Photo above from USHA magazine - M. Levine (front), a couple of weeks shy of his 20th birthday and S. Sandler.
A seemingly simple question was posed while we interviewed players and fans at the 1-wall nationals during the summer. Which teenagers had the easiest final to win the national title?
But there is nothing simple about this question as handball readers are about to find out. We do have several teen players who won the men's singles in the same handball version in either: the AAU or USHA organization. Some of them played in one and some played in both associations while a few played in more than one handball version “Winning the men's singles title three times in a row as a teenager is something unheard of” Tyree said.
We have compiled a short list of the only teenagers that have won the national singles title where some of them tried in vain to repeat continuously as teenagers. We've also included their opponents' name to find out how much these teenagers were really pushed to their limit in the championship match. Only two teenagers couldn't win or reach the finals after winning their first singles title.
Also, we've listed their opponents as former champions only if they have previously won a singles or doubles national title in the same handball version. It seems that AAU players performed better than USHA handball players, but as in the past, we are going to leave it up to our readers to decide under our Label – You be the Judge!
The following list of national singles champions is not in any particular order:
He may not have won all his single titles as a teenager, but he'll be definitely be considered the first player to have won three singles national titles in a row.
1929 – Won AAU 4-wall title at (19) VS (opponent's info not available)
1930 – Won AAU 4-wall title at (20) – (opponent's info not available)
1931 – Won AAU 4-wall title at (21) – (opponent's info not available)
He won his first national title at 17, making him the youngest 4-wall player to win the singles title. He also reached the finals the following year at 18, one day shy of his 19th birthday.
1993 – Won USHA 4-wall title at (17-years-old) VS R. Morones
1994 – USHA 4-wall finalist at (18) VS S. Silveyra (former champion)
1995 – Won USHA 4-wall title at(19) VS O. Silveyra(former champion)
He didn't compete at the USHA national 1-wall in 1970 to focus on the AAU title. The following year he managed to reach all finals as a teenager. He played against the great Steve Sandler.
1970 – Won AAU 1-wall title at (18) VS S. Sandler (former champion)
1971 – AAU 1-wall finalist at (19) VS S. Sandler (former champion)
1971 – USHA 1-wall finalist at (19) VS S. Sandler (former champion)
2004 – Won USHA 3-wall title at(19) VS Chapman (former champion)
2005 - USHA 3-wall finalist at (20) VS V. Munoz (former champion)
2006 - USHA 3-wall finalist at (21) VS E. Peixoto
He became the youngest player to capture the 1-wall men's singles title in the USHA and while he reached the championship match the following year he was upset later on in his third attempt to reach the finals.
2010 – Won USHA 1-wall title at(19) VS W. Polanco(former champion)
2011 – USHA 1-wall finalist at (20) VS Yuber Castro(former champion)
1954 – Won AAU 1-wall title at (19) VS O. Obert
1973 – Won AAU 1-wall title at (17) VS S. Sandler (former champion)
One of the best games at the 4-wall nationals was staged by current champion Paul Brady and powerhouse Luis Moreno from Arizona.
It was hard to find a referee for this anticipated match due to the high level of competition. Tyree Bastidas who was already out of the competition volunteered to referee this semifinal match to keep the tournament rolling on schedule “I like to referee the top games. I've never had any problems and people always think I'm a good referee” Tyree said.
The last time these two titans played against each other at the USHA nationals was at the University of Texas in 2010. It may seem a long time, but that was the year both players locked horns in an intense and unforgettable semifinal match. That year also marked the first time Tyree Bastidas would captured his first USHA national 1-wall title before his 20th birthday.
The match didn't disappoint as fans were treated to a top quality game with Moreno pushing the champion to the tiebreaker, but eventually fell in a close third game 11-8.
There were only two complaints throughout the whole game but they were understandable: one by P. Brady during a call from side referee, Abraham Montijo “You have to keep an eye on Montijo's calls” Brady yelled at Bastidas.
“He trains with Moreno in Arizona”
"I'm on it" responded Bastidas.
The second complaint was due to a call that went on Brady's favor as Brady was pulling away and Moreno kind of lost his temper in front of the crowd. Later on after the game, Moreno apologized for the outburst and said “I should have never complained the way I did. It was my fault, Tyree did a good job reefing the game”
Mr. Brady was extremely happy to have beaten Moreno and raised his hands at the end of the game in a sign of relief. Referee T. Bastidas was also congratulated by fans for a good job reefing the game.
There is no doubt that playing under the sun and during the summer could take a toll on any handball player of any caliber, but after we talked to some players we got mixed results on this topic as some point to the 3-wall game as the most exhausted game while some argue that playing 1-wall with temperatures hovering 100 degrees could be too much to handle.
Granted, 3-wall is a power game and requires players to pound the ball hard to pass it beyond their opponents, but in the 1-wall game the handball court is not confined by side walls, forcing the players to cover an oversized court with no boundaries.
We don't really know for sure which handball version is indeed the most tiresome, but we can look into the USHA records book that for some strange reason, 1-wallers have been able to capture 3-wall titles in the past, but no 3-wall player has been able to capture 1-wall titles.
Myth – The youngest player to ever win a USHA national open singles title is Dave Chapman at 17.
Fact – According to the USHA handball association website, the youngest player to ever win a USHA national open singles title is Anna Calderon at the age of 15 "Brooklyn's Anna Calderon was only 15 years old when she won the Women's Open One-Wall title in 1980. Allison Roberts won the Women's Open Three-Wall title that same year at the age of 16."