I decided to go back and take a look at the finishes of the IRT players for the 2007-2008 season, and below you will find a summary table for all Tier 1 and Grand Slam Events – 13 in total (**except two quaterfinalists from Allentown, PA where the draws are completely MIA). The rankings you see are from about mid-season, so the actual year-end rankings are not accurate. There is a definite trend for the top 7 or so players, with the 8th spot up for grabs at each of the events. The top two athletes also dominated throughout the season, with Jack and Rocky only giving up a single tournament win to another player.
Through some discussions with Mike Boatman, I learned that the IRT was distributing IRT Pro Player Trading Cards at the 2008 IRT Pro Nationals in Chicago! It looks like the top 10 players were included, but it’s not clear if they are intended to be for the 2007-2008 season or if they are more of a “one time thing”. These cards will apparently be sold through the IRT Store, however they weren’t listed on the site at the time of this post. I’m very curious to see the details (like cost and how many are available), so if anyone has an inside line, please comment below!
There have been MANY rumors surrounding an affiliation between the IRT (Men’s Pro Racquetball Tour) and ESPN, to provide live video streaming of the events. On May 8th, the IRT sent out a newsletter, part of which is copied below. In summary, ESPN360.com will provide live video streaming for all Tier 1 IRT stops next season!! This move by the IRT should provide a HUGE increase in exposure for the sport, and we can only hope that things continue to move in this direction. Next season should be a VERY exciting year for the sport!
I’m still not sure why ESPN360.com is only available to certain ISP’s (licensing fees?), but any increase in viewership is a good thing, IMO.
ESPN360.com will become the official home for live IRT action this fall. A deal was signed before the Motorola IRT Pro Nationals presented by Verizon Wireless between ESPN and the IRT to broadcast all semi-final and final matches at all tier one IRT events in the US. Also as part of the deal ESPN will air the Motorola Pro Nationals in Chicago and The Motorola World Championships in Denver on ESPN Classic on a tape delayed basis. Air times will be in primetime and re-aired in prime time. More details are coming so keep your eyes on the IRT website.
ESPN360.com is ESPN’s signature broadband sports network, delivering more than 2,500 live global sports events per year. The service offers a mosaic of screens that allow users to follow multiple events simultaneously, and expanded controls including live-event pause, rewind and fast forward. ESPN360.com is currently available in nearly 23 million homes nationwide via more than 20 Internet service providers including AT&T, Verizon, RCN, Insight, Frontier, Cavalier, Charter, Mediacom, Conway, Grande Communications and more. Additionally, it is available to approximately 18 million U.S. college students and U.S.-based military personnel (fans accessing ESPN360.com from computers connected to an on-campus educational or military network – those with “.edu” or “.mil” domains).
Consumers wanting more information about ESPN360.com, which high speed Internet services currently provide it, and how they can get it should go to www.espn360.com.
The 2008 IRT Pro National Racquetball Championships finished this weekend, with defending champion Jack Huczek(2) defeating Rocky Carson(1) in a LONG 5-gamer. Although a BIG win, Rocky Carson still sealed the deal for a year-end IRT #1 ranking with his second place finish. There were TWO huge additions to this year’s event – a new portable court with 4-wall glass, and LIVE video streaming via www.espn360.com.
The court looked great (from what I saw on the live ESPN feed), and it appears the front wall was covered with the IRT Pro Nationals logo. There were also two logo banners on either side wall of the court. The commentators made some comments about “the dark left wall”, where players were having some troubles immediately seeing the ball. It will be interesting to hear further reports from players who spent some time on the court this weekend. From what I understand, this will be the court used for all future IRT Grand Slam events.
The streaming on www.espn360.com was great! As with any internet feed, there was some intermittent “pauses” in the audio/video, but the overall quality made it easy to follow the action. It was exciting to see the ESPN logos around the video score banners and other areas This could be a HUGE relationship for the IRT, and I hope to see ESPN bring racquetball to people who haven’t experienced the sport. The matches from this weekend are currently available in the “archive” section of www.espn360.com, and I HIGHLY encourage anyone to spend a few minutes checking them out!
The 2008 IRT Pro Nationals is getting ready to kick off this weekend in Chicago, IL. This event also serves as a regional qualifier for the 2008 USA Racquetball National Singles Championships, and there are over 300 participants competing in many age/skill divisions. This event debuts the much anticipated “portable court” for the IRT, which features all four walls comprised of glass. From the photo, it appears that the front wall has been masked with the IRT Pro Nationals logo, and covered in white. It was once mentioned that such a masking could be applied, and that viewers from the outside could see through the masking, while players would see the white surface. I’ll confirm this as soon as I make contact with media personnel at the event. The other huge news story from the event is a new partnership between ESPN and the IRT, which will result in the semis and finals being broadcast LIVE on www.espn360.com, and then other matches tape delayed on ESPN Classic.
Prior to his official tournament comeback in June 2008 on the IRT Tour, Kane Waselenchuk will get his “court legs” back against Jason Mannino in an exhibition match on May 15th, 2008 in Encinitas, CA. This should be a great event featuring two of the best players of all time! I’d advise anyone in the area to ATTEND (and then send pics to me to post on Double Donut)!
