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Sunday, July 18, 2010

BIG SKY STATE GAMES: Racquetball fills competition void for Wenckus

A couple of years ago, Kolten Wenckus was looking to get involved in a sport. One of his friends mentioned racquetball and Wenckus decided to give it a try.

He quickly got hooked on the sport. And became very good at it, too.

Just last month the 22-year-old Billings native won two gold medals in the USA Racquetball Championships in Houston. Wenckus claimed the Men’s 24-C championship and claimed the Men’s D Division crown.

He’ll try to add another title when he competes this weekend in the Big Sky State Games. Wenckus will compete in the Men’s A singles and team up with Andy Ekblad in the Open Men’s doubles. Wenckus begins play at 11:30 a.m. at the Billings Athletic Club.

Racquetball fills a need for the 2006 Billings West graduate, who gave up motocross after sustaining numerous injuries.

“What happened was I had been motocross racing for the last five years,’’ Wenckus said. “I had to give it up because of injuries. I broke my back twice. I needed to find a single-person sport. One of my buddies told me about racquetball.’’

It didn’t take long for Wenckus to fall in love with the sport.

“I wasn’t very good, but I got a coach (Matt Majxner) and I played it six days a week for a couple of hours a day. I went to a state tournament and I met a bunch of great people. I wanted to get good so I could be with these people.’’

Wenkus, who is a student at Montana State University in Bozeman and wants to become a dentist, is juggling racquetball with a busy schedule this summer.

“I try to force myself to practice a couple of hours a day, either in the morning or the afternoon,’’ he said.

That can be a challenge.

“I’m working four different jobs,’’ Wenckus said. “It’s crazy. I work two jobs during the school year. I’m in pre-dental which is the same as pre-med. My mom was a dental assistant and I was always spending time around a dental office. The No. 1 thing is I want to help people. I have good hand-eye coordination and I thought that being a dentist would be up my alley.’’

Wenckus, of course, isn’t into helping people much on the racquetball court.

In the 24-C tournament, he posted a 4-0 record, including a 15-3, 15-2 rout of Mitchell McCoy of Nacogdoches, Texas, in the championship match.

Wenckus won five straight matches in the Men’s D tournament. In the final, he beat Curtis Ponder of Warwick, Rhode Island, 15-6, 15-7.

Considering the fact Wenckus has only played the game for 18 months, he might have to invest in a good-sized trophy case.

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