Mixed doubles pickleballers play a match during the 2018 Margaritaville USA Pickleball National Championship at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden on Wednesday Nov. 7, 2018.
Tennis has often been the conduit of play for many elite pickleball players and such is the case with Wes Gabrielsen. Growing up in Salem, Oregon, Gabrielsen was a standout player who was a member of the men’s varsity tennis team at Linfield College, a Division III program located in McMinnville, Oregon where he now resides. Unlike other pickleballers, Gabrielsen started playing the sport in high school and it was also offered in his physical education classes in college. “I loved the fast paced nature of the game and how social it was. It was a great cross trainer for tennis at the time.”
Over the past few years, Gabrielsen has captured numerous titles, a majority of them in doubles. In 2016, at the USAPA National Championships he won a gold medal in Men’s Doubles and Mixed Doubles in the 19+ bracket and a gold medal in Men’s Open Doubles. He captured a gold medal in Men’s Pro Doubles and Mixed Pro Doubles at the 2016 Tournament of Champions, while taking home gold in Men’s Doubles in 19+ bracket and Mixed Doubles in 30+ bracket at the 2016 US Open. He attributes the rapid growth of pickleball to a number of factors. “Influx of athleticism in the sport – former pro tennis players getting into it along with increased input business-wise from major paddle companies. Increased TV and internet exposure have helped as well.”
Recently, Gabrielsen won a silver medal in Men’s Pro Doubles at the 2018 Tournament of Champions and like so many of his competitors feels the change in venue for the USAPA National Championships will only further elevate the stature of the sport. “Playing Nationals at Indian Wells means great exposure to the general public and the sports world. The more exposure the sport gets, the more legitimacy our sport will receive. A new venue will be so much fun and I can’t wait to play.” Neither can all of the tournament’s other participants.