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The Race 4 Eight is in good hands with the Next Generation, as a talented group of late teens to mid 20-something stars are poised to carry the R48 handball torch into the next decade. The 26-and-under NextGen includes current and former collegiate and junior national U.S. and Irish champions, international phenoms, and rising contenders on the cusp of breaking into the game’s elite. Each of the young elites boasts tremendous passion and dedication for the sport, as well as a burning desire to reach the top. In addition to being motivated, dedicated, and passionate about the sport, handball’s Next Generation are also thoughtful, interesting, and tremendous handball ambassadors.
The 26-and-under Next Generation will be competing for the R48 Next Generation Cup during the 2018/19 R48 Men’s Pro season, honoring the highest ranked Next Gen star on the 2018/19 R48 Men’s Pro tour at season’s end.
Learn about 11 of the Next Generation’s playing styles, as well as goals, passions, and inspirations for handball below.
To compete for the 2018/19 R48 Next Generation Cup, a player cannot start the season ranked in the R48 Elite 8 and/or have previously won an open/pro R48, USHA Nationals, Irish Nationals, or All Ireland championship. To be awarded the 2018/19 Next Gen Cup, the winner must participate in the 2019 WPH R48 Aces Player’s Championship in Salt Lake City, UT.
Meet the Next Generation
Ivan Burgos: Burgos is one of the game’s most exciting junior stars, willing to sacrifice his body for any ball, while challenging himself against the game’s best at every opportunity. This Canadian prodigy possesses an intense passion for the sport, coupled with blazing speed, two-handed power, and the willingness to go for his shots at any moment against any opponent. The Maple Leaf is in great hands!
Leo Canales, Jr.: Leo Canales qualified for the first time at 21 years of age at the R48 6 Minnesota, defeating perennial R48 standout Anthony Selestow to earn his pro status. Canales’ steady and reliable game forces his opponents to play their best to beat him, while testing their patience and conditioning. Canales is part of the new group of R48 “Young Guns” poised to make noise on the Race 4 Eight for years to come. Look out for the “Juarez Kid” in the coming years
Loren Collado: The Olympic Club’s Loren Collado is a product of the strong Northern California handball tradition and plays an “old school” style of handball, always playing the percentages and waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike. Collado is one of the sport’s rising young stars and will be a major factor in R48 events in the next decade
Sam Esser: “The Kansas Kid” is part of handball’s next generation of stars who will take handball in the 2020’s and beyond. Esser possesses two good hands and an aggressive style that poses problems for all of the sport’s best. The MO State Collegiate All-American has his sights set on climbing the R48 rankings, an ascent that will likely commence very soon
Peter Funchion: Peter Funchion is one of the game’s most disciplined and dedicated stars, always seeking to improve and traveling thousands of miles, sometimes on back to back weekends, to challenge his game against the best players in the world. Funchion scored his biggest R48 win of his career against former R48 #2 Emmett Peixoto at the 2017 R48 7 Tucson Memorial, flummoxing the R48 star with a combination of kills and passes to advance to his first R48 quarterfinal. Funchion has the desire and dedication to rise to the elite of the sport and is on the short list of young stars to break into the game’s upper echelon
Michael Gaulton: Michael Gaulton is one of North America’s rising handball stars, capable of competing against the very best in the sport. Gaulton’s physical strength and height enables him to hit the ball with extreme power with both hands from any position on the court, enabling him to constantly pressure his opponents. Look for this Canadian prodigy to make his mark on the R48 in the near future
Sean Kerr: Sean Kerr has been groomed to become a handball star from birth, traveling throughout Ireland to watch his father compete in the most prestigious championships in the sport. Kerr owns a sensational resume of junior championships and with his precocious skills and handball IQ, Kerr will undoubtedly become a force on the R48 in the near future
