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Martinez & Mast win 13 & Under Stop #8 on JIC and Championships at Wolf’s Den in Roanoke

Sofia Mast

It was made abundantly clear on the final weekend of competition for the Junior International Championships’ two 13 & Under divisions (boys and girls) that the competitors were reluctant to finish competing. The weekend, which began on Friday, Sept. 17 at Wolf’s Den in Roanoke, VA was to have been a Championship event for the 13 & Under divisions, for which its players had already qualified. The competitors decided that not only did they want to hold the scheduled Championship event, they also wanted, while they were there anyway, to compete in an 8th regular event. So they did both. On Friday and Sunday, the two divisions competed in the 8th event of the JIC series, and on Saturday, they held their Championship event.

Stop # 8 of the JIC series drew 14 boys and 10 girls to their respective 13 & Under divisions. The 13 & Under Championships drew 10 boys and 9 girls. And just to keep everybody busy, the weekend also included Stop # 8 for the 18 & Under Boys (39 entrants) and Girls (14 entrants) and the ProAm Division (32 entrants). The 18 & Under Boys and Girls will play their Championship event at the tail end of the 2021 International Open next month (October 28-30 at the Sheraton Norfolk Waterside Hotel in Norfolk, VA), while the top three competitors from the final rankings of the ProAm division, who were awarded entry fees, will be competing in the 9-ball Open. There were to have been only two ProAm competitors who qualified for entry to the International Open, but a tie for second place led to three who qualified – Joey Tate, Landon Hollingsworth and Nathan Childress. A report on the final stop for the two 18 & Under and ProAm divisions will appear separately.

Stop # 8 of the 13 & Under divisions were won by undefeated performances from Gabriel Martinez and Sofia Mast. It was Martinez’ third win of the series, having won in March and June. Before he finished the 8th stop, he would compete and go undefeated in the 13 & Under Boys Championship, as well (more on this later). It was Mast’s 5th win in the division, having finished as runner-up in Stops #2, #4 and #5.

Martinez went through Julian Scruggs and Eddie Vondereau to arrive at a winners’ side semifinal versus Jayce Little. Adrian Prasad squared off against Hank Leinen in the other one. Prasad and Martinez advanced to the hot seat; Prasad, 7-5 over Leinen and Martinez 7-2 over Little. Martinez sent Prasad to the semifinals and claimed the hot seat 7-2.

In those semifinals, Prasad drew Leinen, who’d defeated Vondereau and Jayse Alton, both 7-1, to reach him. Leinen earned a shot at Martinez in the hot seat with a 7-5 victory over Prssad. Martinez completed his undefeated run with a 9-5 win over Leinen in the finals.

Mast’s four-match path to the winners’ circle in the 13 & Under Girls division went through Carley Tomaszewski to arrive at a winners’ side semifinal matchup against Noelle Tate. Long-time JIC rival to Mast, Skylar Hess, faced Arianna Houston in the other one. Mast got into the hot seat match 7-4 over Tate. Hess joined her after downing Houston 7-1. Mast claimed the hot seat 7-4 over Hess.

On the loss side, Noelle Tate followed her winners’ side loss against Mast with a double hill victory over her sister, Bethany before downing Houston 7-4 in the quarterfinals and then, Hess 7-3 in the semifinals. She fell to Mast a second time in the finals 9-2.

Gabriel Martinez

Martinez wins his second undefeated event on Saturday; Mast, Hess and Tate are top 3 again

The Girls 13 & Under Championships, sandwiched between the two days of the 8th stop on the series finished in almost the same way as the 8th stop. Mast, Noelle Tate and Hess finished 1, 2 & 3 on Stop #8, while Mast, Hess and Tate finished 1, 2, & 3 in the Championships. 

Mast’s path in the Championships ran through Skylynn Elliot and Franki Spain to arrive at what (time-wise) was her first of two hot seat matches against Hess, who’d defeated Taylor Perkins and Noelle Tate. It was Hess claiming the hot seat 7-5 over Mast in the Championships. 

On the loss side, in the semifinals, Mast drew Noelle Tate, who, following her winners’ side loss to Hess, had defeated Elliott 7-3 and Spain 7-2 in the quarterfinals. Mast and Tate battled to double hill in the semifinals, before Mast prevailed for a second shot against Hess. Mast downed Hess 9-4 in the finals to claim the 13 & Under Girls’ championship title. 

