July 12, 2021
Local Athletes Compete for Racquetball Gold National Team Qualifier and Junior Championships Returns to Des Moines July 14 – 18.
Des Moines, Iowa — If you hear a loud banging near 5th Street and Grand Avenue this week, rest assured. It’s not more downtown construction. Rather, the thunderous booms are being generated by the top racquetball players in the nation contending for gold medals at the Wellmark YMCA.
With over 250 matches scheduled between Wednesday, July 14 and Sunday, July 18, the USA Racquetball Junior Championships and Adult National Team Qualifier tournament brings together athletes from across the nation to compete in one of the fastest games on earth.
Four Iowa athletes are competing for gold in this event where the ball can reach speeds of nearly 200 miles per hour.
Johnston native Andrew “Sluggo” Gleason (17) is ranked within the top 200 racquetball players in the nation. He’s prepared for this event by practicing 15+ hours per week and sending video footage to Racquetball Hall of Fame Coach Jim Winterton for analysis. Gleason will compete in the Boys 18-and-Under Singles and Doubles divisions.
Benjamin “Matchstick” Horner (15) from Ankeny already holds multiple national titles. Also ranked within the top 200 players in the nation, Horner has an even tougher row to hoe than Sluggo. Not only is he competing in the Boys 16-and-Under Singles and Doubles divisions, he’s also “playing up” by competing in the Boys 18-and-Under Singles division.
Blake Hansen (42) from Hudson is competing to earn a spot on the U.S. National Team with doubles partner John Goth, currently ranked 31st in the nation. Known as a “sleeper contender,” Hansen has the advantage of quietly practicing every day in his own private racquetball court on the Hansen Dairy Farm.
Beckett Hansen (9) also has the advantage of practicing on the family court any time he likes. He’s playing in the Boys 10-and-Under Singles Division.
Assuming your cameras are fast enough, call Don McCormick (515-418-1053) to learn more about the event, get some footage, and interview some of these amazing athletes.
California Pro Crushes Iowa Open
Professional racquetball player Mauro Rojas breezed past the competition like the west coast wind at the March 1-3 Iowa Open.
The event, sponsored by Iowa Neurology Research, was held the first weekend of March at the Wellmark YMCA in downtown Des Moines. It featured 107 players from around the midwest batting it out in 22 divisions. The top finishers were awarded either with cash or the iconic Iowa Open wooden engraved trophy.
For the first time in history, the top division was sponsored by the International Racquetball Tour and had a full draw of 16 participants. Notable top 250 players included Mauro "Daniel" Rojas (#29 USA Racquetball ranked player; California), Bradly Rogers (#44; Kansas), Troy Vanbemmelen (#199; Nebraska), Arun Baskaran (#215; Illinois), Josh Paul (#216; Iowa) and Derek Ott (#221). Rojas gave a double-donut in round #1, then defeated Lee Meinerz (Minnesota) in a tough 15-14, 15-8 contest to reach the semis. Joining him were Vanbemmelen, Ott and Rogers. On the bottom half, Rogers defeated Nasaar Zbeeb (Illinois), Carlos Reyes (Bolivia), then Ott 2,4 in the semis to meet Rojas, who defeated Vanbemmelen 6, 5. The finals showcased many fantastic rallies and jaw-dropping shots, but the pro Rojas was too much, sweeping Rogers 15-9, 15-5.
The Iowa Racquetball Association would like to thank everyone for coming to Des Moines and supporting the Iowa Open. We look forward to seeing everyone in 2020.
Brad Hansen Dominant in QC Open
Through the four-year history of the Marigold Resources Quad City Open, there had not yet been a two-time champion. Until 2018. Enter Brad Hansen.
This was the fourth time Brad Hansen has been to the Quad Cities competing in the Marigold Resources Quad City Open. In the inaugural year (2014), Hansen lost to Racquetball Hall of Famer Jimmy Lowe (Hawaii) in an epic final 11-13, 7-11, 11-4, 11-4 & 13-15. In 2015 it was Tanner Gross (Minnesota) sweeping Carlos Reyes (Bolivia) 11-4, 11-1 & 11-9 in the finals. Hansen did not play that year. Then in 2016 Hansen took his first championship, defeating Bradley Rogers (Kansas) 11-7, 11-2, 8-11, 11-6. In 2017 it was John Goth (Minnesota) taking the largest draw of 17-players by defeating Hansen 11-6, 11-7, 8-11, 11-0 in the finals.
In 2018 it was the year Hansen became the first to ever become two-time champion of the Marigold Resources Quad City Open. The total participant draw was 48, comprised of players from seven states. Jim Sidney flew from Atlanta for this event.