Max Langmack: At 6’8, “The Gentle Giant” became the tallest pro handball player in the history of pro handball with his qualifier win against Abraham Montijo at the 2018 R48 7 Houston. Langmack is one of the game’s most talented young stars and proved that he has the game to compete against the best, as evidenced by playoff wins against Gabhain McCrystal and Marcos Chavez in the R48 7 Houston. Langmack brings tremendous versatility and skill to the court, as well as one of the best attitudes in pro sports. Look for “The Gentle Giant” (TGG) to make headlines on the R48 tour in the near future
Max Langmack Arrives: HERE
Gabhain Mccrystal: Mccrystal is a former 19-and-under U.S. national champion and brings the Irish school of handball to the R48 tour. Mccrystal is adept at playing the percentage game, but can also play offense from anywhere on the court, making him unpredictable and effective. With McCrystal now residing in the U.S., look for the rising R48 star to continue to climb the WPH rankings
Tyler Stoffel: Tyler Stoffel qualified for the Race 4 Eight tour for the first time at 20 years old and became the youngest ranked pro on the tour. Stoffel is a former All-American collegiate handball star at Mankato State University, having advanced to the USHA Collegiate National final in 2016. Stoffel plays with the poise of a veteran, seemingly always in control of his decision-making and temperament
Erik Torres: The Olympic Club’s Torres is one of the R48 tour’s most stylish players, appearing to make every swing effortless, while generating a tremendous amount of two-handed power. Torres owns one of the best left crack serves in the sport, seemingly able to roll the ball out off the left side wall as often as anyone in the game. The sky is truly the limit for Torres on the R48 tour, as he possesses all of the skills to make a run for the R48 Elite 8 and beyond
To see the Next Generation player bios and all of the Race 4 Eight player bios, go HERE
Next Generation Goals
19-and-under World Championships finalist Ivan Burgos
I hope to qualify this season and be one of, if not the youngest qualifier in WPH history, and eventually, being steady in the top 8 has always been a goal of mine.
Current USHA Collegiate National Champion Leo Canales, Jr.
My goals in handball is to be a top ranked pro
R48 #21 Loren Collado
Besides setting goals for minor improvements in my game, ultimately, I want to be able to compete with the very best. If I can, then I’m fairly confident that wins will follow.
2018 Collegiate national All-American Sam Esser
I would be to reach my potential as a player, whatever that may be. As I get into my prime years I want to make sure I work hard so I can achieve it. Also, just to keep playing the sport. I know a lot of players who have played in college then just quit after. I want to keep playing because I love the game and it’s a great way to stay in shape.”
2016 collegiate national champion and current R48 #11 Peter Funchion
I think that for most handball players that take the game seriously, their ultimate goal is to be number one. Long term, that is where I want to be, but in order to achieve that I have set myself smaller goals, this year for instance, I want to rank in the top 8 consistently and win at least one Race Stop
The youngest ranking R48 pro in the tour’s history, Michael Gaulton
My goal in handball is to be thought of as one of the top players and to be a player that everyone enjoys to watch, while giving back to the game any way that I can.
19-and-under USHA National Champion Sean Kerr
To compete in the US pro Tour (R48) and to make the top 8, and also to win a Senior All Ireland singles title, becoming the first Tyrone man to do so
2018 collegiate All-American and R48 #22 Max Langmack
I’d like to be a champion on the pro level, and to help the sport grow, though both are easier said than done. I have seen that no pro or qualifier goes easy in any match. Every point has to be earned, sometimes more than once with the ability all these players possess. Right now, my goal is to keep improving and pushing myself. I think I’ll gain a lot of experience this year on the tour if I can make it out to all the stops. I’m sure I’ll learn a lot about all facets of my game by being out there this year
R48 #27/2013, 2014 USHA 19-and-under JR national champion Gabhain Mccrystal
My goal in handball is to win at the top level! Be the best I can be! I want to inspire the younger generation to start playing handball and love the game as much as I do! Goal for this year is to take down big names and break into the top 8.
