Pacific students wins national title in racquetball
When you think of Stockton, California, “racquetball stronghold” is probably not one of the first things that comes to mind.
You might be surprised, then, to find out our city is just that! In fact, one of the world’s best racquetball players attends this very University, and that man is Jose Diaz ‘17.
Diaz is a sports medicine major and also part of the Community Involvement Program here at Pacific.
Earlier this month, he and his doubles partner Jake Bredenbeck competed in and won the USA Racquetball National Doubles Championship in Tempe, Arizona.
The win added another medal to a career that has already seen him garner a tremendous amount of success at only 22 years old.
Diaz became involved in racquetball at the age of six, when his father started going to the gym and playing racquetball with friends as a way to stay in shape.
As Diaz described, he soon found out that Stockton has what is widely regarded as one of the best junior racquetball programs in the nation, if not the world.
It wasn’t long before he was competing in and winning tournaments. In fact, he competed in his first Junior World Championships just six months after he first started playing.
“Every six months we would go to Nationals [Championships], then six months later we would go to Worlds [Championships], and it just became a routine. Next thing I knew, I was playing at the professional level.”
On an individual level, Diaz most recently won gold in the men’s singles tournament at the 2015 Pan American Racquetball Championships.
He has also previously been named Junior Player of the Year and won a silver medal at the 2011 U.S. National Singles Championships. He is currently ranked No. 16 in the International Racquetball Tour, which is the world’s premier professional circuit for racquetball.
Diaz has played with his partner Jake Bredenbeck, a Minnesota native and a champion in his own right, for about two years now.
After they made it to the finals of the U.S. Open last October, the two decided to try to qualify for the U.S. National Team at the National Doubles Championship, which took place from Feb. 10-14.
Coming into the tournament as the No. 3 seed, Diaz and his partner took down the No. 1 seeded pairing of Rocky Carson and Jansen Allen in the finals, who are ranked No. 2 and No. 6 in the world, respectively.
Diaz says he and Bredenbeck were driven in part by an online poll regarding who would win during the week leading up to the tournament.
“They ended up giving us a 9 percent chance to win the tournament. It was kinda motivating in itself, watching the poll,” he said.
With the victory, Diaz and Bredenbeck will now represent the U.S. at the International Racquetball Federation World Championships, which will take place in Cali, Colombia in July.
In regards to his professional future, Diaz plans to feel out his course as he goes along.
“After I graduate, I’ll decide whether I want to apply for [physical therapy] school, or take a little time off and maybe test the waters on tour.
“It just depends on where I’m at in my life financially. And if my body is healthy, then yes, I would like to play [racquetball] full time. Nothing is set in stone, though.”
In the meantime, one of Diaz’s goals is to help develop programs to get the youth in Stockton involved in racquetball. Diaz, who has earned an endorsement from Head sports equipment, understands that purchasing the equipment to play the sport can be costly, especially for those who come from low-income areas as he did when he first picked up the racquet.
In an effort to grow the sport and give young people opportunities to play it, he is associated with the Reaching Your Dream Foundation.
According to the organization’s website, the RYDF “was established to grow the sport of racquetball through the infusion of new, younger men, women and junior players coming from multiple countries who have faced economic challenges to reach their dream of having a career in athletics and specifically racquetball.”
Diaz will next compete in the USA Intercollegiate Championships at Arizona State University in March.
It is clear that the University of Pacific is home to a wide range of talented individuals; it is also clear that Jose Diaz ‘17 is high up on that list.
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