The International Racquetball Tour Pro division featured nine players vying for their share of the $2,000 prize purse. In the semi finals, it was Thomas Carter (Pennsylvania) easily defeating Josh Paul (Iowa) 15-2, 15-4. In the bottom half, it was Brad Hansen defeating brother Blake Hansen 15-7, 15-2. Carter came into the event with a 42 world-wide racquetball ranking while Hansen came in at #40 in the world. The young 22-year old Carter showcased flashy shots and hard hitting smashes, but couldn't keep up with the experienced Hansen, nearly twice Carter's age. Hansen took the match in two – 15-11, 15-10.
In other division, Carlos Reyes defeated Ben Schlichting in the finals of the Pro consolation. Terry Kisling took first in two tough divisions: Elites and 45+. Two players from the Burlington area took gold: John Hackenmiller in the 55+ and Chad Zeleny in the As. Local Andrew Kinning took the Bs for his first championship. In open doubles, it was Hansen/Hansen defeating Reyes/Schlichting in the finals. In the A doubles, it was Jason Hugi / Jeff O'Hern while Phil Hart / Paul won the 100+.
2018 Junior Scholarships Available
The Iowa Racquetball Association unanimously voted to retain the three junior scholarship options for the 2018 year. These options are the Beginner, Personal and Challenge.
The Beginner scholarship allows any new junior to obtain a free starter racquetball kit (racquet, eye guards & racquetballs). Additionally, juniors are able to take a free introductory lesson with several coaches around the State: Don McCormick (Des Moines), Justin Reichter (Burlington) and Josh Paul (Quad Cities). Again, there is no charge for this but the "Beginner Scholarship" must be completed and sent to the IRA.
The Personal scholarship allows any junior player to obtain rebate for taking lessons with any USAR-certified instructor. Don McCormick is the only certified instructor in Iowa, however, juniors can also capitalize on this rebate through other coaches such as Fran Davis or Steve Strandemo. The rebate is up to $50/month for instructor lessons.
The Challenge scholarship provides a unique opportunity for juniors looking to increase their level of play to the next tier. This is an opportunity to obtain one-to-one coaching with renown Coach Jim Winterton. This is a six-month commitment and the IRA agrees to pay for 2/3 of the cost ($100/month) for this opportunity, so long as the junior fullfills the minimum requirements. Application deadline for the Challenge scholarship is January 15.
These scholarship options can be found on the homepage of the IRA's website.
Goth Dominates the Field at Marigold Resources Quad City Open
The Eldridge Rec & Fitness Center played host to the 4th annual Marigold Resources Quad City Open November 3-5. A record high 61 players from nine states met in Eldridge for the weekend event. One player, Kim Keltner, traveled seven hours to participate in several amateur divisions.
The Pro division featured not only Iowa's top players, but the best players from around the Midwest. It was the largest division in the field, with 18 players vying for the 1st place $1,200 check. Minnesota's John Goth was the recipient of that prize - making things look easy and nearly sweeping the field. Goth dropped just one of his 12 games. He outscored his opponents 140-47 during the four matches. Brad Hansen, proclaimed by many as Iowa's top player, was able to take one game off Goth in the finals, but Goth won the championship match 11-6, 11-7, 8-11, 11-0. Hansen earned $600 for second place. Brad Rogers (Lenexa, KS) and (Albia, IA) Brian Crosser were semi-finalists.
Hansen Takes Top Prize
Brad Hansen has been showing his dominance for years over competition in Des Moines. Last weekend, he did more of the same in Eastern Iowa.
The International Racquetball Tour Tier V event - the Marigold Resources Quad City Open - took place October 22-23 in Eldridge, Iowa. The event featured 43 players from around the Midwest. 13 players entered the IRT-Pro Division, which thanks to event sponsors yielded a $1,000 1st place payout with $500 going to runner-up.
Hansen defeated Adam Mills, Eugene Coyle, brother Blake Hansen and eventually played Brad Rogers in the final. Rogers, ranked #23 in the world, had one of the furthest drives, coming from Lenexa 5.5 hours away. Rogers defeated last year's runner-up, Carlos Reyes, in the second round. He then defeated Brad McCunniff in four games to earn a spot in the finals. Hansen shot off to a quick start, taking the first two games 11-3 and 11-2. In the final, Rogers had an 8-0 lead, but the scrappy Hansen clawed his way back and swept Rogers with a 12-10 final game victory.
In the doubles division, Rogers and partner Art Spelts took first place, defeating runners-up Hansen and McCunniff. Josh Paul took 1st place in the Pro Consolation draw.
Players again gathered Saturday evening at the 350 Grille for the Player Party and lunches both days were catered by Chris Teel's Bones BBQ. Many thanks to the sponsors of the event: Marigold Resources, Ruhl & Ruhl, Iowa Racquetball Association, Schroeder & Sons Contractors, Bill's Heating and Air Conditioning, General Asphalt, Rollout Racquet Stringing and Dennis Healy.
Gleason is Iowa State Junior Champ
Hard work pays off. Just ask 12-year old Andrew Gleason.
