Richko goes undefeated in Predator Sunshine State Pro Am Tour season opener

Jose Del Rio, Kyle Bova, Jason Richko and Joselito Martinez

Cirilo, Cuellar and White awarded Player of the Year honors and prizes

Before this past weekend, the last (reported) time that Jason Richko cashed in a pool tournament was almost exactly one year ago. It was the 2020 season opener for the Predator Sunshine State Pro Am Tour on the weekend of February 1-2 and though he would go undefeated to the hot seat, he was defeated in the finals by the competitor who would go on to become the tour’s 2020 Player of the Year, Obbie Cirilo. On Super Bowl weekend (Feb. 6-7), Richko joined 59 competitors for the tour’s 2021 season opener and once again, he made it to the hot seat. This time, though, he did not get to compete against Cirilo, who lost his second round match and chalked up two on the loss side before being eliminated. Instead, Richko squared off against separate opponents in the hot seat (Kyle Bova) and finals (Joselito Martinez) and finished undefeated. The $1,500-added event drew its 60 entrants to Stroker’s in Palm Harbor, FL.

In addition to the scheduled tournament, the Predator Sunshine State Pro Am Tour took time out to celebrate its annual Players of the Year. As noted above, Cirilo took home the Player of the Year honor, which earned him $300, a plaque, Predator jacket and a variety of Kamui products (bridge, chalk, etc.). As the tour’s top Lady of the Year, Nicolle Cuellar got the same package, except for her cash prize of $75. For the second year in a row, Trenton White picked up cash as the tour’s top Junior Player.

“We want to thank Predator and Kamui for their product donations to our players of the year,” said tour directors Janene Phillips and Bobby Garza.

Jason Richko’s path to the title had its share of ups and downs, but among the ‘ups’ were three shutouts out of seven total matches; his opener versus Nick Lewis, and two in a row that put him in the hot seat. After Lewis, he gave up one rack to Derrick Santos and three to Anthony Rotenberry before facing what proved to be his toughest opponent all weekend, Majkell Pacuka, who chalked up more racks against him than all three of his previous opponents combined (5). The victory put Richko into a winners’ side semifinal match against Derrek Laprarie. Kyle Bova, in the meantime, arrived at his winners’ side semifinal match against Alec Saputo, having recorded an equally impressive set of four matches. He had an aggregate score over those four matches of 28-6, including a shutout over Randall McLuckie. 

Bova sent Saputo to the loss side 7-4, as Richko was busy recording his second shutout, over Laprarie. Richko then added a third shutout, over Bova, and claimed the hot seat.

On the loss side, Laprarie picked up Monthep Hongsyok, who’d been responsible, earlier, for knocking out the tour’s Player of the Year (Obbie Cirilo) and had most recently eliminated Michael Xiarhos 7-2 and survived a double hill battle versus the 2020/2021 Junior of the Year, Trenton White. Saputo had the misfortune of drawing the event’s eventual runner up, Joselito Martinez, who’d been sent over by Xiarhos and was in the midst of a seven-match, loss-side winning streak that would take him all the way to the finals. He’d most recently defeated Majkell Pacuka and co-tour director Bobby Garza, both 7-4.

Laprarie and Hongsyok locked up in a double hill fight that did, eventually, send Laprarie to the quarterfinals. He was joined by Martinez, who gave up only a single rack in sending Saputo to the figurative ‘showers.’ 

Both of his next two opponents put up double hill fights against him – first, Laprarie in the quarterfinals and then, Bova in the semifinals – but Martinez proved equal to the task and got by them both for a shot at Richko in the hot seat.

Richko, though, proved equal to the undefeated task he needed to complete. He took the final 9-3 over Martinez to claim the season opening title.

Tour directors Janene Phillips and Bobby Garza thanked Jose and Lyshia Del Rio and their Strokers’ staff for their hospitality, as well as title sponsor Predator Group, Kamui, Diamond Products, USA Pool League, Stitch it to me Embroidery and AZ Billiards. They also added a shout out to Jimmy Antonietta and Rob McLaren for their help on Saturday. The next stop on the Predator Sunshine State Pro Am Tour, scheduled for the weekend of Feb. 27-28, will feature a 9-Ball Open event and Ladies Open 9-Ball event. Both will be hosted by Brewlands in North Lakeland, FL.