The Stockton 2013 IRT ProAm could very well be one of the oldest professional racquetball tournaments in California and the United States. Kane Waselenchuk earned critical rankings points along with another title in his string by winning in three games. Click to read more.
Click HERE to view the pro draw.
#1 Kane Waselenchuk d #2 Rocky Carson 11-9, 11-8, 11-2
#2 Rocky Carson d #11 Daniel De La Rosa 8, 2, 2
#1 Kane Waselenchuk d #5 Ben Croft 7, 1, 2
#11 Daniel De La Rosa’s late surge of momentum propelled him to an upset against #3 Alvaro Beltran to face #2 Rocky Carson, who took out local rising star, #10 Marcus Rojas. #5 Ben Croft dialed in to pressure #4 Chris Crowther for a victory and a slot in the second semifinal, facing #1 Kane Waselenchuk whose lightening hands and photon serves left no opening for another local favorite, #8 Jose Rojas.
#1 Kane Waselenchuk d. #8 Jose Rojas 2, 1, 4
The question before the match was if the local boy, Jose could use his home court advantage to pull off something special and challenge Kane. This question was answered quickly as Jose simply had no answer to Kane’s photon serves and lightening fast hands. Kane silenced the crowd early by only allowing Jose 2 points in game one. Unfortunately for Jose and a huge supporting mob of friends and family, game two was more of the same. Kane consistently hit incredible drive serves and easy re-kills when Jose was able to get the serve back to the front wall. Kane took game two 11-1 and continued on cruise control to finish the match in three games, 11-2, 11-1, 11-4.
#2 Rocky Carson d. #10 Marco Rojas 6, (6), 1, 10
Another hometown boy, Marco Rojas, brother of the elder Jose Rojas was also looking to pull off a huge upset as he faced off against #2 Rocky Carson. Rocky successfully quieted the crowd taking game one 11-6 with his usual consistent high percentage racquetball of down the lines and cross court passes. Marco revived the crowd after answering back with an 11-6 win in game two to even the match. After a quick game three win 11-1 it looked like Rocky was going to end this match in a very routine four games, but Marco wasn’t ready to throw in the towel just yet. He came out firing in game four and quickly built what appeared to be an insurmountable lead 9-2. At this point Rocky started to ramp up the pace of his serve which earned him several aces and force weak returns from Marco. He used this momentum to come all the way back to tie things at 9-9. A couple back and forth rallies and game four was anyone’s game. Rocky used his experience to hit the key shots at the right time and finished off this match with a game four win of 12-10.
#11 Daniel De La Rosa d. #3 Alvaro Beltran (6), 10, 8, 1
It seems like nobody knew exactly what to expect from Alvaro heading into this match considering the injury issues he has been nursing as of late. Playing through the pain, Alvaro took game one 11-6 with a little help from what appeared to be an overly energetic Daniel. Daniel definitely settled down early in game two and this instantly became a battle. These guys went back and forth without anyone taking more than a few point advantage. Alvaro found himself with a game point serving 10-8 where we saw the rally of the match. After a few great gets by both players Alvaro had what he hoped was the game winning pinch, but the ball skipped in just before the front wall. Daniel took full advantage of this opportunity and came back to steal game two 12-10 and even things one game each. Given the back and forth of games one and two, it was clear both players were well aware of the importance of game three as they battled point for point throughout. A late surge by Daniel earned him a two to one game advantage with a score of 11-8. At this point it was unclear if it was Daniel’s momentum or Alvaro’s lingering injuries that led to Daniel’s blowout win in game four, 11-1. Either way Daniel played a great match to earn what many will feel will be one of many late-round appearances by the young De La Rosa.
#5 Ben Croft d. #4 Chris Crowther 8, 3, (5), 4
In the final quarterfinal of the night, the much anticipated high octane matchup between hard hitting Chris Crowther and the polarizing, fiery Ben Croft. Game one proved to be the closest of the match with both players giving max effort to take the game one lead. Ben was having early success hit bullet drive serves straight down the right wall as Chris seemed a little stiff lunging for the return. This set up easy shots for Ben throughout game one and ultimately resulted in him winning 11-8. Ben continued his game plan in game two with powerful drive serves down the right and played even better in this one winning 11-3. Whispers in the crowd of this being over in a quick three games were silenced when Chris seemed to loosen up. His was quicker on returning Ben’s serve. His own serves seemed faster and he was easily able to turn the tide of this match winning 11-5. Not to be deterred, Ben regained control by mixing up his drive serves and keeping the pressure on Chris to hit perfect returns. Chris simply wasn’t able to shatter Ben’s focus as Ben was able to end this match with an 11-4 win in game 4.