Gleason (Urbandale, Iowa) recently took first place in the Iowa State Junior Championships, sweating his way through the 12-player Olympic style format without dropping a game. Gleason defeated 15-year old Carter Harbeck (Urbandale) in the final 15-11, 15-4.
Gleason finds himself in a racquetball court 5-6 times per week, with three of those days being dedicated to practice. That training played key in his recent success at the Iowa State Junior Championships. Along with the junior division matches, Gleason also played A doubles and finished 1st place in consolation with partner Kirk Hunsicker, for a total of 13 games in the one-day shootout.
After the final, Gleason was asked what he was thinking when he scored match point in against Harbeck. "It's finally done," he said, "I'm going to go home and take a shower. I am gassed!"
Gleason began playing racquetball in 2011 after the sport caught his interest when he saw several players hitting at a local club. What started out as a hobby quickly transformed into a passion. He has played 15 tournaments this year, recently taking 1st place of 28 entrants in the Pinchshot.com St. Louis Open in the "C" division. He also participated in the 2015 USA Racquetball National Junior Olympic Championships in Stockton, where he was a tri-medal winner (14- White silver, 12- Doubles silver, 12- Blue bronze).
Two years ago, Gleason began training with Coach Jim Winterton, and he credits Winterton with much of his success. "Coach Winterton has been helping teach me things and I've finally grasped ahold of them. I'm learning more about the sport and working on my game every day," Gleason said, "I told Coach I wanted to take my game to the next level."
Every tournament experience motivates Gleason to strive for excellence. With a smile, he relays a few words of wisdom: "Work hard. It'll get you where you need to be, and this is not a bumper sticker."
Youth Over Experience at QC Open
The second annual Marigold Resources Quad City Open took place in Eldridge October 24-25, and it was a couple of young up-and-coming stars that battled for the first place prize..
The event was an International Racquetball Tour Tier IV event, with a combined $3,200 dished out as cash payouts. The hefty prize purse attracted 17 players into the IRT Pro/Open division from eight different states. The semi finals matched 19-year old Carlos Reyes (Wisconsin) versus Lee Meinerz (Minnesota) and Eugene Coyle (Illinois) against 21-year old Tanner Gross (Minnesota). Reyes, who recently competed in Stockton, CA, at the National Junior Olympic Championships, entered the QC Open as the #9 seed. After defeating Matt Reeser (Illinois) in the second round, his strong run continued as he knocked off #1 seeded John Starks (Missouri) in four games in the quarterfinals. He continued his hot play against Meinerz, beating him in four after recovering from a game 1 0-11 loss. In the bottom half of the bracket, Gross defeated Sam Gomez (Illinois) in the second round, then edged out a win against #2 seeded Travis Mettenbrink (Nebraska) in five games to meet Coyle. Coyle took the first two against Gross, however, Gross was determined not to give up and fought back to win the next three, taking the match in five games. Gross, a former top 15 ranked player in the world, is making a return to competitive racquetball after taking time off from the sport due to a death in the family.
Gross and Reyes met for the first time ever in the finals. They have a combined age of just 40. Gross was too much to
handle, as he took the championship in straight sets 11-4, 11-1, 11-9 and collected $1,200 for first place. Reyes earned
$600 for his work. Gross and Meinerz also defeated Starks and Art Spelts (Kansas) in Open doubles.
Ben Schlichting (Davenport, Iowa) took first place in both AA (Pro dropdown division) and A singles for a total payout of
$300. Schlichting had to beat Reyes in the semifinals of the A then Adam Mills (Illinois) in the finals. He took out
Starks in the finals of the AA.
The weekend event drew 49 players from as far as Utah, packing all six courts at the Eldridge Rec & Fitness Center.
Players got to unwind Saturday evening at 350 Grille, a family friendly bar and grille. Bones BBQ hosted lunch both days.
The tournament was directed by IRA treasurer Josh Paul.
Team Iowa Dominates at Junior Nationals
On June 24-28, Team Iowa sent six representatives to the USA Racquetball National Junior Olympic Championships. While these juniors brought back lots of hardware, the greatest gifts they came away with were newfound friendships and lasting memories.
Team Iowa was represented by: David Breese (15 years old, West Des Moines), Carter Harbeck (15, Urbandale), Lucas Shoemaker (14, Eldridge), Rei McCormick (13, Urbandale), Andrew Gleason (11, Urbandale) and Benjamin Horner (10, Ankeny).
This year’s event was held in Stockton, CA, a 24+ hour drive from the Midwest. To help offset this expensive trip, the Iowa Racquetball Association assisted with a fundraising campaign. Over $7,000 was collected, including an ultra generous $2,500 from Iowa Neurology Research which pushed the total beyond the initial $6,000 goal.
