Thoughts on the 2nd Half of the 2011–2012 IRT Season
As we begin a New Year as well as the 2nd-half of the 2011–2012 International Racquetball Tour season, I thought I would take a look at the current stats for the currently active Top 30 ranked players for the tour. Unless you have been hiding under a rock or imprisoned in a Russian gulag, it is no secret that the IRT Tour has been absolutely dominated by #1 ranked Kane Waselenchuk. Kane’s dominance of the tour is indisputable, as evidenced by his current winning streak of 130 straight matches. This feat is unparalleled, not only in professional racquetball, but for most other sports as well.
Looking back even further than his current 130 match winning streak, Kane has dominated the IRT Tour since the September 2008 IRT World Championships in Denver Colorado. From a mall venue in The Mile High City and in an awesome Lucite court, Kane defeated Rocky Carson in a tough five-game match. Kane then followed up this victory with back-to-back weekend Tier One level tournament wins by defeating Jack Huczek and Alvaro Beltran respectively in Kansas City and Kentucky. On the following weekend, October 9–12, 2008, Kane elected to skip the 2008 Canadian Racquetball Classic. Jack Huczek met Rocky Carson in the finals of the Canadian Classic and pulled out a four-game victory. Two weeks later on October 26, 2008, Kane Waselenchuk met Rocky Carson in the finals of the 13th U.S. Open Racquetball Championships from Memphis Tennessee. Kane soundly defeated Rocky in three straight games 2, 4 & 4.
The next event on the 2008–2009 IRT tour was the November 12-16 Juarez Racquetball Championships from Chihuahua, Mexico. Kane also elected to skip this tournament and Rocky Carson and Jack Huczek again met in the finals with Rocky besting Jack in three straight games 9, 9 & 6.
This brings us to the infamous 2009 California Open from Canoga Park CA, January 9–11, 2009. Kane entered this tournament with two Grand Slam victories and two Tier One victories under his belt within the past three months. Kane met Mexican legend Alvaro Beltran in the semi-finals and Alvaro beat Kane in a tough four game battle 2, (9) 3 & 9. I like to refer to this match as the “Alpha and the Omega“. This was the beginning of Kane’s unprecedented record setting 130 match win streak, as well as the end of any real threat to his #1 crown and his reign at the top of the IRT Tour. After this bitter loss to Alvaro, Kane boldly proclaimed that it would be his last loss for the rest of the year.
In an earlier blog I wrote about The Kane Dominance, so I will move on from the Kane accolades and delve into the rest of the IRT tour.
Taking a look at the current IRT Tour rankings (as of 12.20 2011), aside from Kane Waselenchuk, there is not a currently active player who has won, at a minimum, a Tier One level event or let alone a Grand Slam tournament since Rocky Carson defeated Alvaro Beltran at the previously mentioned 2009 California Open. (Note: as of this writing I am not including recently retired IRT President Jason Mannino or recently retired future Hall of Fame member Jack Huczek as “currently active players”.)
Excluding Kane and prior to Rocky Carson’s January 11, 2009 California Open victory, the last currently active IRT player to win, at minimum, a Tier One level event was Racquetball Hall of Fame member and currently ranked #43 pro Cliff Swain at the 2005 San Diego Open where he defeated current ranked #8 pro Shane Vanderson in five games.
Some may argue that Cliff Swain is not a current “active” member of the IRT Tour. If you consider this argument it would then leave us with fellow Hall of Fame member and currently ranked #31 pro Ruben González as the last active IRT player to win at minimum a Tier One level event and that was on June 6, 1993 at the Transcoastal Tournament of Champions from Portland, Oregon. Ruben Gonzalez met Jack Newman in the Finals and managed to defeat Jack in an exciting five game match that yours truly personally witnessed.
Besides currently ranked #1 Kane Waselenchuk and #2 ranked Rocky Carson, one has to go very deep into the IRT Tour rankings – all the way down to #31 Ruben Gonzalez – to locate the highest ranked currently active IRT Pro to win at minimum a Tier One level pro stop on the tour.
What does this leave for the rest of the active tour? As is often said, “On any given Sunday…” someone just may step it up and win a Tier One stop besides Kane Waselenchuk. #2 Rocky Carson has a career record of 1 win and 39 losses versus Kane. Rocky’s sole win versus Kane was back in 2003 at the Pro Nationals in Tempe, AZ. Rocky beat Kane in the Quarters, 6, 7, & 8.
For anyone else on the tour to pull-off an upset would most likely mean beating Rocky Carson as well. Outside of Chris Crowther and perhaps Ben Croft, who have a combined total of just 3 wins and 45 losses against Rocky, I really do not see anyone in the Top 30 accomplishing an upset of Kane. I did not forget #14 ranked Alvaro Beltran, a crowd favorite and all-around genuine nice guy. Alvaro has been slowly recovering from a couple knee surgeries and the second-half of this season will be the biggest challenge of his illustrious racquetball career.
Many have scoffed at 59 year old Ruben Gonzalez’s announced goal to break into the Top 10 of the IRT Tour at age 60 just in time for the U.S. Open in October, 2012. Upon further review of this amazing goal it is actually starting to make some semblance of sanity. The upcoming 2nd-half of the 2011–2012 IRT Tour season will reportedly also see the return of another future Hall of Fame member – Sudsy Monchik. With the return of Sudsy and the “Don Quixote de la Mancha” efforts of Ruben González all I can say is “why not”?
Back on April Fools’ Day I posted a blog that was a spoof about the Marty Hogan Comeback Tour.
Hmmm… Makes you wonder.
Thanks to Todd Boss and Bossconsulting.com for the stats used in this blog.