2012 Grand Masters Championship Preview

Posted: August 30, 2012 03:10 PM

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There are few tournaments that pose as much challenge to seeding as Grandmasters Championships.

With so few head to head matchups to look at, or even, to be fair, many opportunities to see any one team as a cohesive whole, putting together this tournament’s pools becomes as much a lifetime achievement award as anything.

With "young" guys aging into the division and others finally calling it a career, there really is little to go on but gut feeling, persuasive emails to headquarters and the occasional participation in a professional national championship.

Since I am not even privy to the persuasive emails, buckle up for the highly speculative, and possibly laughably inaccurate, Grandmasters Championships preview for 2012, pool by pool:


Pool A

  We begin in the realm of relative certainty, with defending champions Scrapple, from (mostly) Philadelphia. Not only do they still have quite a solid chunk of their winning roster from last year, they have allowed Trey Katzenbach and Bill Maroon to go off and win something called an AUDL championship. Apparently, it involves activities a lot like Ultimate, but the players are compensated in some fashion or other. Can’t say for sure. Regardless, they will definitely be looking for the repeat, though, as Chris O’Connor notes, "we know we can’t take anyone lightly." New talent Paul Minecci, Paul Bonfanti and Jeff George will also play key roles for the reigning champs.
  Le Grande Tigre follows Scrapple in the seeding, and they are focused mostly on how good looking they are. I will allow more seasoned judges to make that call. They feature a few faces from Beyondors, and several others who wandered in from the desert. Chris Fontes’ throws will keep this team on the board, and look for Louis Bair to once again show up strong on the D end. 
  Sick Hammers returns to GM Championships for the fourth year, and have hopes of pushing past their results to date. Consistency will be their weapon of choice, as they return the bulk of their core players, including top assist man Gary Breaux and dangerous receiver Dwight Monteith. Former beer bracket winners, they have their sights set on something a bit more substantial this time around. 
  Maryland’s Old Line fills out the pool, and this Mid-Atlantic offering feature a fairly balanced and sizeable roster, which can often tell the tale in a war of attrition like Grandmasters. They will have to get past some tight competition, but don’t be surprised if they punish a team for overlooking them. 

Pool B

  Boulder Gun Club comes in once again as the youngest and one of the deepest rosters in the tournament. The sting of their finals loss now abated, they have once again loaded up on just old enough talent, and the likes of Big Tom Etchison, Jim Nolte and Matt Krei will keep them churning on the field. This team’s youth and focus on leadership (over 20% of the team is listed as a captain of one nature or another) might well get them to the next step. 
  Brooklyn makes its first GM Championships appearance despite having a long history of playing at East Hampton and Philadelphia. Bill Seto and Phil Vlahakis’ squad may lack numbers, but for sheer experience on the field, few teams can match them.
  Man Down bills itself as "Philly’s other team." With a smattering of Old Sag lads and more than a few new faces to championships, they hope to surprise in a game or two. Mark "Nacho" Cornachio and Chris Kelly, in particular, will bear watching. Another smaller roster, one hopes that the legs hold up for the three-day grind.
  Ozark Hillbillys return for their fourth year at GMs as well, and look to improve on the last couple of seasons. Leading the charge north out of the holler, Todd Erickson looks to continue to patrol the deep, hauling down Ds and hucks in equal measure. The team added a few extra legs this season, which hopefully will help them make a move in this tough pool. 
  Grandmaster Flash is not another incarnation of the 2009 team of the same name, but rather a reunion version of a Twin Cities club team. While coming in as the last overall seed, they certainly have the depth to punish a team taking them lightly. 

Pool C

  Ordinarily, the beer pool is a term used for the lower, less competitive bracket of a tournament. In this case, however, we’ll have to make an exception. Perennial semifinalists Surly GM have long roved the fields of GM Championships, plying their opponents with the fine craft brews of their sponsor. As hosts, they have loaded up with previously reluctant (or previously too young) members of Surly’s championship Masters team. Look for Ricky Eikstadt, Don Tom, Dave Boardman and Mark "Paco" Enright to add another gear to an already high-powered attack. 
  From Seattle, Georgetown Brewing gathers another set of grizzled vets under another former Ultimate player’s brewery banner. Barney Ahouse’s squad fortified itself with players from former GM staples Big Sky, as well as a few out of region pickups. This roster is young(ish), deep and dangerous. Of particular interest will be the integration of the former Ball and Chain players, like Dave Chaiken, Dan Powers, Charlie Yood and Donovan Thomas. If this team can get clicking, expect to see them deep into the tournament. 
  Moscow State returns to GMs for the third time, looking to bring their Soviet style to the upper tier this year. Last year’s overall D leader Sam Lee returns, along with Sanjeev Khanna’s conscienceless throwing and Linwood Lewis’ nose for the end zone. While they have a tough road ahead to break seed, their numbers mark them as built for the grind of a three-day event.
  Age Against the Machine returns to GM Championships free of the specter of last season’s disappointment. As a team built around balance, they have fewer heroes than soldiers, but will look for dynamic play from some of their younger players, such as Nick DiNardo and Ian Stevens. Another team that added numbers and youth, Age looks to match their game play to their always-impressive spirit. 
  Thirst ‘N’ Howl’s perennial presence at GMs has brought spirit, good will and beer cozies to this high level event. Like Age, they look to push a few rungs up on the placement roster. Look for them to continue to find Matt Storch in the end zone, while Rick Colbeth moves the disc. 

Pool D

  The storied gentlemen of DoG round out our pool leaders, and look to bring the first repeat championship in the division home to Boston. While led by usual suspects Alex de Frondeville, Simon Verghese, Steve Dugan and Jim Parinella, this year’s edition comes in leaner, with many new faces. Perhaps most prominent among them would be Steve Finn.  Though the overall team is smaller than last year’s quarterfinalists, the average age has dropped, and newly minted GM-eligible players Tony Leonardo, Patrick Douma and Ted Kubisek make this one of the more sprightly DoG lineups to come to GMs. 
  Triangle Area, N. C.’s T-Rex is another GM veteran squad, having brought their team to the quarters last season. Still with them are standouts Rod Hannon, Garrett Dyer, Mike Riley and David Kaminski, though this year’s edition will miss the scoring prowess of Alan Ellis. With an experienced, cohesive core to build on, T-Rex will get to see if they can reverse last year’s 5th place game loss to DoG and have a shot at the pool upset. 
  Pittsburgh’s Iron City Ultimate opened their GM account last season with an 11th place finish behind the strong throws of Dave Lionetti and Todd Lieb, and the timely finishing of Stu Snodgrass. 2012’s vintage has trimmed the roster and added only a few new faces, making Iron City another team counting on continuity to trump depth this weekend. 
  Old Milwaukee follows up last year’s GM debut with a ton of turnover in the ranks. Even though about half of the roster is comprised of new (to Old Milwaukee, anyway) players, their heralded disdain for youth continues in this edition. As they put it themselves, "we were the oldest team to compete last year… and not getting any younger." That’s a bold strategy; we’ll see how it works out for them. 
So, there you have it, the field for 2012 Grandmasters Championships, in Blaine, Minnesota. I’d offer a set of predictions, but I feel as a participant that my natural bias might show. I will say I am looking forward to a Championship tournament where I can sleep in my own bed. We’ll see you all out on the fields, or you can follow all the action on Score Reporter and the daily recaps that will be posted here at USA Ultimate’s website.