The Junior Olympics featured 206 participants from 27 states – the most players since 2008. Team Iowa finished the week with 14 total medals, two gold, five silver and seven bronze. Each player participated in three events, and every Iowan earned at least two medals. McCormick doubled with Roland Siverling (Sioux Falls) in the 12- Mixed Doubles, taking first place overall in that division. Benjamin Horner earned the other gold for his first place finish in the 10- Blue bracket. McCormick also fell in the semi-finals of the 12- Gold division to eventual champion Heather Mahoney (Penngrove, CA) 15-14, 14-15, 10-11. She still took bronze in that 10 player division. Some other successes include Harbeck taking bronze in the 18-player 14- Red singles division and Shoemaker winning silver in the 16- White singles (13 players).
Every member of Team Iowa expressed their thanks to each of the generous donors, as the majority of these athletes would not have made the trip had it not been for the unselfishness of others. Another common response was that members of Team Iowa had an unforgettable experience because of the friendships formed with players from across the United States. Their interviews can be found on the IRA’s Youtube page at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCohmW8eU9o7ehjQmg69crmw.
Survey Results are In!
Several months ago, the Iowa Racquetball Association sent an email blast looking for your voice to be heard on how to improve future IRA events. Survey Monkey returned with 66 player responses. Here are the survey results:
#1) Are you a current member of USA Racquetball/IRA?
Yes - 46 (70%)
No - 17 (26%)
Not sure - 3 (4%)
#2) Where do you play racquetball?
Iowa - 50 (78%)
Other - 14 (22%)
#3) What city is your home court?
Carroll (1), Cedar Falls area (4), Cedar Rapids area (4), Chicago area (2), Des Moines city (18), Des Moines suburb (13), Humbolt (1), Japan (1), Mason City (1), Minnesota (2), Newton (1), Overland Park (2), Peoria (1), Peosta (1), Quad Cities (8), Sioux Center (1), Sioux Falls (2), St. Louis (2)
#4) What has been your favorite IRA event?
Iowa Open - 22 (33%)
QC Open - 14 (21%)
Wrecking Ball - 7 (11%)
Winterton Camps - 5 (8%)
Haven't participated yet - 18 )27%)
#5) Would you be interested in participating in a one-day shootout?
Yes, very interested - 33 (55%)
Yes, somewhat interested - 16 (27%)
Not sure - 8 (13%)
No, not very interested - 2 (3%)
No, not interested at all - 1 (2%)
#6) Which would you prefer as division prize?
Cash - 37 (62%)
Trophy - 9 (15%)
Medal - 7 (12%)
Plaque - 7 (12%)
#7) If the Fall Classic (Oakmoor), Spring Invitational (Oakmoor) and Iowa Games (Lied Recreation Center) were sanctioned by USA Racquetball/IRA:
I would definitely play - 18 (27%)
I would be more likely to play - 12 (18%)
This would not affect my decision to play - 35 (53%)
I would be less likely to play - 1 (1%)
#8) Which do you prefer as referee system?
Winner refs - 15 (23%)
Loser refs - 13 (20%)
Self ref - 10 (15%)
$5 ref fee - 28 (42%)
Is it important to get a tournament t-shirt?
No, I'd rather have lower entry fees - 24 (36%)
Yes, give me a shirt! - 23 (35%)
No preference - 19 (29%)
Rockwell Collins Rolls to Successful Event
On February 21, 2015, the Rockwell Collins Recreation Center (Cedar Rapids) kicked off an event that'd been extinct since 2012.
Thirty-nine players participated in the Rockwell Collins Rollout one-day racquetball shootout event. The event was co-directed by tournament junkie Joe Glogovsky and local player John Sackfield. In lieu of trophys and medals that often double as dust collectors, the RCRC Rollout dished out cash to the top finishers of every division.
In the Open/AA Division, Russ Powers (Dexter, IA) took the $200 first place prize, outlasting Jason Hugi (Mason City, IA) 3-2 in the best-of-five match. Powers defeated John Sackfielf and Josh Paul (Bettendorf, IA) to reach the finals while Hugi took down Brandon Shanahan (Cedar Rapids) and Brian White (Des Moines). Hugi earned $100 for his second place finish. Rick Berg (Moline, IL) earned $50 for his 1st place Consolation victory in the Open/AA.
Other winners included: Hugi/White (AA doubles), Jonathan Karli (A singles), Jeremiah Wolf (B singles), Michael Becker (C singles), Jim Sampica & Burton Sumcad (B/C doubles) and Randy Puebla (55+ singles).
Juniors Collect 10 Medals at Nationals
Story by Josh Paul
On June 25-29, 2014, seven Iowa junior racquetball players and supporting parents traveled to Denver, Colorado, to compete in the 41st annual Wilson Junior Olympic Racquetball Championships.
"Team Iowa" consisted of 16-year old Eric Loiselle (Waukee), 14 year-old Carter Harbeck (Urbandale), 14 year-old David Breese (West Des Moines), 13-year old David Bergren (Polk City), 12 year-old Rei McCormick (Urbandale), 10 year-old Andrew Gleason (Urbandale) and 8 year-old Benjamin Horner (Ankeny).
