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.
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.
————— 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).
– 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.
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!
The World Racquetball Tour is back in action, hosting its 3rd tourney of 2018 and its first event since May. The tour is in Calgary … which is the first time (as far as I can tell) that pro racquetball has ever been hosted in this Alberta city.
There’s 24 players in the Men’s draw, including many IRT regulars. The draw represents a nice balance of Northern Hemisphere countries: 8 Canadians, 9 Mexicans, 6 Americans.
Lets take a look at the draw and highlight some notable potential match-ups and make some predictions.
In the 32s:
– Samuel Murray vs Taylor Knoth; Murray, the current #6 ranked IRT player, makes just his 2nd ever WRT appearance and is an early tourney favorite despite his #21 seed here. Knoth gets an unlucky match-up; he’s got the potential to advance in any pro tourney he enters, as evidenced by the win he got over a regular touring pro the last time he entered a pro draw (Jan 2018). I expect Murray to advance but Knoth will play him tough.
– Eduardo Lalo Portillo vs Lee Connell: Portillo gets a tough match-up against the veteran Connell, who has been playing pro events since Lalo was 5.
In the 16s:
– the 8/9 match-up between WOR – World Outdoor Racquetball outdoor specialist Luis Avila and #8 seeded Justus Benson could be interesting. These two met on the WRT once before, in Sept 2016 with Avila advancing easily. Has Benson closed the gap?
– Murray v Alex Cardona. What a brutal round of 16 for both players; this is a semis quality match. Honestly, this is a great example of why you should have protected seeding for top ranked IRT players doing drop-ins to the WRT. Ironically, the only other time Murray played the WRT … he also met Cardona in the 16s. It was Atlanta 2015 and Cardona got him in a tie-breaker, but we’re 3 years on and these players are trending in opposite directions. Murray advances in two solid games.
– Andree Parrilla v Tim Landeryou; a great match-up between one of Mexico’s best and one of Canada’s best. Both players are routinely making quarters or semis of their federation National events. Parrilla has made the quarters or better in 7 of the last 11 IRT events he’s played in and is fresh off of a semis appearance in the US Open. Parrilla advances but it isn’t easy.
– Coby Iwaasa v Christian Longoria; another tough round of 16 match-up here; Iwaasa excelled at 2018 Worlds, losing two very tight matches to IRT top-10 ranked player Mario Mercado. I think Iwaasa upsets Longoria here and advances on home soil.
– Gerardo Franco Gonzalez v Alan Natera Chavez; a great match between two country-men who are up and coming players. Natera beat Franco in Mexico Nationals earlier this year while making a huge run to the semis and has been playing very solid. Look for a Natera win again here.
Potential Quarter finals match-ups
– #1 David Horn v #9 Avila: Horn’s slow start to the IRT season has dropped him to #12 there, but he remains #1 in the WRT. He should advance past fellow Californian Avila here.
– #21 Murray vs #4 Parrilla: Another great match here; Parrilla has met Murray already twice this year on the IRT and beaten him both times, including a solid 8,8 defeat at the US Open two weekends ago. Look for Parrilla to advance.
– #3 Jaime Martell Neri vs Iwaasa: Martell is the winner of the most recently held WRT event, beating both Horn and Bredenbeck to take the Atlanta Open in May. He played a couple of IRT Satellite events in Mexico in September with mixed results, but may have his hands full here. I’m not sure which way this potential match-up goes, but it’ll be tight.
– #2 Jake Bredenbeck versus Natera: Jake has been snake-bitten at IRT events lately; he’s fallen in the 16s or early in seven straight IRT tourneys. He’s gotten pretty rotten draws, and has been “stuck” right in that tough ranking range where he is constantly playing into one of the top 3 players in the round of 16. But on the WRT he remains tough; making the finals of 3 of the last 4 WRT events and winning in January (a solid win over Rodrigo Montoya Solís ). Natera probably gives Jake a solid game but falls at this gate.
– Parrilla-Horn: The 1/4 match here was the 8/9 match in Laurel, won by Parrilla before he dropped an 11-10 heart-breaker to Rocky Carson. I think Andree gets his number again and advances to the final.
– Jake vs Iwaasa: If Iwaasa gets this far, he’ll try to take out both Bredenbeck brothers in one event (he faces Sam Bredenbeck in the first round). If this is Jake-Martell, it’ll be a rematch of the Atlanta 2018 final. Jake is 6-1 lifetime over Martell but he’s 0-1 this calendar year.
Finals projection: Parrilla over Jake. Jake is 3-0 lifetime over Parrilla … but all 3 matches were in 2015. Parrilla is on a tear and is the favorite for me to win this weekend in Calgary.
There’s a solid doubles draw in Calgary; 10 teams. I’ll go with the team of Murray/Jake over Cardona/Franco in the final.