Ektelon Nationals Presented by PENN

With his finish at 2011 Ektelon Nationals, Kane Waselenchuk made the 2011-2012 IRT Season his second perfect season in a row on the International Racquetball Tour (IRT).  Day turned to dusk during the first altsemifinal match Saturday evening, rescheduled for when lighting conditions could provide better viewing on the home screen.  In the end, Rocky Carson and Kane Waselenchuk came out on top, earning a spot in the Final on Sunday, when Kane Waselenchuk won in three straight games.  Read more below or  Click here for the pro draw!

Kane Waselenchuk d Rocky Carson 11-(1), 1, 7.

Kane took a cammanding 10-0 lead. Rocky called his second time out of the game, earning him a technical that dropped his score to -1 where Kane finished it off. Down big in the second, Rocky scored his first point only to lose the game 11-1.  Rocky’s first lead came in the third, scoring the first point of the game.  Point for point the game was tight, 1-1, 2-3, 5-6.  When Rocky scored his 7th point, Kane stepped on the gas and went on to the game and the match, 11-7.

#2 Rocky Carson d #3 Ben Croft 1, 6, (8), 12-10

Rocky steamrolled Ben from the start, quickly finishing it 11-1. His run of unanswered points continued into game two, when his tally hit 5-1. Ben fought back, coming only as close as 6-9 before Rocky finished it off 11-6.  In game three, Ben kept it close early on, aggressively building a lead by dialing in to tight pinches and low splats.  IRT Referee, Charlie Pratt, made calls that sent frustration inside the court and boos interspersed with cheers rippling outside the glass as the fans let him know (rightly or wrongly) what they thought of his calls. A stomp-fest from those in the stadium’s steel seating Ben stepping out of the box at one point, waiting for the noise to die down in order to serve. Rocky’s fans rocked the house, but he still closed the gap a little too late.  Ben nailed a down-the-line backhand kill shot to win game four 11-8.

A surprising cool evening engulfed those outside the court but the action on the hardwood got hot. Both players peaked, interchanging high lobs with low kills,forcing each other over every inch of the court. Rocky built his lead up to 7-2 before a player timeout. Back inside, Ben threw himself after the ball, banging on the floor and walls in his characteristic all-out style. Stone-faced and calmly intense, Rocky showed rare emotion. Not true outside the glass.  Every get, sideout, and referee call energized eager fans who radiated momentum right back. Boisterous comments aimed at Rocky, Ben and Charlie shot around outside the glass. Tied 7-7, the players continued exchanging rallies and points.  An avoidable call put Rocky up alt10-8. Ben slammed the serve return. The opponents switch spots from the door to the serve box.  Scoreboard: 10-10. World-class racquetball played out, until Rocky closed it at 12-10.

A standing ovation greeted Ben who acknowledged the support from the stands during his post match interview.  “It wasalt the best crowd all year.  It was in Rocky’s backyard, so I knew it would be a Rocky-fest.”  He continued to joke that he only had two fans, but even if that were true, based on the volume of support from the stands, he gained some more.

Still standing, fans practically sent the tent over the court billowing in the breeze of applause for hometown favorite Rocky,
who gave the love back, calling the crowd his family.  “I love playing in Southern Cal in front of you guys…all the people I get to hang out with every night.”

Kane Waselenchuk d Chris Crowther 6, 1, 3

A late start to the second match didn’t seem to phase the two power hitting who stepping onto the still-smoking court.  Chris made his mark on the scoreboard first.  A slam-fest ensued inside the courts, with both players making almost-to-the floorboard kills and lazier serves to bring the score to 5-2 in favor of Chris.  A double fault at 5-2 gave Kane the serve and the next three points.  Tied at 5-5, Chris aced a serve that even inspired a respectful nod from Kane. Not to be outdone, Kane ended the next rally with a overhand shot that made those in the crowd quick-enough to catch it wonder what had just happened.  After tying it up 6-6, the rest of the game played out quickly with Kane taking it 11-6.

Chris came out strong again in game two, taking the lead early with a score of 1-0.  Pounding kills gave Chris opportunities and trips to the serve box, which he couldn’t convert to points.  Kane methodically and slowly racked up points, shooting the ball to finish the game out 11-1.