R48 #27 and 2016 USHA Collegiate National Finalist Tyler Stoffel
I want to be a regular in the top 8 on tour in the next few years
Current R48 #20 and 2017 Olympic Club Singles Champion Erik Torres
I play because it’s fun and I enjoy it. My goal is to climb the R48 rankings
Next Generation Passion for Handball
My passion comes from my father, Fernando Burgos. He passed the game onto me when I was young and I’ve always loved the bonding it gives us when he’s coaching me. I hope to do the same one day
My passion comes from early on watching my dad play and from wanting to be the best player I can be
I grew up in a neighborhood where my friends and I were always competing with one another. Although I participated in many sports, I always knew that I wanted to compete in handball because I thought that was the hardest
My passion comes from simply just loving the game and being very competitive and wanting to be the best I can be.
My passion for Handball comes from my father, Pat Funchion, and from my brothers Alan and Patrick. My dad played Handball when he was growing up, and it was he who introduced us all to the game, but it was the rivalry and the constant competition between me and the lads that gave me the passion to keep bettering myself as a player. Then, because of that constant competition when I started entering tournaments, I got a taste for winning and from there, I keep striving to be number one.”
My passion for handball comes from the love of the game. I never really liked team sports so handball was perfect for me and I’d spend hours on the court just rallying with myself.
My passion of handball came from my grandpa, Mick Kerr, and my father, Niall Kerr. Going around Ireland at a young age and watching my father compete in a high level of handball has given me a dying passion
2018 Collegiate All-American and R48 #22 Max Langmack
There’s almost too many (passions) to count. The amount of levels that exist both on and off the court is incredible. Off the court, I’ve been able to travel a lot of the United States, see and do some great things, and learn a lot all at the same time. There’s something about handball that has always captivated me at its core, however. From my experience, I’ve never found a game more physically, mentally, or spiritually challenging. Trying to out run, out hit, out think, and out will one’s opponent in a match requires such a complete level of focus and zone that everything else falls away. The game has always been there for me through the ups and downs of life as well. No matter how good or bad a day has gone, I always know that the ball will still bounce and the walls will still stand, waiting for me to come back and play again and again
My passion for handball would probably come from when I lost my father whilst participating in the junior nationals in Chicago. Never really getting to say goodbye because I was away in America and he passed so quickly, now anytime I step in the court I try my best to make him proud
Passion comes from my dad. I started playing in tournaments at 7 years old and he’s been my coach ever since
My passion comes from all other players, especially at the pro level. I love to see these guys play their hearts out, sacrificing their bodies and making amazing shots. My family has also played a big part in my passion, they push me to always be the best version of myself.
Inspiration for the Next Generation
Ryan Bowler. I would always follow the qualifiers and the pro tournaments and seeing a friend I often spar with competing with some big names was definitely inspiring.
Watching the Cordovas success inspired me to take my game to the next level
I’ve had a lot of role models growing up in the handball scene in NorCal. The Dean Crispens, Chris Ticos, Mike McDonalds and Lenardt Delatorres were gracious enough to let me get in the court with them throughout my college years.
The players that have inspired me the most would have to be my dad and my Coaches at Missouri State. Not because of what they can do on the court but what they have meant to me off it. My dad, Jake Esser, and coaches, Tommy Burnett and Brian Watson, have done so much for the game and have all been big believers in me. They are always asking me about every game I play and supporting me all the time and I love to make them proud. They’re all people I strive to be like.
There are so many players that have so many incredible and memorable games that inspired me to the Race Stops that it is hard to pick one. I think any Irish player of my generation would be lying if they didn’t say that Paul Brady broke every glass ceiling and proved how successfully you can be if you give your all to the game. However, a huge inspiration for me was the late, great Dave Chapman, who I had the honour of meeting when I was very young
Sean Lenning has inspired me most to take my game to the next level. He’ll always ask me how my games went and everyone enjoys watching Sean play, as his style and shot choice is unique
Killian Carroll: how he adapted so quickly through the ranks at a young age and how he has become the best he can be and still improving
I’ve watched a lot of handball matches over the years, and there have been so many pros, both current and past, that have shown me the highest level. A lot of pros and local players have been incredibly supportive off the court all around the country, housing our team for tournaments, giving their time to clinics, and running the desk at tournaments I’ve attended, and even giving support for things like travel. I’ve been incredibly moved by these things, but I think it shows how much all of these guys want to grow the game and see it thrive. It’s very difficult to narrow it down to one player, but I’ve been very fortunate to have Sam Esser as my doubles partner and fellow competitor throughout all my years of playing. Having such a sparring partner and friend inspired me to find new levels of play and continually improve. As a junior player, I don’t think I ever saw how consuming handball would become, just that I loved it, but I’ve always had a class competitor, partner, sportsman, and friend that wanted to play. In addition, I owe a lot to Sam, Jeremy Young, Matt Vollink, Alex Birge, and their families for supporting me. They’ve shuttled me to countless tournaments, paid for numerous dinners, and always made the travel something I love to do. My collegiate coaches, Tommy Burnett and Brian Watson, have continued that support during my time at Missouri State and given us the means to play in places around the country. All of this has given me the steps to keep playing and keep improving and I’m very lucky things worked out.
