The International Racquetball Tour just came off a huge weekend in Portland. The Tournament of Champions is probably one of their most important stops of the year. A Tier 2 with Tier 1 money, (or is that the other way around?)... It's played in a hotbed of racquetball and the energy and size of the crowd at that event reflects what racquetball could really be as far interest.
The TOC was the IRT's next to last event of the season. The last Tier 1 stop will be in Fresno, California at the end of this month. It was changed from a Tier 4, which makes the ranking situation really interesting. To date, the games best player is rolling at #2. Kane Waselenchuk, having won the TOC pretty convincingly, is most likely in a much better position to take back the #1 spot Rocky Carson in Fresno. It seemed like the numbers were really close because of the rolling totals. (I'm still a bit hazy...though I get it, I think.)
The difference maker was Daniel De La Rosa. He had what was a serious showing of who he really is in the world of professional racquetball. I've been looking at younger players all season on both tours. And of all the young players that represent really change in the hierarchy, De La Rosa has proven that he is the young player to watch. He has been consistent and exciting, while proving more and more that he can get by the older guards at #2 and #3. Though his number has him at #4 currently, in terms of momentum and positioning, it's a real world of #3. In that, there is a similarity with Kane, where the ranking doesn't reflect the level to which they are actually playing.
De La Rosa, more than any of the other notable young players has made a real move on the rankings. Much like Jose Rojas did two seasons prior. Though Rojas has not been able to maintain his momentum and has actually slid back towards the midddle pack. Rojas made it as far as #3, but just hasn't been able to consistently challenge the old guard as Daniel does now. It's all in the set up, because the real challenges to their hold their spots will come from other talented young players.
As an example at the TOC this past weekend, Coby Iwaasa from Canada, took out Jose Rojas, and gave De La Rosa all he could handle. Gifted players like Iwaasa will tend to provide much of a mental challenge because they have nothing to lose, where as young players on top are increasingly expected to win. That's critical and has made the difference this season on the IRT rankings. I will note, that Coby has been notably absent on the WRT, and culturally, may have done him good. He's fresher, stronger and more confidant, having chosen to target his resources towards a few IRT stops and training in Canada. Note he flew immediately after his match with De La Rosa to play in the Canadian National Doubles Championships, where he won with Veteran Mike Green.
I'm looking at De La Rosa and the confidence that is apparent in his play, in tight moments and with how he performs in those moments. As I do so, I think his connection with Kane through their sponsor facilitates his confidence in what similarities they may have. I wouldn't say he plays like Kane, I would say, that, they both have a clear and relaxed vision of where the ball will most likely be going. De La Rosa is more of a "laid back straight to explosive player"; hence more diving thank Waselenchuk, where Kane's vision is continuously acted upon in his movements.
Right now, he has the best formula among the young guns, outside of just career attrition, to grab the very top rungs.