Facing a couple of the same opponents, Gabriel Martinez went undefeated (time-wise, first) in the 18 & Under Boys Championship. He’d faced Hank Leinen in the finals of Stop #8 of the 18 & Under division and squared off against Leinen in a winners’ side semifinal in the Championships. Martinez won that match 7-2 and advanced to his first of two hot seat matches against Adrian Prasad. He shut Prasad out in the Championships’ hot seat match (and gave up only two racks in the hot seat match they played against each other the next day).

On the loss side, Prasad drew a rematch against Eddie Vondereau, who, after losing their first matchup 7-1, went on to defeat Timmy Cossey, Konnor McFayden in the quarterfinals and then, in the rematch, shut Prasad out in the semifinals. Martinez completed his undefeated run with a 9-4 victory in the finals to claim the 13 & Under Championship title.

JIC Tour Director Ra Hanna thanked all of his sponsors for their help in making this event possible, Mike Littman with Littman Lights, Matt Suite at American Billiard Covering, Dynaspheres, Chris Wilson at The League Room, Kory & Trena Wolford from Wolfs Den Billiards and Mike from Michael’s Billiards.

13 & Under Boys Championships

1st Gabriel Martinez $600 a CueTec Propel Jump cue
2nd Eddie Vondereau $400 2×4 leather case
3rd Adrian Prasad $200

13 & Under Girls Championship

1st Sofia Mast $500
2nd Skylar Hess $250
3rd Noelle Tate $125

Childress and Tate are at the top of “18 & Under Boys” and “ProAm” rankings on JIC

Trena Wolford, Joey Tate, Ra Hanna, Nathan Childress and Kory Wolford

Tate and Heyman at the top of “18 & Under Girls; Mast and Tate lead “13 & Under” groups

On the Wire Creative Media’s series of Junior International Championships crossed its midway point this past weekend (May 28-30) at the 4th event in the series, hosted by Center Pocket Billiards in Bowie, MD. Technically, it did so somewhere in the middle of this event, because although there are eight total events scheduled, the last will be the tour finale, scheduled to coincide in time (more or less) and space (Norfolk,VA) with Pat Fleming’s US International 9-Ball Open, scheduled to take place between Oct. 23-31.

The rivalries in the different age groups are becoming clearer now, as the junior competitors, all 92 of them, at this event, with a lot of categorical/division crossover, have begun facing each other on a more or less regular basis. Through four events, Nathan Childress and Joey Tate are battling it out for the top-ranking spot in both the “18 & Under Boys” division, as well as the  ProAm division. Childress has gone back-to-back in the “18 & Under Boys” event, with Joey Tate as runner-up both times. Tate, who’s younger than Childress by three years (18-15), has the upper hand in the ProAm rankings, having won the event back in April and finishing as runner-up before that (March). Childress, who won this most recent Pro Am, finished 3rd back in January, was 13th in March and 4th in April.

Talking to On the Wire Creative Media’s Ra Hanna, one would think that these five-division tournaments being run simultaneously for most of this year are as simple as opening a given venue’s doors, pointing children at tables and telling them to play. It’s not, but you wouldn’t know it from Hanna, who’s professional demeanor and unflagging enthusiasm for the entire project never seems to diminish. Nor does his awareness that he isn’t doing it alone.

“Truthfully,” he said, reflecting on the midway point of the series of tournaments, “there are a lot of supportive parents. We’ve gotten positive feedback and a lot of help.”

“This, to me, is always where we were headed,” he added. “It took a while for me to do it the way I wanted to do it.”

Among the surprises he has encountered, he has discovered that a part of the original plan had to be scrapped to accommodate the junior players themselves.

“When we first started,” he said, “the plan was to have separate (by age) brackets, so that you wouldn’t have kids flying all over the country to go two and out, but the younger kids wanted to play the older kids.”

“I had to open it up,” he added, “and as it turned out, the older players mentored the younger ones.”

In the most heavily-attended event of the weekend, the “18 & Under Boys” division, which drew 32 entrants, the marquee matchup between Nathan Childress and Joey Tate happened twice. Childress worked his way through Garrett Vaughan, Dylan Waugh and Hunter Frazier to arrive at a winners’ side semifinal against Landon Hollingsworth. Tate, in the meantime, had sent Konnor McFayden, Adrian Prasad, and Riley Adkins to the loss side and faced Ivo Linkin in the other winners’ side semifinal. 