Overall, the seven juniors combined to finish with a Team Iowa record of 26-30 and took home 10 medals, with two competitors being named National Champions. However, for many of these kids, it wasn't the win-loss column that brought them to Denver. "Being with Team Iowa was the highlight of the trip because they're all my friends," said Harbeck, "I play racquetball to have fun and keep me in shape, and this was a really fun experience." Harbeck won a silver medal in the 16- White division.
One of the highlights for Team Iowa was the success of Benjamin Horner. Horner was one of five Iowa juniors to participate in a 10 month Jim Winterton coaching clinic. Benjamin finished with a Junior Olympics record of 8-2 and took the overall gold in the 8- and 8- Multibounce divisions. He also earned a silver in the 10-and-Under Red. Benjamin said Coach Winterton helped him to improve his backhand and footwork and was also coaching him from the observation deck during his gold medal victory in the finals of the 8-. Horner began playing racquetball when he was three and was introduced to the sport by his father, Dan.
In addition to Coach Winterton assisting Iowa juniors, many of them also thanked Don McCormick (father of Rei) for his countless volunteer hours working to improve their game.
Loiselle (16) was the oldest player from Team Iowa to make the Junior Olympics trip. "The competition was very very hard. I haven't been playing for 10 years like some other players, it was really tough," said Loiselle. He says one of the highlights of the trip was playing top ranked juniors Justice Benson and Jordan Barth in doubles. "Jordan and Justice were incredible. It was just nice to have the experience to play them." Loiselle has only been playing racquetball for a few years.
Bergren was crowned National Champion in the 12- White division and also earned third place in the 12- Doubles. He also credits Coach Winterton with some of his success, saying that Winterton helped improve his racquet grip and taught him how to figure out where the ball is going to go. "It was a lot of fun," Bergren said about the event, "I had a great time meeting new people." He also added that what he learned from the event was, "I shouldn't take it so seriously." Great advice from a 13-year old that every racquetball player should remember.
In 2013, Oakmoor Racquetball-Health Center (Des Moines) was the site for the Wilson Junior Olympics. Most players said they enjoyed their experience this year more because, as Horner said, "It was like a vacation." Last year, McCormick was the overall gold medal winner of the Girls' 10-. This year she added a silver medal to her trophy case in the 12/14 doubles division. When asked to compare the events, McCormick said, "Everyone is amazing. There are so many people who won their division or who moved up in their division because they were able to improve over the year."
McCormick said the highlight of the trip was meeting so many great people. "They're all so nice and have amazing sportsmanship. It was such an amazing experience and I would do it all over again." McCormick also qualified as one of 12 members on the United States Junior National Esprit Racquetball Team.
Other medal winners include Breese and Gleason. Breese took bronze in the 14- Red while Gleason took bronze in the 10- Doubles. He also lost in the 10- singles to eventual champion Krish Thakur.
Thanks to donations from dozens of businesses and individuals, the Iowa Racquetball Association collected over $2,000 which was dispersed to all seven junior players at the national event. Each player was awarded with a Team Iowa warm-up outfit and also enjoyed a child/parent Team Iowa dinner together on one of the evenings. Donations also assisted by paying for several of the players' costly entries into the event.
Next year's Wilson Junior Olympic Racquetball Championships will be held in Stockton, California. Junior players are planning to begin raising funds for this expensive trip at the Quad City Open, September 26-28 in Eldridge.
Check out video interviews with the players by clicking HERE.
Crosser and Paul Successful at National Singles
The Meridian Sports Club in Fullerton, California, hosted the Ektelon National Singles Championships May 21-25. Iowa had two
representatives playing in the event, and both came home with hardware.
Former Iowa Racquetball Association President Bryan Crosser attended the event and played in the 25+ and teamed with LPRT
professional Janel Tisingter in Mixed Doubles Open divisions while Josh Paul participated in the B, 25+B and Heros divisions.
Crosser and Tisinger had success in their Mixed Open division, finishing 2-1 with their only loss coming to John Ellis and Aimee Ruiz, for
a silver medal. They lost their final match again Ellis/Ruiz 15-13, 15-10.
Paul captured a gold medal in the 30+B division, defeating all four of his opponents. He lost in the second round of the B to the eventual
champion Nick Richardson. He also lost in the Heros division to eventual gold medalist Troy Vanbemmelen. Paul attended the event as
the winner of the John LoMonaco Memorial Grant.
