed two fully undefeated seasons (forfeits or otherwise); 2009-10, 2016-17; the first such seasons ever done on tour.
– Several other seasons, when accounting for forfeit losses, were also “undefeated” seasons.

– He completed a perfect season in terms of games won/lost, going 85-0 in games played during the 2016-17 season.
– This was part of a streak of 113 consecutive games won between May 2016 and Oct 2017. For me, this might be his most amazing accomplishment on the court. He was so dominant for so long that he didn’t even drop a game for a year and a half.

Miscellany
– Career donut count: 130 given, 3 taken. During tournaments, I’m often asked to recall the individual donuts he’s received in lieu of match losses. (In case you’re wondering; Swain gave him a donut in 2001, again in 2004, then Rojas gave him a donut in 2012 before getting donutted himself in the second game. 
– He won a title in the last 15 seasons in which he competed.

– He owns the top 7 most dominant finals performances in terms of points conceded, and 19 of the top 22.
– He owns the top 17 most dominant tournaments in history (and 33 of top 34), once winning a tourney and conceding just 19 points in 12 games across 4 matches.
– Just about the only records he doesn’t own in the history of the tour are longevity/age based, ones that I’d have no doubt he could eventually eclipse if he were to continue playing deep into his 40s.

So, that’s some fun stats for you. I hope you enjoy, and long live King Kane.