Eight very deserving candidates utilized their scholarships fully to advance their games and promote themselves on the men’s professional International Racquetball Tour (IRT) during the last 2011-2012 IRT season with a myriad of big wins and upsets: Alex Ackerman, Brad Schopieray, Daniel De La Rosa, Daniel Horn, Felipe Camacho, Jose Diaz, Taylor Knoth, and Tony Carson. Looking back on the accomplishments of these up-and-coming players, we can see just how much they have advanced their games and the potential they have for the future. Check back for important news on the program and next class.
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Alex Ackerman is a senior at the University of North Texas and is studying accounting and plans to graduate in August. He is extremely excited that his girlfriend, #6 on the WPRO tour is moving to Texas and will be closer to him. Some of Alex’s biggest victories of the year include being one of four men who represented the United States at the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. He also qualified for the pro draw at the 2011 Ghost of Georgetown tournament in Overland Park, Kansas, and played Alvaro Beltran in California and lost in a five- game tiebreaker. His other major accomplishments include winning the IRT Tier 5 Longhorn Open in Austin, Texas, and several other local Texas tournaments. This summer, Alex has been working nonstop on trying to hone his game, and fully intends on playing a lot more racquetball after he graduates in August. Next year he will be playing full time on the tour while still working full time. Alex’s main goal for next year is to make it into the top 8 by the end of the 2012-2013 season.
Brad Schopieray started the year off as a freshman in nursing school before realizing that it wasn’t for him. He now spends his time assisting his trainer, Justin Fargo, as Justin starts up his own company, the Flint Barbell Club. “I’m with Justin all day and am lucky enough to have him keeping me on track,” stated Brad. “It has gone really well.” This was Brad’s first year on tour and it has been a year he will never forget, winning several huge upset matches over higher ranked pros and playing almost all the Tier 1 stops. He burst onto the scene in a big way this year, which is evident by his end of the year by his fourteen-in-the-world world rank and is looking to improve on that next year. Brad is very thankful for the chance he has been given. “I am really fortunate to have HEAD and IRTnetwork.com supporting me. Also I cannot say thanks enough to Doug Ganim and John Scott for making it easy for me to play all the stops,” said Brad. “Also a big thanks to Cliff Swain and Fran Davis for helping me to get much better and used to playing with the pros. And of course thanks to Jason Mannino.”
Jose Diaz is a freshman at Delta College in Stockton, California studying Sports Medicine. He started playing racquetball at age six and, at six-and-one-half, participated in his first Junior Worlds tournament. Jose has come a long way since then though, with several key upset victories against pros as highly ranked as Charlie Pratt and Anthony Herrera. He plans to take the big step next year and play on the tour full time while improving on his 22nd rank from the end of this season. He hopes that playing the tour more next year will help him crack the top ten by the end of next season. In the next couple of years though, he sees himself helping to grow the sport of racquetball either as a player on tour still or as a possible worker behind the scenes. Either way the sport of racquetball can use someone with as vibrant and outgoing of a spirit as Jose.
David Horn was unfortunately unable to play this year due to a torn labrum in his shoulder, forcing him out all season. He plans on being back by the beginning of next season to play on the tour.
Taylor Knoth is currently a junior at Oregon State University seeking a degree in Mechanical Engineering. This past year he showed he was not someone to be overlooked as he qualified for the pro draw in all his Tier 1 events and doing fairly well each time. He reached the round of 16’s at the Seattle and Canoga Park events, and most importantly, at the US Open. He also reached the round of 32’s at the San Diego event. Within a year of graduation, Taylor plans to be able to compete with any one of the top ten players in the world, which would place him among them as far as rankings go. But Taylor said he isn’t worried as much about rank, but instead about his own performance. “I don’t want to put a specific number on where I expect to rank on the pro tour,” he stated. “I just want to focus on being the best I can be and I feel that by doing that I will get to the spot I want to be.” And with the high level of play Taylor brings to the court, no one doubts he will do just that.
Daniel De La Rosa, one of the hot young talents on the tour, is only 19 years old and lives in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. He will be a freshman at the University this year and in his free time loves to hang out with his friends and go to see movies. He loves competing internationally, but he especially enjoys representing his country at tournaments like the Pan American Games, US Open, USAR Pro Nationals and on the IRT Tour. Daniel is currently ranked #13 in the USAR Ranking and #19 on the IRT tour and is only looking up from there. “Every match played is an opportunity for me to gain valuable experience and learn from the pros,” Daniel said. “It inspires me to become more focused and drill harder.” Daniel’s goals for the near future are to work his way into the top ten on the IRT tour and to make a semi final appearance at a Tier 1 or Grand Slam event. He is extremely thankful to have the opportunity and support of his family, Pro Kennex racquetball, and his friends to help him achieve his goals.