Ruettiger, 10, is a Pokemon wizard
By Kris Stadalsky For The Herald-News October 5, 2012 8:50PM
Joey Ruettiger, 10, of Minooka finished ninth in the Pokemon World Championships. | submitted photo
Updated: November 8, 2012 6:05AM
MINOOKA — On any given Saturday, 10-year-old Joey Ruettiger may be up at the crack of dawn heading to a Pokemon tournament. He may head north to Madison, Wis., as close as Oswego, or south to Indianapolis.
From the start of the season, Joey plays competitively in multiple tournaments through June.
Nationals start in July and the World Championship wraps up the season in August.
The trophies and medals won at the tournaments are treasures, but the real goal is to earn enough points to be invited to the Pokemon Trading Card Game World Championship.
And in August of this year, that’s exactly where Joey was. He had enough points to be invited to play in the 2012 junior division championship in Waikoloa, Hawaii, against competitors from all over the world.
While a win wasn’t in the cards, Joey did come home with ninth place in his division.
During the first day of play, Joey won all seven rounds, beating out champions from Japan, Italy, the Czech Republic and the United States.
On Day 2, the top 16 players faced off against each other.
The bad part about winning all seven rounds on the first day is that nobody has ever gone on to win the championship from that spot, Joey said.
“It’s called ‘the curse of the first,’” he said. “Nobody’s ever made it.”
When Joey sat down to play on the second day, he was nervous being in the spotlight.
“I wanted to win and just get through the round,” he said.
But he lost out to his U.S. competitor, Ian Robb, who went on to finish second in Worlds.
Joey’s one consolation — he lost the round by a very small margin.
“I was disappointed in my play,” he said. “It’s a lot more luck than strategy.”
But even getting to the World Championship is a big feat for any young man, let alone someone who began collecting Pokemon cards on eBay just for fun.
When Joey attended his first Pokemon tournament at the Joliet Public Library, he took his 60 best cards along. He wasn’t aware of the rules and what constituted a legal deck.
Jimmy Ballard of Top Cut Gaming in Plainfield saw Joey needed a hand and lent him a legal deck so he could play, said Joey’s mom, Rose Ruettiger.
“He took a liking to Joey,” said Rose Ruettiger. “He got Joey more interested in the game. Having him in your corner is a big deal.”
At 7 years old, Joey won his first Cities Championship in Oswego. This past season he won both regional tournaments he attended.
Just since the beginning of the current season, Joey won four Battle Roads tournaments and has taken a second and a fourth. Oct. 13 and 14 he’ll be off to Fort Wayne, Ind., for a regional tournament.
Although traveling takes up a lot of his time, he loves to play “for the fun of the game,” he said. Plus he’s met some really great friends from all over the world along the way and at Worlds.
When Joey isn’t battling it out on the tables, he might be found playing flag football for the Channahon Park District or practicing karate at Duggan’s Family Martial Arts in Minooka.
Joey intends to keep on playing competitively, with his sights set on earning his way to the 2013 World Championship in Vancouver, British, Colombia. He ranks No. 3 in his division in World Championship points.
He also knows a bit about playing Pokemon.
“I think I know pretty much everything about the game,” he said.