For the second year in a row, the race for the men’s professional International Racquetball Tour (IRT) top rankings will come down to the last tournament of the season. #2 Rocky Carson has closed the gap to only 202 points behind the ailing #1 Kane Waselenchuk, and #3 Daniel De La Rosa overtook the (now) #4 Alvaro Beltran. In fact, the average advantage each #3-#15 ranked player has over his closest opponent is only 154 points, including a numbers skewing 530-point difference between #5 Jose Rojas over #6 Jansen Allen and only 11 between #8 Felipe Comacho and #9 Sebastian Franco. In other words, it’s going to be close.
The first question that comes to mind is whether Kane Waselenchuk will be healthy enough to compete. After he returned to the courts at the Florida IRT Pro-Am four weeks after emergency incarcerated hernia surgery, Waselenchuk was forced to forfeit in the fifth game of his first match due to injury. Carson took advantage of his toughest rival’s absence by winning the championship, which put the second-ranked player within striking distance of the top.
For Waselenchuk to defend his title and earn an unprecedented 11th year-end #1 ranking, he’ll have win the Coast to Coast California Open. And (as of this writing), he plans on competing this weekend at the ProKennex Tournament of Champions presented by Campbell Group, an especially big event for Waselenchuk, as he’s partnered with ProKennex.
Carson gets a boost from his hometown crowd in California, and is solidly in the lead over the #3 spot, which Daniel De La Rosa claimed as a finalist in the Florida Pro-Am while (now) #4 Alvaro Beltran fell to Rocky Carson in the semifinals. With only 56 points separating the #3 and #4 ranked players, look for each to be fighting for that spot.
Up-and-coming players are also gaining momentum, with #10 Mario Mercado, #9 Sebastian Franco, and #8 Felipe Camacho reaching the top 10 ranking for the first time, and #7 Marco Rojas and #6 Jansen Allen achieving career highs in the current rankings. In short, as the 2015-2016 IRT Season winds down, the rankings race is speeding up.