The player that inspired me to take my game to pro level would be Killian! Living with him in Boston, seeing his lifestyle and his work rate in not just handball but in any aspect of life is very motivating. He tries nothing but his best and practices everything until it’s perfect
I try and model my game after finesse players as I do not have the power of some of the top tour players. Players I’ve tried to emulate are Emmett and Chapman
Emmett Peixoto has inspired me to play at the pro level. Since I started playing in 2008 he has been the player to look up to and gun for.
Preparing for the upcoming 2018/19 R48 8 Season
After a long summer of day-to-day training preparing for the Worlds, I’m keeping my form by playing games and doing some cross training and staying active and fit for this upcoming season.
I’ve been playing 2-3 times a week and working on my strength and conditioning three times a week
Until I was able to get games with Pexioto did I realize what it takes to compete at the pro level. Since then, I’ve been working out a lot more outside of the court to prepare for tournaments. This season I’ll continue to do the same. So far, I’ve been steadily improving so I hope to qualify at a more steady rate
Being full time in grad school and working a job for Missouri State University, it’s hard to find time to put in all the training I would like for tournament season. That being said, it’s about making the most of your opportunities when you have them and that’s what I plan on doing!
For this season I am taking everything that I have learned over the past few seasons – there is no such thing as failure, just an opportunity to learn. I have taken the elements of training that have worked for me and tried to isolate and eliminate the areas that have left me falling short. I have a great team around me, a great program and my mental game is stronger than ever so I am looking forward to a great season and a successful year.
To prepare for this season I’ll be playing handball and working out once a day and also drinking more water to stay hydrated.
Taking a short break at present but will return to training in a few weeks as the Golden Gloves and John Gaffney tournaments are coming up, followed by the Senior all Ireland Championship after Christmas
I’m trying to find a balance between letting my body heal and conditioning for the season. I’ll play a lot, do some conditioning work, and stay focused for whatever chances come my way
At the minute the weakest area of my game would be my fitness, so I’m trying to build it up and really just trying to become more match fit! I’m watching a lot of handball online, watching other types of styles and trying to find weaknesses in other pros games!
I am still recovering from shoulder surgery, so I have been hitting rehab hard and playing one handed. Looking forward to get back on the tournament scene for the first time in a year.
To prepare for the upcoming season, I will be doing some cross training, along with running, and uphill sprinting
The Next Genners will be competing for the 2018/19 Race 4 Eight Next Gen Cup, crowning the top 26-and-under star during the R48 8 season. Follow the Next Genners and all of the Race 4 Eight stars during the 2018/19 Race 4 Eight 8 season on wphlive.tv
WPH RACE 4 EIGHT: The World Players of Handball’s 2018/19 Race 4 Eight 8 Powered by ESPN features R48 stops in Georgia, Arizona, Oregon, Montana, Louisiana, Texas, and California, all culminating with The Player’s Championship in Utah in May of 2019. Similar to Nascar’s Nextel Cup and the FedEx PGA Playoffs, players earn points in the Race 4 Eight’s regular season stops to qualify for the season-ending Player’s Championship and bonus prizes.
For more information on the WPH Race 4 Eight, please contact World Players of Handball Executive Director David Vincent at email@example.com or World Players of Handball Development Director David Fink at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on the World Players of Handball, please visit wphlive.tv
WPH Senior Writer
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