Native Winonan Andy Nett won the 2012 World Handball Championships for Men's Doubles last October in Dublin, Ireland. Nett and his partner, Luis Moreno of Tuscon, Ariz., won the USA National Championship in Los Angeles in June, earning them a trip for the World Championship. The pair beat out Irish players to take the gold medal.
Winona native Andy Nett won the World Handball Championship for Men's Doubles last October in Dublin, Ireland.
Nett comes from an athletic line. His grandfather, John Nett Sr., coached basketball at Cotter High School for 38 years, taking his team to a state championship in 1977. Andy and his father, John Nett Jr., also of Winona, have competed together in the Minnesota Handball Championships as a father-son doubles team for several years. They've won the last three years in a row.
Andy learned the game from his father when he was eight years old. The two would play together at the Winona YMCA along with the few other handball players in the area.
Andy showed prowess in the sport right away, winning the Junior National Tournament when he was 11 and again at 13. Handball took a backseat to team sports during middle school, high school, and college; Andy played football, baseball, and basketball for WHS and started as quarterback at WSU.
Now Andy has made handball his focus again, with great success. In the three years since seriously returning to the game, he has won the State Championship for singles, toured the country playing tournaments, and earned an 8th overall ranking from the World Players of Handball.
Andy hasn't been corrupted by fame, though.
"A lot of times, when you tell people you play handball, they don't know what you're talking about," Andy said. Handball is essentially racquetball without the racquets. It's a fast-paced game of skill and agility, but relatively unpopular in the U.S. Handball is big in Ireland, though. "It's almost their national sport," Andy said.
"I've given up talking about handball to people who don't understand it," said John Jr. "It's an enjoyable game and the people in the handball world understand what's it's about."
Andy Nett hadn't played with Luis Moreno before their National Championship victory. "We've actually never lost together," Nett joked. They had faced each other as opponents before, and this year Moreno asked Nett to play doubles with him for the national championship.
Despite their lack of experience as teammates, Nett said, "Our game fit together really well." Normally, it helps to have played a lot with your doubles partner, Nett admitted, but when he jumped in with Moreno, "it was natural and effortless."
When told he must be a good handball player too, to have won the state doubles championship, John Nett Jr. laughed, "Andy and I have played together since he was a young kid, but he's certainly the dominant player now."
Winning the national championship was great, and "not something I had in mind for myself when I started playing handball," Andy said. The free trip to Ireland was wonderful, too, he said.