For a young player with aspirations of someday playing on the professional circuit, Rob Nigro is quite content about showcasing his skills at local tournaments like the one here last weekend.
And the 15-year-old Thunder Bay native stole the show Sunday afternoon, dazzling the crowd at the Sportsplex with a gruelling 3-2 win over Paul McGuire (Kenora) in the best-of-five ‘A’ final that took 90 minutes to play.
Nigro, who has played competitively for the past five years, was forced to come back from a 2-1 deficit. After winning the first game 10-8, he dropped the next two (9-1 and 9-6) before rebounding with a pair of 9-2 wins.
"Right now, playing against older players is getting easier than it was before," admitted the grade 10 student at St. Ignatius High School in Thunder Bay. "Before it was harder because of the size difference."
He credited the coaching he’s received from Bob Shine and the talented Jonathan Power, one of the world’s top squash player who plays out of Toronto.
"Those guys are super nice guys. They always have time for the juniors," he enthused.
Nigro said because he lives in Thunder Bay, away from the squash mecca of southern Ontario, he’s been forced to rely more on training rather than consistently playing against top-notch competitors.
"It hurts my progress a bit, obviously, because I don’t have the competition to play against so I have to put in more training," he remarked, adding his regime consumes three-and-a-half hours a day six days a week.
"I work on my speed, aerobic endurance, and building overall strength," he added.
Nigro reached the final by sweeping Mark Norton (Kenora) and Tom Carten (Kenora) 3-0, and then edged Shine (Thunder Bay) 3-2.
In the ‘B’ final, Bob Tkachuk (Fort Frances) needed a 9-6 win in the fifth and deciding game to nip Darrell Cole, another 15-year-old prodigy from Thunder Bay.
After Cole took the first game 9-7, Tkachuk fought back to win the next two by scores of 9-3 and 9-7. But he couldn’t nail down the match in the fourth game, falling 10-8.
Cole, another provincially-ranked junior player, said it was tough playing a veteran such as Tkachuk, who likes to keep opponents on their backhand.
"[Bob] has a really good backhand," Cole said afterwards. "It’s harder to play against the men because the junior players don’t run as fast and they don’t hit the ball as hard."
Tkachuk reached the final by defeating Tony Viverios (Kenora), then Syvain Pelletier and Dean Pauli, both from Red Lake.
Dieter Scheffer (Winnipeg) downed Cam Moorhouse (Fort Frances) 3-1 in the ‘C’ final.
Meanwhile, the ladies’ ‘B’ event was won by Jill Skogberg of Thunder Bay, currently ranked sixth in the province in the under-16 age group, after she swept Connee Badiuk 3-0 in her final round-robin game.
Skogberg finished the four-player, round-robin with a perfect 3-0 record, one better than Mary Beth Tkachuk (Fort Frances).
The ‘C’ event was won by Julie Loveday (Fort Frances), who defeated Chantal East (Red Lake) 3-1.