Tate downed Linkin 7-1. Childress joined him in the battle for the hot seat, after engaging in a successful double hill fight against Hollingsworth. Tate claimed the hot seat 7-5 and waited for Childress to get back from the semifinals, which he did (downing Linkin 7-3). The wait wasn’t long, but the extra match was apparently to Childress’ benefit, as he returned to defeat Tate in the finals 9-4.

In the next most heavily-attended event, the Pro Am, which drew 26 mixed-gender-and-age entrants, Childress went undefeated to claim the title. He and Tate met in a winners’ side semifinal in this one. Childress had gotten by Jacob Kohl, Ben Kleinfelter and Payne McBride to draw Tate. Trenton White in the meantime, had been awarded an opening round bye and then defeated Ivo Linkin and Landon Hollingsworth to face Lukas Fracasso-Verner in the other winners’ side semifinal.

Childress sent Tate to the loss side from which he would not return 7-2. White downed Fracasso-Verner 7-5. Childress took the first of his two matches against White 7-2 and claimed the hot seat. On the loss side, Fracasso-Verner and Tate eliminated Linkin and Hollingsworth, respectively, before Fracasso-Verner ended Tate’s Pro Am run 7-3 in the quarterfinals. White defeated Fracasso-Verner a second time in the semifinals 7-5 and then, fell a second time to Childress, who claimed the event title 9-5 in the finals.

The older girls and the younger divisions do battle 

There was a bit of a shakeup in the rankings of the top four young women in the “18 & Under Girls” event, which drew 13 entrants. Coming into the weekend, Kennedy Meyman was leading the pack of 18 that had competed, so far. She’d won the first event and placed third in April. Bethany Tate (14) was second, having finished as the runner-up in the first two events. Sofia Mast (12) was third, having finished third in the second event. Skylar Hess (12) rounded out the top four in the rankings, having not been among the top three finishers in any of the first three events. When the recent event was over, Tate, Meyman and Mast were in a tie for the top spot, with Hess, who finished as runner-up, maintaining her 4th place position.

Trena Wolford, Sofia Mast, Ra Hanna, Skylar Hess and Kory Wolford

Mast went undefeated to win the event and had to defeat Hess twice; hot seat and finals. She’d defeated Bethany Tate’s younger sister, Noelle (11) and in a winners’ side semifinal, Courtney Hairfield, whom she defeated 7-3 to get into the hot seat match. Hess had downed Precilia Kinsley and Carley Tomaszewski and in the other winners’ side semifinal, Kennedy Meyman 7-5 to join Mast in the struggle for the hot seat.

Mast won the first of their two 7-3 to claim it. Hess moved to the semifinals where she ran into Bethany Tate, who, in a way, had exacted revenge on behalf of her sister, when she faced Meyman in the quarterfinals. Meyman had just defeated Noelle Tate. Bethany eliminated Meyman 7-4 in those quarterfinals, but was then eliminated herself, by Hess, in a double hill semifinal fight. The final fight was a double hill affair, as well, with Mast winning it 9-8 to claim the “18 & Under Girls” title.

The finish of the 8-entrant, “13 & Under Girls” event, looked a lot like the finish in the “18 and Under” division. Not exactly, though. Mast and Hess were in the finals, but the result was reversed, with Hess claiming the title. Bethany Tate finished in 3rd place for the second time.

The final rankings in the two female groups are very much alike, as well; Bethany Tate, Kennedy Meyman, Sofia Mast and Skylar Hess leading the way among the older young women. Mast, Tate, Hess and Noelle Tate leading the younger crowd in current rankings.

Hess and Mast split the two matches that they played, with Hess winning the second one in the finals. After Mast had shut out Ashley Prasad in a winners’ side semifinal and Hess had sent Franki Spain to the loss side 7-5, Mast downed Hess 7-4 to claim the hot seat. On the loss side, the Tate sisters met in the quarterfinals, once Bethany had eliminated Franki Spain (8) and Noelle had done likewise to Ashley Prasad, both 7-2. The elder Tate, Bethany, downed her younger sister Noelle 7-3 and then, engaged in a double hill, semifinal fight for a shot at Mast in the finals.  Hess won it, though, and then, defeated Mast 9-6 to claim the “13 & Under Girls” title.