THE RETURN OF KANE—–BATTLE OF CHAMPIONS, Thursday, May 15, 2008
Kane Waselenchuk, 3X #1 player in the world, will make his long awaited return, with a pro style exhibition match with, 2X US Open champ and ‘ 02-’ 03 #1 player in the world,
LA Fitness Encinitas, 201 S. El Camino Real, Encinitas, CA., 92024, 760-753-5600.
Itinerary; 6 PM – Racquetball clinic by Jason Mannino
6;30 – Q + A with Jason and Kane
6;45 – Match
8 PM – Raffle for Pro Kennex products
Arrive early, admission is free, the entertainment will be priceless.
‘Tis the time of year that the major equipment manufacturers start announcing any new contracts with Pro level players. This list is not comprehensive of all Pro players, as many are in the middle of existing contracts. Here is a quick summary:
Rhonda Rajsich – 2 year contract
Shane Vanderson – 3 year contract
Jason Thoerner – 3 year contract
Mike Guidry – 2 1/2 year contract
Mike Green – 2 year contract
Ryan Smith – 2 year contract
Kane Waselenchuk (*** no official word has been released to date, but Kane has been seen on event posters with his new “Krowning Moment” racquet. It appears to be his own line, produced by Pro Kennex – as noted by the Pro Kennex logo on the posters and racquet stencil)
I’ll update this list as any new information surfaces ..
Lots of racquetball action coming up in the days and weeks ahead. First, the Choice Hotels US OPEN from November 2007 starts airing with Quarterfinal #1 tomorrow (Wednesday, Feb 6) at 9pm Eastern Time on the Tennis Channel. If you get the Tennis Channel, check it out!
Update: The Tennis Channel has revised their scheduling and the Choice Hotels US OPEN will not air tonight as previously reported. The first installment is now scheduled to air on Wed. Feb 20 at 9pm Eastern Time. Check out the following link to better track the schedule on the Tennis Channel.
As a reminder, Jacqueline Paraiso and Aimee Ruiz are the defending champions in the Women’s Qualifying Division and there is plenty of stiff competition as they try to repeat. Current WPRO #1 Rhonda Rajsich will team with Janel Tisinger once again, WPRO #2 Cheryl Gudinas Holmes will team with former Junior Team member, Shannon Inglesby, Kristin Walsh and Kim Russell-Walselenchuk will also be in the hunt.
The Men’s Qualifying Division has some interesting pairings as the defending champions, Ben Croft and Mitch Williams will split up and play with their usual partners, Woody Clouse and Jason Thoerner, respectively. It’ll be interesting to see how the seedings play out as 2006 champions, Rocky Carson and Jack Huczek return looking to regain the crown. Also in the fray will be John Ellis along with Junior Team Member Jose Rojas, fresh off his gold-silver performance at Junior Worlds in the 16s and 18s respectively.
Not playing in the Qualifying division, but still returning to competitive play will be one of the legends of the sport as Cliff Swain has entered the Men’s 40s and the Mixed Open.
Closing out a very busy February, the IRT will be at the Washington Athletic Club for the Seattle Open Feb 21-24, check out their website for further information at:
The USAR Junior Nationals will run June 25-29 at the Big C Athletic Club in Concord, CA. At the current time, I am uncertain of my attendance as I am trying to go to Beijing this coming August for the Summer Olympics.
Team Colorado will be raffling off a framed jersey autographed by one of the following Colorado sports players: Carmelo Anthony, Allen Iverson, or Joe Sakic in order to help pay for the trip out to Junior Nationals. At the current time, I am not sure which jersey will be made for raffle as I won’t be getting those until early March during a dinner at the Pepsi Center. Once details are finalized I will let everyone know how they can obtain tickets.
The final rounds have been played at the Tier 1 events for the IRT and WPRO. On the men’s side, Jack Huczek beat Alvaro Beltran in a close four games (9 9 (7) 5) defending his number one tournament seed and possibly taking the number one ranking on the IRT tour. Rhonda Rajsich also wasted no time in defending her title, after bringing Kerri Wachtel’s road of upsets to an end with a four game victory in the finals. This was Kerri’s first tournament after giving birth to twins (wow!).
All a BIG thumbs up to www.racquetballonline.tv for providing FREE live internet video streams of all of the ladies matches this weekend. The quality of the audio and video was superb, and I’ll definitely be watching more stops this season!!
Wow, what an amazing few days of play at the 2006 IRT Kansas City Open Racquetball Championships. The quarterfinals really set the tone for the coming round with some very strong play. Although Mitch Williams lost to Jack Huczek, he was right in there the first two games. Mitch seems to be REALLY stepping things up. Quarterfinal two was the first big upset! I think alot of people had Jason pegged to either win the match, or fight through a fierce 5-gamer. I’m not necessarily surprised to see Rocky win, but I am to see that he did it in four (and scores of 1 and 4?!)! I had Alvaro picked to win quarterfinal three, but again, I expected more games. Having not seen the match, I con only say that either Alvi was playing GREAT, or Vandy wasn’t totally on his game. And the exact opposite for quarterfinal four! I expected a convincing 3-gamer, and instead, Crother is taking game two and scoring 10 and 7 in two others!