The week for the Iowans was highlighted by Bryan Crosser earning the President's Award at the Hall of Fame banquet. Crosser was included among six other natinal award winners (Jose Rojas, Rhonda Rajsich, Jimmy Lowe, Debra Tisinger-Moore, Robert Van Schalkwyk, and Cheryl Gudinas), as well as three hall of fame inductees (Jimmy Lowe, Brian Hawkes and Mike Zeitman). Crosser accepted the award much in part to his influence on junior racquetball in Iowa over the last three years. At Oakmoor's latest event in the spring, over 40 juniors participated in the event, while the tournament as a whole drew 230 players from around the midwest.
Bryan Crosser Earns USRA President's Award
The United States Racquetball Association recently selected Bryan Crosser as the recipient of the 2014 President's Award.
The following presss release was issued.
Presidential Award - Bryan Crosser (Iowa Racquetball Association)Bryan has served as the President of the Iowa Racquetball Association
since 2012. He has reinvigorated the Association by recruiting a team of volunteers, rebuilidng the Board, and creating a functioning
organization where none had existed. Bryan and his team successfully hosted the 2013 National Junior Olympic Championships, and raised
$2,000 for the U.S. Junior National Team. Junior racquetball is growing quickly in the state and, with the help of scholarships from the
Association, a number of young Iowans are expected to travel to Denver for this year's Junior Olympics.
Crosser was nominated for the award by Iowa Racquetball Association Secretary Don McCormick. "Thank you, Don, for nominating me for
this award," Crosser said, "However, I feel this award is on behalf of the Iowa racquetball Association and all of your genius work together!"
Crosser will be presented with his award during a special banquet at Ektelon National Singles in Fullerton, California, May 21-25. Continue reading to see McCormick's nomination to the USRA board for Crosser's consideration for the President's Award.
Dear Selection Committee,
I hereby nominate Bryan Crosser, president of the Iowa Racquetball Association from 2012 to 2014.
It is no secret that our state racquetball association had languished for far too long. In 2012, we had not held a single event in eight years. And yet, something was happening to the sport. With only two non-sanctioned tournaments each year, it was hard to spot. But Bryan Crosser noticed. For some reason, more juniors were playing racquetball than ever before.
The time was ripe for resurrecting the Iowa Racquetball Association (IRA).
Among Bryan’s greatest strengths are his strong connections to people in the racquetball world, both in Iowa and on the national level. Another strength is his enthusiasm for the sport; there seems to be no limit to his passion and he shares it with others. Finally, Bryan is known for thinking big.
So what did he do? Bryan talked to juniors’ coaches and other advocates. He planted the seed that the IRA could be – must be – revived. And he set his sights on nothing less than hosting the 2013 USAR Junior Olympics in Des Moines. Everyone laughed at the idea that USA Racquetball might somehow take a chance on bringing a national event to a state whose association had been inactive for so long – everyone except Bryan, that is. But he had shared his vision in such a way, you wanted to be part of it, win or lose.
To make a long story short, we won.
Thanks to Bryan’s leadership in the last two years, the IRA has done so much more than host the 2013 junior nationals. Here are just a few of the board’s accomplishments during Bryan’s term as president.
Increased USAR memberships from only a few dozen to more 100 ranked players
Raised over $13,000 from more than 150 individual and corporate donorsProvided $5,000 in scholarships to Iowa juniors to study with Jim Winterton for 10 months
Donated $2,000 to the 2013 USA Junior National Team
Held five sanctioned events, including two camps with Jim Winterton
Held more than 350 hours of coaching by USAR certified instructors
Increased the number of junior players by approximately 25 percent
Established scholarships for all Iowa juniors who will participate in the 2014 junior nationals.
Launched a regularly updated website and produced more than 30 newsletters and alerts
I think Bryan would find it suitable to end this nomination with a list of the organization’s accomplishments. Bryan – a humble man – would be the first to tell you that he could not have resurrected the IRA all by himself. It takes a team. Bryan’s vision and leadership, however, cannot be underestimated. The IRA is now more than just a team. It is a solid and sustainable organization. Keep watching. The IRA is back and it’s here to stay!
Josh Paul is Recipient of John LoMonaco Grant
On March 31, the United States Racquetball Association announced Josh Paul was the recipient of the 2014 John LoMonaco
Memorial Grant -- providing Paul with an all expenses paid trip to Ektelon National Singles in Fullerton, California, May 21-25.
Paul is the treasurer of the Iowa Racquetball Association.
The USRA issued the following release.
Colorado Springs, CO - USA Racquetball today announced the recipient of the 2014 John LoMonaco Grant. Josh Paul of Bettendorf, IA has been selected
from among a record 29 applicants to receive the all-expense paid trip to compete in the 2014 U.S. National Singles Championships in Fullerton, CA.
As an active-duty police officer, Josh also qualifies to compete in the Heroes Divisions.
Not many players can say that the greatest accomplishment of their racquetball career is helping save a life. Josh Paul can say he has helped save two!
Josh is a police officer and trained first responder. In October 2013 at the US OPEN he was on the scene when Rick Schacht suffered a heart attack while
competing. Josh was the first to perform CPR on Rick and along with a team of good semaritans and trained professionals helped save Rick's life that day
beyond all odds.
