Player Preview: Rising Stars Ready for Ektelon Nationals presented by Penn

Will this be the tournament one of them breaks through? Here’s our list of the five most likely contenders for the 2010-2011 IRT Season  – plus one veteran’s special mention. Is there anyone we missed?

# 9 Charlie Pratt

The IRT’s official referee, Charlie Pratt, is spending more time inside the four glass walls after winning the biggest game of his career during the U.S. Open to make his first quarterfinal appearance where he pushed Jack Huczek to four games.  Well coached and hardworking, Pratt has steadily improved during the second half of the season to climb within one slot of becoming a top-eight professional on the tour.

#10 Anthony Herrera

Anthony Herrera embodies the young breed of player with explosive gets that seem to allow him to reach the ball with ease.  He started out firing last fall, forcing top-eight opponents to four and five games in order to get past him to the next round.  Herrera celebrated his college graduation in December by making his first quarterfinal in January.  Each match brings him closer to breaking through.  Expect to see him moving higher by working smarter after turning his full-time attention to a career competing in racquetball.

#14 Tony Carson

Now that he’s earned his college degree, Tony Carson is focused on cracking the top ten by the end of next year. He’s made the quarterfinals in two out of the last three Tier 1 events he’s entered, upsetting Shane Vanderson in the MonaVie SLC ProAm and then playing past Chris Crowther in St. Louis before taking Ben Croft to five games.  With creative shot making, a big heart, and an entertaining personality, the 2008 National Intercollegiate Champion and 2011 Pan American Games Silver Medalist (Men’s Doubles) is set to do just that.

#39 Taylor Knoth

Reigning Junior Worlds, National Singles, and National Intercollegiate Champion, Taylor Knoth, is a fulltime student but already has a pro-style game incorporating power and big drive serves along with accuracy and control.  Coached by Fran Davis since he was 12 years old, Knoth recently renewed his contract with HEAD Penn Racquet Sports, according to Doug Ganim. “He’s also a very humble kid with a great attitude and work ethic…we love his performance on the court, too.  He’s a class act on and off the court.”

#62 Jose Diaz 

Jose Diaz has dominated the junior ranks on a world platform over the past five years, taking home gold at the 2011 High School Championships.  Like fellow Ektelon Team Adrenalin player, Jose Rojas, Diaz is a product of the Stockton, California racquetball powerhouse.  This eighteen-year old will begin college at Sacramento State, where he wants to start a racquetball program while making his impact on the pro tour.

Honorable Mention:

Alvaro Beltran

There aren’t enough o’s in smooth to describe this player’s game.  After earning the distinction as The Last Player Who Beat Kane (1/09 California Open), an injury two weeks before the first tournament of the ’09-10 season sent him to the sidelines. He only entered one event, the 2010 Mexico Open, during the next season, yet played into the Semis.  Beltran was back. So were his injuries.  He competed in four tournaments this season, making it to two Finals (losing to Kane Waslenchuk in four during the US Open and to Rocky Carson in the Corona Open) before bowing out with an injury forfeit during January’s Coast-to-Coast California Open.  A healthy Alvaro is a threat.  But, has he fully recovered from knee surgery earlier this year?