U.S.’ No. 1 player started with Yes-2-Kids group
Sunnyside High School graduate Luis Moreno most likely would have been successful in some sport with his athletic ability, but who knew he would become one of the country’s best young handball players.
He is currently the No. 1-ranked World Professional Handball player in the country.
The local Yes-2-Kids organization got a hold of him at age 12 and he was instantly successful at the sport.
“I won a tournament right away, and I was hooked,” said Moreno, 21, who Friday night will compete with four-time national champion and No. 3-ranked Sean Lenning of Seattle as part of Y2K’s media promotion at the Tucson Racquet & Fitness Club, 4001 N. Country Club Road.
The event will begin at 6 p.m.
Handball is perhaps one of the most misunderstood sports. It tests cardio endurance and hand-eye coordination that is “unmatched in sports,” Y2K president Jeff Healam said.
In common three-wall handball, matching begoggled singles or doubles players, a server must try to blast a small rubber ball off the front wall in a cubby-hole sized, glassed-in court, so that the opponent cannot return it.
Only the server can score in games that usually go to 21.
Bing, bang, boom in a real small room.
Y2K started in 1997 when co-founder John Henning proposed an exhibition in the Pueblo Gardens Elementary School gym.
“We still have kids (playing) from that first group,” said another co-founder, Fred Lewis, a pro handball Hall of Famer and founder of the University of Arizona program.
The purpose of the program is to offer a physical outlet to underprivileged youths.
The game is simple, and all action.
“Limitless possibilities,” Lenning said. “You play as many angles and strategies as you want.”
Two-time collegiate women’s champion Courtney Peixoto, 25, from Watsonville, Calif., attended UA, graduated and returned to California.
Then she chose to return to Tucson and handball.
“There was nobody there playing it,” she said. “Here you are used to a high level of play.”
Active handball-playing adults take the Y2K kids under their wing, mentor them and gauge progress.
The organization is sponsored by local funds, some of the money coming from the Tucson Conquistadores.
Moreno, 5 feet 11 and 165 pounds, lives the game after playing as a collegiate at Pima Community College.
He’s taking a break from school now while he explores some promising pro possibilities.
His biggest moment came as a teen when he upset four-time Irish champion Dave Brady 21-10, 10-21, 11-10.
Moreno rallied from an 8-0 deficit to win the 11-10 tiebreaker.
He just bore down with his fierce offensive game and speed.
“The sport teaches you discipline and mental sharpness,” he said.