In a way, Josh has helped save his own life through racquetball. After beginning work in the sedentary occupation of law enforcement, Josh saw his weight
balloon to 240 pounds. After returning to racquetball, a sport he picked up in college, he now sweats away calories five days a week playing racquetball at
three different clubs. He's back in shape and has shed 40 pounds.
Josh also makes significant contributions to the sport at the local level. He promotes leagues, assists in directing two annual tournaments, maintains local and state racquetball websites and volunteers as Treasurer of the Iowa Racquetball Association. Having contributed so much to racquetball by the young age of 32, the sky is the limit for his future in the sport.
Josh has long dreamt of participating in the USA Racquetball National Singles Championships. Thanks to the John LoMonaco Memorial Grant, he'll live that dream this year. Josh will be documenting his experience with images and stories to share with the USA Racquetball family.
About the John LoMonaco Memorial Grant
John LoMonaco passed away suddenly in May of 2009 at the age of 57. John played several times per week and had many wins to his credit, including a 55-A championship at the 2007 U.S. National Singles Championships. In memory of John, an anonymous friend established and funds the grant in his name that provides for an all expenses paid trip to a deserving candidate to the U.S. National Singles Championships.
If you are interested in applying for the Grant in 2015, be on the lookout for the application process early next year. You could be the next player to honor John LoMonaco at National Singles
Iowa Open a Huge Success
Story by Josh Paul
The 2014 Iowa Open showed the huge strides the Iowa Racquetball Association has made over the last 1.5 years.
On February 7-8, the Oakmoor Racquetball Health Center in Des Moines was center stage for Iowa's annual state tournament (and USRA regional qualifier). The event, titled the Iowa Open, is "open" for all residents of any state, not just Iowans. The event drew a huge crowd as players slammed racquetballs late into the evening both Friday and Saturday night.
The IRA was reincarnated in late 2012, with it's primary goal of increasing racquetball participation in Iowa. First on its agenda was bringing back a state tournament. They did so in February 2013, with the Oakmoor Racquetball Health Center hosting the 1st annual Iowa Open. The event was a success, with 86 players. In 2014, the IRA board hoped for 100 players for the Iowa Open. They were pleasantly surprised with an enrollment of 111 players -- an increase of 25 players over the span of one year.
The incrase in participation goes to show that the IRA is helping to make a positive influence on racquetball participation in Iowa. In addition to hosting the two Iowa Open events, the IRA has also organized the Wrecking Ball (November 2013) doubles tournament, hosted legendary Coach Jim Winterton twice for camps and assisted the United States Racquetball Association in having Des Moines (Oakmoor) host the 40th Junior National Olympics.
In the 2014 Iowa Open Finals, Ryan Davis (Johnston, IA) defeated Jeff Zomer (Orange City, IA) 6-15, 15-6, 11-6. The tandem of Bryan Crosser and Sampson Schnurman won the Open Doubles while Christina Powers took home 1st place in Women's Open Singles.
Left to right: IRA President Bryan Crosser, Rei McCormick, Andrew Gleason, David Bergren, David Breese, Benjamin Horner, and IRA Vice President Denny Baysinger.
Cedar Rapids' Rumble Draws Record Participation
Story by Josh Paul
The sound of racquetballs echoed through the halls of the downtown Cedar Rapids YMCA on January 11 as participants burned off leftover Holiday calories.
The Rumble in the Box -- Iowa's first racquetball event of the New Year -- took place on January 11th. A record 52 players participated in the one day shootout. The event included a dozen divisions, anywhere from Juniors to Mixed Doubles to Open Singles.
The event was sponsored by Eastern Iowa Stringing and was directed by husband and wife duo Johnny & Lori Reimers. Brad Hansen once again took first overall in the Open Division, while Brad McCunniff took second.
The 52 players topped the previous record of 45, set in 2012. The event started at 8:00 a.m. with the latest match concluding around 9 p.m. Cash payouts were awarded to Open and Age Singles divisions while other divisional 1st, 2nd and 3rd places were provided with medals for their achievements.
Iowa's next event is the Iowa Open, February 7-8 at Des Moines' Oakmoor Racquet & Fitness Center. Registration can be found on the IRA "EVENTS" page.
Legendary Coach Teams with Iowa Juniors
Story by Don McCormick
Community support for racquetball in Iowa has never been stronger than it is right now. Thanks to donations by local businesses, private advocates and civic organizations, the Iowa Racquetball Association (IRA) is providing $5,000 in scholarships to five junior athletes to study with former USA Head Coach Jim Winterton for 10 months.