Konnor McFayden, Adrian Prasad and Jayce Little

Adrian Prasad retained his top spot in the “13 & Under Boys” division by winning this division for the second straight and third, overall time. He had to come from the loss side to do it. He’d been sent over in a winners’ side semifinal, double hill, by Konnor McFayden, who went on to  defeat Jayce Little 7-4 to claim the hot seat. Prasad moved over and in three matches, gave up only four racks; two to D’Angelo “Jaws” Spain, and one each to Grayson Vaughan in the quarterfinals and Jayce Little in the semifinals. Prasad claimed the title by downing McFadden in the finals 9-4. This was only McFadden’s second appearance in the championship series, where in the opening event in March, he’d finished in 4th place. That put him in 4th place in the rankings, as well. In his absence, over the next two events, his place among his peers slipped. As this event’s runner-up, he moved up to #7 in the rankings.

Ra Hanna noted that Landon Hollingsworth had won the event’s Sportsperson Award, while Timothy Cossey won the Jeanette Lee Comeback Award. Hanna thanked the ownership and staff at Center Pocket Billiards for their hospitality, as well as his assistants Chris Robinson (handling photography) and the Wolfords, Corey and Treena, for their help. In addition to thanking Chris Wilson, owner of the League Room in Parkersburg, WV and Mike Littman of Littman Lights (“there from the beginning,” said Hanna.), he gave a shout out to all the families of the junior players, whose camaraderie has made these events, “truly, one big travelling family.”

The series of events, Hanna noted, has exceeded his expectations.

“Truthfully,” he said, “I knew we could get here, I just didn’t know it would be so fast.”

“If it weren’t for COVID, it would have been easy to get 128 (juniors) into these events,” he added. “We’re already outgrowing the spots we’re at.”

Stop #5 on the Junior International Championships (JIC), scheduled for the weekend of June 25-27, will be hosted by Stixx and Stones in Lewisville, TX. The complete schedule of events is available on the JIC Facebook page or in our calendar here at AZBilliards; link to the Tours/Events tab and then find “Junior International Championship.” 

Martinez brothers win two out of five divisions of Junior International Championships

Lazaro and Gabriel Martinez
(Photo courtesy Chris Robinson)

In the second of eight Junior International Championships (JIC), held under the auspices of On the Wire Creative Media at Racks Billiards and Sports Bar in Sanford, FL this past weekend (March 12-14), two brothers – Gabriel and Lazaro Martinez – won two of the five events. The younger Martinez, Gabriel (13), won the Pro/Am event that drew 28 entrants, while the older brother, Lazaro (14) won the 18 & Under Boys event that drew the largest field of entrants (36). Gabriel competed against the 18 & Under Boys, as well, although he was sent to the loss side by his brother in a winners’ side semifinal and eliminated by the eventual runner-up, Nathan Childress, in the event semifinals. Gabriel won the first JIC event in the 13 & Under Boys division and competed in that event this time, as well, although he was sent to the loss side in a winners’ side semifinal match by the eventual winner, Adrian Prasad (who was runner-up to Martinez last time), and later eliminated in his first loss-side match by D’Angelo (Jaws) Spain.

In the female divisions, Ohio’s Tatum Cutting won the 18 & Under event that drew 12 entrants and North Carolina’s Bethany Tate won the 13 & Under division that drew 9 entrants.

There were, in all, 77 entrants and 99 entries, indicative of the fact that more than just the Martinez brothers competed in a number of events at this most recent JIC. The junior competitors are collecting tour points that will be used for seeding in the tour finale, scheduled to coincide with the International Open at the Sheraton Norfolk Waterside in Norfolk, VA in October. 

At present, Gabriel Martinez leads the two-event point totals with 10,000 for his two victories. Adrian Prasad is in second place with 9,250 and D’Angelo Spain is in 3rd place with 3,500 points.

As originally designed, the events were broken down into their separate age divisions so that younger players would not have to enter events and face the possibility of competing against older, more experienced opponents and potentially, getting discouraged when they lost, early and often. The reaction to this division by ages surprised On the Wire Creative Media’s Ra Hanna.

“I didn’t want the 13-year-olds to get disappointed,” he said, “but I didn’t realize how much interest the younger kids would have in competing against the older players. They want to play with the big boys.”

“That,” he added, thinking of case-in-point, Gabriel Martinez, “has been fantastic.”

