Two for Two: Back-to-Back Pro Stops Open the IRT Season

KM Bobcat LogoThe 2014-2015 IRT racquetball season opener has traditionally offered a few surprises, revealing how certain pros’ off-season training turned into results on the court. This year, the first revelation came before the first match when the Krowning Moment Pro Invitational and Bobcat Open slipped onto the schedule first, a mere six weeks after organizers gave the go-ahead, building on the success of the ProKennex Tournament of Champions last May.

“It was a great event in so many ways,” said IRT President, Jason Mannino about the first tournament held at a University in many years. The location showcased racquetball to the many people who came through Texas Sate University’s student rec center, introducing newcomers to the sport while also supporting the Texas State University Racquetball Club, a newer team in the collegiate ranks. Monies raised will help them attend the Racquetball National Collegiate Championships (RNCC) even as they continue to raise funds through http://www.gofundme.com/ex1rxs , offering racquetball supporters from across the country the chance to grow racquetball so the team can attend RNCC and “…also boost racquetball as a whole around our community” as explained on their funding page.

 “The fans were truly excited to be able to watch the best of our sport all in one location in action,” said JoAnna Reyes, Tournament Director and ProKennex Director of Player Operations. With a 120”-widescreen television in the players’ lounge, courtside seating, and standing-room only areas around the courts, many were able to view the pro matches. Getting a space on the court for the Bobcat Open amateur tournament was harder, as the organizers’ choice to limit entries to 150 amateurs rather than overwhelm staff in the first year resulted in a waiting list. More entries will be made available next year.  

A few surprised played out on the court, as Marco Rojas upset Ben Croft in the Round of 16s before falling to Rocky Carson in the Quarterfinals, and Alejandro Landa knocked out Alvaro Beltran along with Chris Crowther before Carson handed him a loss in the semifinals.

The main attraction, of course, was local and hands-down favorite, 9-time #1 ranked Kane Waselenchuk, who breezed through his matches to take the title of Champion in his namesake tournament. Waselenchuk and his wife, Kim Russell Waselenchuk, his Coach Jim Winterton, and ProKennex staff all came together with other local sponsors to bring a Tier One back to Texas and to benefit local juniors.

Top pros traveled from Texas to Missouri the following weekend for the 15th Annual Ghost of Georgetown KC IRT ProAm, which also supported Missouri racquetball. A charity auction raised over $3,000 in one night, with racquetball trading cards, a set of glasses signed by the pros, and an E-Force racquet signed by Chris Crowther, who also threw in a free lesson, some of the most popular items offered.

The Championship match provided a less-surprising finish than in 2013, when Jose Rojas defeated both Kane Waselenchuk and Rocky Carson to win the first 2013-14 pro stop that season. This year, Ben Croft handed the upset loss to Rojas before bowing out in the semifinals to Waselenchuk, who proceeded to beat Rocky Carson in a three-game final.

The 2014 Krowning Moment and Bobcat Open plus the 2014 Ghost of Georgetown Novasors KC ProAm were back-to-back Tier 1 season-opening tournaments that gave fans and players a peek into who’d prepped for the season — and weaknesses to exploit with only one weekend off before the beginning of the sport’s oldest and biggest Grand Slam, the UnitedHealthcare US OPEN Racquetball Championships Oct. 8-12 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.