Again, Chris took an early lead that saw him on the board at 2-1, when Kane got back between the solid red lines and chalked up a run of five points. Ooohs and ahhhs went through the crowd as he nailed his shots. Not done, Chris earned the serve back, delivering a solid shot which Kane still handily returned before also served up the next run of points, taking the game and match 11-3.

Quarterfinal Match Results 

A light breeze buffering the California sun wasn’t enough to cool the action down under the clear court.  While the professionals did the work on the court, fans kicked back, chatted, and watched the quarterfinals play out.  Click the Read More button for match recaps.

 Kane Waselenchuk d Taylor Knoth 11-3, 11-7, 11-2

Some industry professionals put the over/under at 12 points.  Waselenchuk was up 6-0 and then 7-1 in the first before winning 11-3 against Taylor Knoth, who made it to his first quarterfinal during the season-ending Grand Slam.  In the second, the players went point for point until at 6-6 Kane put it away at 11-7.  Waselenchuk ran Knoth around in the third, with around-the-world and ceiling shots, making some crazy returns on set-ups to win the final game and match 11-2.

Ben Croft d Andy Hawthorne 11-1, 11-6, 13-11

Both players flew inside the four glass walls, with Ben Croft taking the first game of the match against Andy Hawthorne, 11-1. Game two proved closer with long rallies that sent each opponent scrambling chasing the ProPenn and points with Ben racking up winners to stretch his 8-6 lead to a finish it 11-6.  Both players kept game three close, with the crowd wincing as the players threw themselves to the floor, squeaking against the hardwood trying it up at 6-6.  Hawthorne was ahead 8-6 when the players took a timeout and Croft quickly served his way to tie it back up 8-8 and then  pulled ahead sending it to the ceiling until Croft took the offensive, killing the ball which Hawthorne just missed hitting back. They kept it close to the end, exchanging turns in the serve box with Ben up 11-10.  Back and forth, on the floor and popping back up, Croft won the game and the match 13-11.

Rocky Carson d Shane Vanderson 11-2, 11-8, 11-7

Rocky Carson donned his outdoor eyeguards before stepping onto the Clear Court for his match against Shane Vanderson, the second quarterfinal of the day. He took control in the first, with Shane earning 2 points to Rocky’s 11 by the end.  In game two Shane came out with new fire, keeping it close, but couldn’t hold off the #2 player who finished with another win in game two with a score of 11-8.  The two battled back and forth in game three, exchanging points and rallies, tying it up at 4-4 before Carson pulled ahead 6-4 and the players took a timeout, coming back to tie it up 6-6.  Vanderson put one more point on the board before Rocky finished the match with a score of 11-7 in the third.

Chris Crowther d. Tony Carson 3-11, 12-10, 11-9, 12-10

Tony Carson came out firing and focused, taking the first game 11-3.  Crowler, down 10-8 in the 2nd, came back to win 12-10 with both playings making great serves and forcing long rallies.  Point for point, the players kept the score close…4-4…5-5…until Carson took the biggest lead of the game at 9-6 and Crowther took a time out.  Back on the court, the players continued to exchange rallies – and points until Crowther closed out game 3 11-9.  Crowther ran up the score to 8-3 when Tony earned a trip back to the serve box and took a timeout.  A point and an ace later, Tony returned to the back of the box when Crowther send a soft reverse pinch into the corner from 38′.  Continuing to exchange points and rallies, Tony’s sliding dive sent the ball to the front wall, bringing the score to 10-10. Crowther didn’t let up, taking the game 12-10.

Round of 16’s Results

Ever risked a sunburn watching indoor racquetball?  A couple of upsets played out under the sun as the 12 seed Tony Carson defeated #5 Jose Rojas and upstart #25 Taylor Knoth took out #9 Anthony Herrera in the Round of 16’s under the California sunshine at the inaugural Ektelon Nationals presented by Penn. If you’re not here live, skip the sunscreen and join the 20,000 people watching the IRT Network online.  Read more for the Round of 16’s results.

