Photo by Holly Koffler
The handball world championships may have many singles champions, but only a few has managed to slam at the open level.
It's not easy to carry on the success at the worlds championships into the USHA national championships as handball fans are about to find out.
Two of the five players who slammed at the worlds never even captured a USHA title. Could it be that the USHA nationals (1- or 4-wall) offer a tougher competition than the worlds? Or was their winning at the worlds a fluke? - You be the Judge!
Tyree’s winning record since he became a world handball champion in 2012 has earned him many accolades and invitations to play outside the American continent on several occasions, while his fantastic run at the USHA 1-wall nationals after winning the worlds, earned him “USHA Grand National Champion” status three years in a row. He's also won the top distinction as the “Best Player of the Year” on three consecutive occasions.
Throughout his three year reign as King of the handball world he lived up to his title again and again – and today, he stands as the only player in the world to have ruled the USHA national competition three years in a row after winning the world crown in style "slamming". Can another player come along and do better than T. Bastidas?
Absolutely. Players are always evolving and getting better than ever. We wouldn't be surprise if another player comes along and raise the bar higher than Bastidas had.
The following former world champions are not in any particular order.
Tyree Bastidas' USHA National singles titles won after he was crowned world champion in Ireland (fall) - three year reign.
2012 – World 1-wall men’s open (singles/doubles) – Ireland
2013 – USHA 1-wall men’s open (singles)2014 – USHA 1-wall men’s open (singles)
2015 – USHA 1-wall men’s open (singles)
Dave Chapman's USHA National singles titles won after he was crowned world champion in U.S. (fall) - three year reign.
2000 – World 4-wall men's open (singles/doubles) - U.S.
2002 - USHA 4-wall men’s open (singles)
Paul Brady's USHA National singles titles won after he was crowned world champion in Ireland (fall) - three year reign.
2003 – World 4-wall men's open (singles/doubles) – Ireland.
2005 - USHA 4-wall men’s open (singles)
2006 - USHA 4-wall men’s open (singles)
John Bike Jr.'s USHA National singles titles won after he was crowned world champion in Canada (summer) - three year reign.
1997 – World 4-wall men's open (singles/doubles) – Canada
Dave Rojas's USHA National singles titles won after he was crowned world champion in Canada (summer) - three year reign.
1997 – World 1-wall men's open (singles/doubles) – Canada
Reposted from USHA Editor, Mort Leve's handball article (above).
Myth – Dave Chapman is the first teenager to win a four-wall national singles title.
Fact – Al Banuet was 19-year-old when he captured his first four-wall national singles title back in 1929.
For more than half a century 1-wall players had always dreamed about the 1-wall game to break free from being a local sport to be a national mainstream sport. And although 1-wall is now being played more often across the continent it hasn't gained the desired notoriety that many handball fans wish it had. It has always thrived under the shadow of the 4-wall game. But why hasn't the 1-wall game gained more recognition than it deserves?
There is only one culprit: the players. That's right, the players!. But in recent years the big and small ball 1-wall game have seen such an uptick in stories about 1-wall players who's goal is to promote the game outside New York. Such is the case of Timbo Gonzalez and Tyree Bastidas who have traveled extensively to compete in other 1-wall tournaments held in other states.
Gonzalez and Bastidas have also competed in either 3- or 4-wall events and have promoted the 1-wall game outside New York by talking about it, by wearing 1-wall tournaments shirts and by inviting others to try the 1-wall game.
In the past, great 1-wall champions such as: Steve Sandler and Joe Durso never bothered to travel too far away from New York to play the 4-wall game. They were happy and content to play the 1-wall game at home and never bothered to use their 1-wall champion status to influence and educate the masses about the great 1-wall game played at home and other scattered places in the U.S.. They had actually spent an inordinate amount of time boasting about how great they were when playing the 1-wall game and constantly complained about the game never getting the recognition it deserved “Tennis for savages” is how Mr. Durso describes his quintessential New York City street game. But since it never caught on much beyond the New York City playgrounds, Mr. Durso’s fame never spread past the Cyclone roller coaster down the block.
“I suffer from the same tragedy as handball itself: we never got the recognition we deserved,” he said. “How could I not be bitter? I’m the greatest-ever at something the world knows nothing about.” wrote Corey Kilgannon, a reporter for the New York Times.
Steve Sandler also used to complain about the 1-wall game going nowhere and was quoted once with a pessimistic outlook of the 1-wall game “Being the best handball player allows me to sit in the Park with the rest of the bums” wrote Dan Flickstein, a free-lance writer for the association. However, neither Durso nor Sandler did anything to encourage others to play and perpetuate the 1-wall game outside New York.
Right after the turn of the century 1-wall became more popular and new 1-wall courts were built at a faster pace to keep up with the fast-growing popularity of the game. In fact, nowadays, there is 1-wall competition whenever 3-walls courts are located, such as the USHA 3-wall nationals in Toledo and the WPH 3Wallball competition in Las Vegas. Milwaukee is in the process of building 3-wall courts along a 1-wall court while North Dakota is putting the finishing touch at its new 1-wall court facility to be inaugurated soon.
Since 2004, most of the handball action for both brothers had taken place in New York, their hometown, with the rest of the action outside the State.
This year marks more than ten years of continuing playing for both players and for the first time we had decided to share some of their personal photos taken with their most close relatives "we're a small, close-knit family and we all love handball" said Tyree.
In the photo above Jurell and Tyree Bastidas are seen posing for the camera along with their girlfriends whom one way or another had supported them throughout their handball journeys.