As always, ladies first. The increased opportunities for competition among younger females has not begun to affect the numbers that these junior events are seeing in the female divisions. Neither of the female events which drew 9 and 12 entrants this past weekend, drew as many as the Boys 13 & under (14) and combined, the girls’ events didn’t draw as many as either the Pro Am (28; which included some female competitors) or the Boys 18 & Under (36). That, as players and their parents, begin to become aware of these events, is likely to change.

Tatum Cutting’s undefeated path to the winners’ circle in the Girls 18 & Under event went through Precilia Kinsley, Alana Sanchez and Bethany Tate, with an aggregate score of 21-5, which put her in the hot seat match against Sofia Mast, who’d been awarded an opening round bye and then defeated Kennedy Meyman 7-5 and Savanna Wolford 7-3 to join Cutting. Mast chalked up as many racks against Cutting in the hot seat match as all of her previous opponents, combined, but was sent to the semifinals 7-5. Mast and Bethany Tate fought a double hill battle in those semifinals, both looking for a rematch against Cutting. Tate prevailed, and then fell to Cutting in the finals 9-4.

In the 13 and Under girls’ event, it was the combatants in the 18 & Under semifinals (Bethany Tate and Sofia Mast) who battled twice before Tate claimed the younger girls’ title. Tate had gotten by Skylar Hess and her own sister, Noelle Tate and advanced to the hot seat match. Mast  joined her, following victories over Franki Spain and Gianna Fiore.

Tate claimed the hot seat after a double hill fight. Mast downed Hess 7-5 in the semifinals and returned for a rematch. A second double hill fight ensued and for the second time, Tate prevailed and was able to claim the event title.

One goes undefeated, the other with one loss to claim boys’ titles 

In the 18 & Under Boys division, Nathan Childress and Lazaro Martinez fought twice to claim the title. Martinez had gotten by Riley Adkins, Trenton White, Ivo Linkin and his own brother, Gabriel to arrive at the hot seat match. Childress’ path to the hot seat match went through Conner Scruggs, Hank Leinen, D’Angelo “Jaws” Spain, and, in a double hill fight, Nathan Nunes. 

Martinez downed Childress the first time 7-3. Childress’ semifinal was against Martinez’ younger brother, Gabriel and he just did survive it, double hill, for a second shot against Lazaro. Childress got much closer in the finals, but not close enough, as Martinez finished his undefeated run to claim the Boys’ 18 & Under title 9-7.

In the 13 & Under Boys’ division, it was Adrian Prasad and Harry Leinen battling twice. Leinen had gotten by Iann Nolen, Fred Hill, Jr., and Konnor McFayden to arrive at the hot seat match. Prasad had sent Caleb Chase, Andrew Johnson and Gabriel Martinez to the loss side to face Leinen.

Leinin took the first of their two, 7-4. Prasad returned from a 7-3 semifinal victory over D’Angelo “Jaws” Spain for a rematch. He won that rematch 9-7 to claim the 13 & Under Boys title.

In the mixed gender Pro Am event, 13-year-old Gabriel Martinez had his hands full. He seemed to be getting stronger as he got closer to the finish line. Following a bye, he advanced past Landon Hollingsworth, Brent Worth and Julio Estevez, demonstrating increased success – 7-5, 7-4, 7-2 – to arrive at the hot seat match. Joey Tate, in the meantime, seemed to be showing signs of getting weaker. He got by Cash Lance 7-3, Trenton White 7-2, Lazaro Martinez 7-4 and Kodi Allen 7-5. It was Tate, though, who claimed the hot seat 7-4. 

Gabriel moved west and in the semifinals, faced Justin Toye, who’d sent Gabriel’s brother, Lazaro, to the proverbial showers in the quarterfinals. Gabriel eliminated him 7-3 and got a second shot at Tate.

You could almost see it coming. Two of the most promising juniors in the game faced off in the finals of the mixed-gender, Pro Am finals and battled to double hill. Gabriel Martinez prevailed to earn his second title at the second event on the Junior International Championships calendar.

Ra Hanna thanked the ownership and staff at Racks Billiards and Sports Bar for hosting the event, as well as sponsors Mike Littman of Littman Lights, Dynaspheres and The League Room. He also extended thanks to his tournament director, Corey Wolford and Jay Helfert. The next stop on the Junior International Championships tour, scheduled for April 16-18, will be hosted by Racks on Rocks in Peoria, IL.

(Watch for an extended report on this second JIC event in the upcoming edition of the BUZZ, coming in April, which will include interviews with the participants and their parents about the growth of opportunities for junior players.)