In the semi’s, I totally blew it! I had Cliff over Alvi in a BATTLE ROYALE of a 5-gamer. These guys are pretty even between each other, and the last two times I’ve seen them play Cliff edged Alvaro in game five. I guess the third time was a charm as Alvaro wins it in a CONVINCING four games. Semifinal two was pretty much a coin flip for me. This one ended up like I expected with these two battling back and foreth for five games. After Rocky got the win at Nationals in Houston, I thought he might have a little extra momentum for this matchup. Whatever he had wasn’t enough, as Jack Huczek rolls through the last three games of five. Speaking of Jack, his scores seem to indicate he takes a few games to get going .
Tomorrow’s final should be AWESOME. I’m to going pick Jack Huczek in a 5-game CHAINSAW CAGE MATCH with both players repeatedly MOPPING up the floor
Results (my picks in BOLD):
Q1: Jack Huczek def. Mitch Williams 8 8 2
Q2: Rocky Carson def. Jason Mannino 1 10 (7) 4
Q3: Alvaro Beltran def. Shane Vanderson 8 3 7
Q4: Cliff Swain def. Chris Crowther 10 (8) 1 7
The round of 16 has been played at the 2006 Kansas City Open Racquetball Championships. Seven of the top eight seeds moved into the quarterfinals, with Chris Crowther upsetting #7 seed Jason Thoerner. Complete round of 16 results and quarterfinal matchups below (my picks in BOLD). It looks like Sudsy hit a pretty big wall with the Carson match. After MUCH speculation about him immediately dominating the tour again, I think it’s safe to say Sudsy’s got his work cut out for him.
Round of 16 results: Swain over Ganim 7 2 2 Crowther over Thoerner 2 5 3 Huczek over Herrera 7 5 0 Williams over Hawthorne 1 6 5 Vanderson over Croft 4 7 6 Beltran over Clouse 8 2 11 Carson over Monchik 2 (6) 6 9 Mannino over Herrera 0 8 1
Quarterfinal Matchups: Q1: Jack Huczek vs. Mitch Williams Q2: Rocky Carson vs. Jason Mannino (tough call!) Q3: Alvaro Beltran vs. Shane Vanderson Q4: Cliff Swain vs. Chris Crowther
The qualifying rounds at the 2006 Kansas City Open Racquetball Championships. There were a few upsets in the early rounds as Andres Herrera defeated Juan Herrera (8, (10), 6, (9), 4), Sudsy Monchik defeated Ruben Gonzalez ((8), 2, 6, 3) (not too sure that was really an upset ), and Doug Ganim defeated Hiroshi Shumizu (2, 6, 6).
Round of 16 will be (my picks in bold):
Jack Huczek vs. Andres Herrera Andy Hawthorne vs. Mitch Williams Jason Mannino vs. Alejandro Herrera Sudsy Monchik vs. Rocky Carson (tough call!) Alvaro Beltran vs. Woody Clouse Ben Croft vs. Shane Vanderson Jason Thoerner vs. Chris Crowther Doug Ganim vs. Cliff Swain
Draws have been posted for the first Tier 1 event of the IRT season! Play at the Kansas City Open will start Thursday evening, and action in the main draw starts on Friday.
If the eight top seeded players make their way to the quarterfinals, the matchups will be:
Q1: Jack Huczek vs. Mitch Williams Q2: Rocky Carson vs. Jason Mannino Q3: Alvaro Beltran vs. Shane Vanderson Q4: Cliff Swain vs. Jason Thoerner
Draws – Main & Qualifying
The other action to watch will be the return of Sudsy Monchik to the IRT Tour. Many consider Monchik the most talented person to ever play racquetball, and has even been described by Jason Mannino as a “machine designed just for racquetball”. Due his absence on the tour, Sudsy will start play in the early qualifying rounds, against his new boss Ben Simmons . Assuming a win, he would then feed into his mentor, Ruben Gonzalez. Ruben proved late last season that he still has what it takes to play on the tour with a Tier 1 quarterfinal appearance. Rocky Carson will then patiently be waiting in the 16′s for the winner - Sudsy will definitely have his work cut out for him with two rounds of qualifying before entering the main draw.
While still unsigned by a major sponsor, Kane Waselenchuk was able to reclaim his unofficial title of “best player on tour” with a win over Rocky Carson in the finals of the San Diego Open Racquetball Championships this weekend. All questions of Kane’s physical and mental focus were laid to rest after his 5-game victory in the finals.
Another player making waves at this event was SoCal’s own Rocky Carson. He first upset number four seed Alvaro Beltran, followed by a five game stunner over number five Jason Mannino. Looks like Carson’s win over Mannino at the 2005 US Open was no fluke. Carson kept steam into the finals, but there was no stopping Kane’s victorious return to the tour.