Thomas Carter… Making Some Noise
By: Kelly R. Diesel
Putting in the time and work and letting the results speak for themselves seems like such a cliché in today’s sports world. When asked about their success in their craft, almost every athlete seems to have the same humbling, underlying similarities: “I just work on my game and let the results play out on the court (field).” Surely, you’ve heard an answer to something of that nature, and do you wonder why that is? For Thomas Carter, the 17th ranked player on the International Racquetball Tour (IRT), that’s because it’s the truth! The more you work, and the more you learn, the better your chances are long-term.
Carter, 23 from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has just finished competing in his fourth Tier 1 (T1) IRT tournament of the 2019-2020 season, and the best tournament of his career! Reaching the quarterfinals at the 2019 John Pelham Memorial Tournament of Champions, by defeating #5 Alvaro Beltran, from Tijuana, Mexico is the most significant upset Carter has pulled off, and the second time he’s reached a quarterfinal round at an IRT T1 tournament! Carter started playing racquetball at a young age when his dad brought the Carter siblings to the local fitness club, the only club that allowed kids to be on the racquetball court. At 13-years-old racquetball took the place of lacrosse for Carter’s favorite sport. After meeting Coach Jim Winterton (Coach of 15x US OPEN Champion: Kane Waselenchuk) at 16 during a Pittsburgh racquetball camp, racquetball was the only thing Carter wanted to do.
“He helped me out a ton, he was a big motivator, “Carter said. “Winterton has been the biggest influence on my racquetball game, and my parents. They’re my biggest supporters, and I owe a lot to them.”
Throughout his years in college at Baldwin Wallace University, Carter still played racquetball when he got the time and always kept in the back of his head as a dream of his, a dream that didn’t take long to accomplish. After graduating and receiving his degree in finance, Carter decided to take a leap of faith and chase his dream of becoming a professional racquetball player.
“It wasn’t really until my senior year, and really after I graduated, that I decided screw it, let’s go for this,” Carter said. “I knew trying to make a living out of it would be tough, but I’m lucky to be able to do what I love.”
Carter’s first performance in an IRT tournament came in November of 2013 at the Red Swain Memorial where he faced off against Charlie Pratt, from Portland, Oregon. Carter lost his first match against Pratt but learned a lot in his first appearance on the court. He carried that knowledge and experience over to the 2013 IRT New Jersey Open just a month later in December, where he picked up his first Tour victory in the Round of 64 when he defeated former Tour CEO. John Scott, from Washington, Missouri.
“I just remember being nervous as hell at that first tournament,” Carter said. “Charlie had the rank, the name, and the hype. I was just some kid coming in to play. He may have killed me, but hey, that was the start. New Jersey was fun too because they always have great tournaments out on the east coast, but it was also nice getting that first win.”
Carter has shown consistent play in the last couple of IRT seasons, qualifying and advancing past the Round of 64s and 32s, but seemed to struggle to advance past the Round of 16. With a .143 (2-12) career winning percentage in the Round of 16s, it is clear where Carter’s kryptonite is. The Tour is LOADED with incredible athletes ranked 1-25, and sometimes after looking at the numbers with the previous tournament draws, it can come down to who you match up against. For example, in the Round of 16s at T1 tournaments of the 2019-2020 IRT season, Carter has lost to Top 5 players only.
“I’ve told everyone, all of us are good out there, anyone can get the job done, the Tour is incredibly deep.” Carter said. “Although there are no easy matches, one of the toughest parts for me is where my ranking lies, playing the 1, 2, or 3 seed. I have to get over that hump, get to more quarters, and increase my rankings and win.”
Carter’s only losses in the first half of the 2019-2020 IRT season have all come from players in the Tour’s Top 5 ranking system, aside from his first loss of the season against Carlos Keller Vargas, from Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Carter has lost to #2 Alex Landa from Juarez, Mexico, #3 Rocky Carson from Ladera Ranch, California, #4 Andree Parrilla from San Luis Potosi, Mexico, #5 Alvaro Beltran from Tijuana, Mexico, and finally #15 Keller Vargas. Every player on that list is someone you would dread seeing on the court, and Carter has hung tight with every single one, including knocking off Beltran at the 2019 John Pelham Memorial Tournament of Champions and advancing to his first quarterfinals of the season!
It’s clear that Carter is learning more and more with each match he plays, and the numbers don’t lie! Not only is Carter starting to find more success in his Rounds of 32s/16s and knocking off big-name legends on Tour, but his career winning percentage has sky-rocketed over the last four and a half seasons.
Carter’s IRT Win/Loss Percentage:
2019-2020= .615** 1st Half of Season
“It’s nice to see the work is paying off and to see it coming together, and I believe in my game, so it’ll pick up,” Carter said. “All I can do is try and get better, and I can’t focus on other people and what they’re doing. I have to work on my game and whatever happens, happens.”
Carter has always had his game at the pro level since he started playing full-time, but we’re beginning to see more consistency from him in this current season. Already breaking into the quarterfinals halfway through the season and hungry for more, look for Thomas Carter to make some noise in the 2nd half of the 2019-2020 IRT season.
Photos By KSphotography