Northbrook resident Wesley Hollenberg, 11, poses with ...
August 02, 2012
Pokemon trading cards might not be as popular as they were in the 1990s, but for 11-year-old Wesley Hollenberg, they're as relevant as ever.
The Northbrook resident is a nationally ranked player of the trading card game and will be participating in the world championships Aug. 10-12 in Waikoloa, Hawaii.
Currently the No. 3 player in the country by rating and No. 18 by overall points, Hollenberg recently placed in the top 40 at the U.S. championship, earning him a trip to the Aloha State.
He said he's not sure what he's more excited for — the world championships or spending a few days in the sun.
But just a few years ago, Hollenberg had never heard of the game that will soon send him on a tropical trip. His first introduction to the cards happened on a whim.
"I went to The Village Green a couple years ago [for the] kids' flea market," he said, "and I found some Pokemon cards and thought they were really cool, bought them and got into the game."
The complicated, analytical thought process behind the game, he said, is what first sucked him in.
"It's kind of like chess," he said, "except everyone makes their own chess board."
Wesley soon began searching for places to play locally and quickly worked his way up the ladder to becoming one of the top-ranked players in the nation.
As a byproduct of his success, Wesley and his father, Phil, have spent a lot of time in cars over the last few years, traveling across the country to different tournaments.
"It's a great way to have some time with your child," Phil said, "where you're actually able to sit down [and] talk about what's going on. So, it's bonding time. It's wonderful in that regard."
Phil also added that he's thrilled to have his son focusing his time and energy on such an intricate, complicated pastime as opposed to the flashy video games that capture the attention of many children his age.
"It's a great thing," he said. "It allows him to exercise skills that are going to serve him well as he gets older."
Wesley's mother, Melissa, also likes the effect game has had on her son's interpersonal skills.
"He's met people his age from all over," she said, "and they're all really bright kids. Really nice, down-to-earth, bright kids."
But, while he's met Pokemon players from all over the world, the game isn't quite as popular as it once was at home, which means finding people to play with is sometimes a challenge.
That's where Phil comes in.
"I read some of the cards," he said, "they're fairly complicated, and the game is fairly complicated. So I told him, 'I'm trying to run a company,' and I told him I wasn't going to invest the time, at the time, and we'd try to find him some people to play with."
Phil succeeded in finding other children for Wesley to play against in a group that meets every Sunday at a Deerfield restaurant, but it wasn't long before he found himself playing the game, as well.
"I practice with my dad a lot," Wesley said.
To continue reading and view more photos, login or sign up for Tower Plus: