Getting to Know: Mario Mercado
By: IRT CEO, Mike Grisz
One of the joys of being CEO of the IRT is to see the development of younger players. As we went through an exhausting three Tier 1 Events in three weeks, we saw three of these young players step up. At the Longhorn Open, Adam Manilla made his first semifinal. At the Lewis Drug Pro-Am in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Lalo Portillo made the finals, and, at the Lou Bradley Memorial in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, Mario Mercado, the subject of this article, made the finals. As the Kane Waselenchuk/Rocky Carson/Alvaro Beltran epoch closes, though probably not that soon, it is exciting to see the progression of these young players.
I had the chance to sit down and talk to Mario Mercado at the Lou Bradley Memorial between the semifinal, where he defeated Alex Landa, and his final against Kane Waselenchuk, which Kane won.
I found Mario to be humble and unfailingly polite as I have with so many of these young players, whether they be from Mexico, Bolivia, the U.S., or any other country. The Lou Bradley Memorial Pro-Am was his second IRT final, the first being in Portland, Oregon Tournament of Champions in 2017. He also reached the semifinals in Bolivia in 2019, an excellent experience for him in front of his home country.
Yes, Mario is from Cochabamba, Bolivia. He did move to Colombia in 2015 and now plays for the Colombian National Team. Mario is currently residing in Orlando, Florida, where he trains and is playing the tour full-time.
Was his semifinal win over Alex Landa that week his biggest win? Well, close, but in 2019, at the Pan American Games, playing for Colombia, he beat Rodrigo Montoya to help Colombia reach the team finals.
Growing up in Cochabamba, Mario played fronton, a game that resembles racquetball but is played outdoors on a large court. He also played soccer like every other boy in Bolivia. Mario converted over to racquetball completely when he was 14. The first international competition he played was at International Racquetball Federation Junior Worlds in 2010. In 2014 he was crowned IRF Boy 18 & Under World Champion.
Mario’s goal is to be #1 in the world. He plays for HEAD Penn Racquetball. After racquetball, he wants to stay in the game and coach.
Photos By: Ken Fife