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#2 Rocky Carson d #18 Daniel De La Rosa 4,9, (6),3

#7 Shane Vanderson d #10 Alvaro Beltran 4,4, (6),3

#6 Andy Hawthorne d #22 Felipe Munoz 7,7,1

#3 Ben Croft d #14 Javier Moreno 2, 8, (9), 5

#4 Chris Crowther d #20 David Hom 7,5,9

#12 Tony Carson d #5 Jose Rojas 5, (8), (2),10,7

#25 Taylor Knoth d #9 Anthony Herrera 7,4,(5),8

#1 Kane Waselenchuk v #16 Andres Herrera  3, 3, 8

Ektelon Nationals is back!  Read how the NEW Ektelon Nationals presented by Penn came to be a new Grand Slam on the IRT and USAR Schedule.

 The IRT, USAR, and Ektelon have partnered to revive The Ektelon Nationals presented by Penna Grand Slam event scheduled for Memorial Day weekend, May 25 – 29. The organizers will combine the amateur National Finals Championships with the men’s Professional Nationals into one event, embracing the heritage of one of racquetball’s premier tournaments and serving as a catalyst for the sport’s next wave of growth.

Racquetball’s leadership remains fragmented according to Jim Hiser, Executive Director of USA Racquetball. “This is the first step in partnering together and developing a mega event that I think will turn into the largest over the next few years.”

Companies and organizations within and around the sport have changed over the decades, yet the ties forged over the past twenty-five years by individuals now in leadership positions have made it possible to collaborate on an event of this magnitude.

altScott Winters, a thirty-year industry veteran and Vice President with Ektelon, remembers the original Ektelon Nationals well. “Everyone looked forward to it. Whether playing or not, you were there. It was always very well-run and featured some of the best players in the world all competing at once.”

The 1985 Ektelon Nationals Champion, Cliff Swain, beat Marty Hogan and the Peck brothers to earn the title, yet was “just in awe” to be there. “I’d won my first pro tournament a few months before. It was such a big event…people coming from all over the country. I thought it was so cool.”

Ed Andrews, a player who won every amateur championship title (at least once) prior to turning pro, remembers the large draws that played out in big matches. “Players had to win a state-level tournament just to enter, which created a buzz.”

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The buzz around the revived tournament comes back to Ektelon, a division of Prince Sports, already making plans to rally its entire company and promotional team around this event and taking the opportunity to celebrate the brand’s industry-leading forty-two year heritage in the sport. It starts with the launch of their new product line featuring a signature series of Ruben Gonzalez products.

The fifty-eight year old widely known as “The Legend of Racquetball” and former #1 pro recently capped his career with an unprecedented contract to play a “Farewell Tour” with Ektelon, setting the goal of reaching a top-ten ranking by the age of sixty. Sudsy Monchik, five time IRT Champion and perennial fan favorite will celebrate his new Advisory agreement with Ektelon and return to the sport by energizing crowds as emcee of the stadium court. The future will be represented, too, as Ektelon unveils “Team Adrenalin,” a group of up-and-coming stars on a trajectory to join the pro tour.

The IRT will be ready. Led by former #1 ranked player Jason Mannino, the IRT leadership team installed last year set a top goal of enhancing the value for those partnering with the organization. According to Mannino, “It felt like a way to tie in, add value, and combine our nationals with one of the biggest events in the game, USA Racquetball National Finals.”

Jim Hiser and his staff at USAR were looking for a new home for “The Finals” after the Houston, Texas YMCA closed. “This is the first time the U.S. Team qualifiers will be held outside of Houston. We saw the opportunity for another Grand Slam event and to bring out the portable court.” The Meridian Sports Club in Fullterton, California turned out to be the ideal choice. “It’s a great venue and a great location.”

Hiser also sees the move as good for the future of the sport. “We’re going through all kinds of extra measures to make sure this is a special event now and adding more plans for down the line in the next couple of years. I hope it’s a spring board for new things to happen.”

Mannino agrees. “It’s a sign of the things to come. We’d like to tie in other sponsors to propel the event to a televised grand slam event.”

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