Ranging in ages from 9 to 14, these highly motivated juniors regularly send videos to Coach Winterton, who then sends them back as telestrated clips with commentary on mechanics, strategy and everything in between. Winterton, who is also a Racquetball Hall of Fame Inductee, plans to visit Iowa twice during this program for face-to-face camps. “This is a marathon, not a sprint,” Coach said. “We want the athletes to peak in June, just as Junior Nationals in Denver rolls around. As with all my students, I’m very excited to see these athletes develop over the long haul!”
In between the distance learning and the camps, Winterton Nation Assistant Coach and Iowa Native Bryan Crosser is working with the scholarship recipients on a monthly basis at Oakmoor Racquet and Health Center, Des Moines’ premier racquetball venue. With 7 National Doubles, 1 US Open Singles, and 2 US Open Doubles titles under his belt, Crosser is excited about the renewed interest in the sport in Iowa, especially among juniors. “We regularly have more than 20 juniors participate in our Oakmoor and IRA tournaments,” Crosser said. “Those working with Coach Winterton will go further, but the commitment and passion Iowa juniors have for racquetball is truly inspiring! This is what the future of our sport should look like!”
When they’re not working with Winterton or Crosser, the five scholars, along with eight unfunded players, are working with IRA Board Members Don McCormick and Denny Baysinger at weekly clinics. “Oakmoor and the Waukee YMCA have been very gracious to provide us with the space necessary to train such a large group of juniors,” McCormick said. “This is exactly what we need to build up the next generation of racquetball players and grow our sport in Iowa and the surrounding states.”
Iowans Successful at Junior Olympics
Story by Josh Paul
Iowa hosted its first ever national tournament June 26-30, held at the Oakmoor Racquet &
Fitness Center. Many local Iowa juniors had successful runs at the event.
The 40th annual Wilson Junior Olympics attracted 144 participants, two more than last year’s
event held in Fullerton, California. Iowa led all states in junior entrants with 23, followed by
California and Texas, each with 21.
Iowa’s biggest splat came at the Ektelon racquet of Rei McCormick (Urbandale, IA). Rei’s
father, Don, is an active junior’s coach at both Oakmoor and the Waukee YMCA. Rei was
entered in the girl’s singles 10-and-under and 12-and-under. In the 12-and-under division Rei
was seeded #5 and won her first round match against Megan Carver (Spokane, WA) 15-2,
15-13. She then faced top seeded and 2012 12-and-under national champion Kaitlyn Boyle
(Beaverton, OR). Kaitlyn was the eventual champion and took Rei 15-1, 15-5.
In the 10-and-under division, Rei found herself involved in round robin play. The 8-and-under division was added in for a total of six participants. Rei started off strong with a decisive win over Raina Hartman (Hamel, MN). She then lost a tough three-setter to the 8-and-under champion Heather Mahoney (Penngrove, CA). 10-15, 15-8, 11-10. Rei won her next two matches against Stella Pearson (Robbinsdale, MN) and Blaire Odom (Bealeton, VA) by a combined score 60-5.
Rei’s final match was against top seeded Julia Stein (Murrysville, PA). Neither Rei or Julia had lost either of their matches against the 10-and-under entrants, meaning this match would decide the national champion for the 10-and-under. Rei took game one 15-10. Julia battled back in the second to force a final third game with a 15-11 victory. In the championship game, Rei’s backhand was too powerful as she took the game and championship 11-6.
Lucas Shoemaker (Bettendorf, IA) represented our state in the 12-and-under boy’s division. There were 15 entered and Lucas found himself against Cayden Atkins (Keller, TX) in the first round. Lucas won 15-13, 15-3 to face top seed and 2012 national champion Sebastian Fernandez (San Diego, CA). Fernandez is 29-3 in sanctioned age singles matches since 2011. Fernandez won 15-7, 15-13 and rolled through the rest of the competition to back-to-back championships. Lucas scored 20 points on Fernandez while the rest of his opponents combined to score just eight.
The loss droped Lucas to the Blue division. He beat Mitchell Turner (Salem, OR) 15-9, 15-7 to move to the gold medal game against Cameron Pavloski (Kingwood, TX). Lucas took game one 15-7, but dropped the second 9-15, forcing a final game to 11 points. Lucas won a close contest 11-9 to capture gold for Team Iowa.
Other Iowans who received a medal include: Daxon Phippen (gold, 12-and-under white), Kobe Burns (gold, 14-and- under white), Ben Dixon (silver, 14-and-under white), Benjamin Horner (silver, 8-and-under red), David Bergren (silver, 12-and-under white) and Hannah Schnurman (bronze, 18-and-under).
Overall, the junior committee said they were very impressed with how the Iowa Racquetball Association assisted in making the event a huge success. The IRA obtained an overwhelming supply of monetary and food donations by players all over the country. At the conclusion of the event, the IRA made a $3,000 donation to the US National Junior Team which will help in their expenses for an upcoming Junior World’s event in Bolivia. $2,000 of this was from overages from donations received for the event and $1,000 was provided by the Iowa Racquetball Association.