Round of 16 results:
#1 Kane Waselenchuk d. #16 Charlie Pratt 11-1, 11-7, 11-7
#2 Rocky Carson d. #15 David Horn 11-2, 13-11, 11-3
#3 Alvaro Beltran d. #19 Sebastian Franco 5-11, 11-9, 11-1, 12-10
#4 Chris Crowther d. #13 Jansen Allen 11-4, 11-8, 11-1
#5 Ben Croft d. #12 Jose Diaz 11-6, 11-6, 11-3
#11 Daniel De La Rosa d. #6 Javier Moreno 11-6, 8-11, 11-0, 116
#10 Marco Rojas d. #7 Andy Hawthorne 11-2, 11-2, 8-11, 11-2
#8 Jose Rojas d. #9 Alex Ackermann 11-1, 11-3, 0-11, 11-6
Stockton Pro-Am: NorCal’s Oldest Tournament
By Becky Wiese
If former top player on the men’s professional International Racquetball Tour (IRT) and tournament director John Ellis’s guess is accurate, the Stockton Pro-Am, taking place May 2-5 in Stockton, California, is Nor Cal’s oldest racquetball tournament and could very well be one of the oldest professional racquetball tournaments in the U.S. during the 2012-2013 IRT Season.
“It’s difficult for me to pin down, but my guestimate is 1981 was the first year,” he says. Even with a six-year hiatus in the early 2000s, Ellis is proud of the longevity the tournament has with both the IRT and the former pro tours.
That longevity creates a unique sense of history (“This is the site of Cliff Swain’s last IRT Tier One win,” Ellis explains) as well as a strong sense of excitement and hope for the future of racquetball. “Racquetball here in Nor Cal is still going strong, thanks to In-Shape and a few other chains continuing to build racquetball courts in their new clubs. Racquetball just seems to thrive in Nor Cal because we have a lot of passionate players that enjoy tournament play and weekly play at their home clubs.”
The tournament will be hosted by In-Shape Sport: West Lane, which has nine racquetball courts; five courts have glass on the back wall and Court 1 will serve as the IRT court, with seating for about 100 spectators. “Our management appreciates the presence racquetball has here at their club; it’s a very old school, family-first type of club when it comes to the racquetball, while still having the new programming that you see in all health clubs,” says Ellis. “Bringing in the IRT does a lot to motivate players in this area of the state.”
Especially motivated will be several local favorites, including IRT ranked #5 Jose Rojas, #13 Jose Diaz, and #16 Marco Rojas, who enjoyed his first tier-one semifinal appearance in St. Louis, along with the rest of the Ektelon team, all of whom are based in Stockton and coached by Dave Ellis, the USA National Team Head Coach and John’s father. Home court advantage may be a bit of a misnomer, however. “To be honest, it’s tough to play at your home club. There are a lot of expectations and that pressure will be evident throughout the weekend,” says Ellis.
Not to mention the pressure of having to play exceptionally well to beat any of the top-ranked players. #1 Kane Waselenchuk, who has had some injury issues this season, is coming off a WBF victory in St. Louis against #3 Alvaro Beltran and a three-game defeat of #6 Ben Croft in Portland’s Tournament of Champions. With the season’s end nearing top players nursing injuries, the Stockton Pro-Am could be a breakthrough tournament for players who haven’t yet been able to advance beyond the quarters.
Among players to watch is Cliff Swain, the 47-year-old, 6-time IRT Champion who is ready to take another swing at the pro division. “Since Cliff has continued to play and has so much history here in Nor Cal, people are definitely excited to watch him get after it again, and they truly hope he can upset one of the top eight guys,” says Ellis.
Players at both ends of the age spectrum will add to the fun and excitement of the tournament. The Juniors 14 & Under division will be loaded with local talent and quite possibly the next group of IRT Pros. According to Ellis, the next best division to the IRT will be the Men’s Combined 75+ Doubles. “That division will have a bunch of our sponsors from the East Bay paired with a number of lower ranked pros, including the great Cliff Swain. I think we’ll hear a fair amount of banter during the matches that will definitely entertain all.”
Mike Lippitt, one of the presenting sponsors, thoroughly enjoys the tournament. “It is a privilege to help sponsor the pro stops because it brings the greatest players in the world to compete in our area. Racquetball produces some of most elite athletes in the world, and to watch them play is inspiring.” He adds, “My greatest interest is supporting the young pro level players who have grown up in the Stockton area. I know one of these days one of these young men will be the best IRT player in the world.”
Scott Winters, Vice President of Ektelon, another presenting sponsor, adds, “In addition to watching the current IRT pros, I’m sure there will be some great players from the past and local legends.” Add to that mix the talented newcomers, and the Stockton Pro-Am promises to provide a little of the past, present, and future of men’s professional racquetball.