2013 Grand Masters Championships Preview

Posted: July 24, 2013 07:43 PM

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Way back in the dark ages of 2009, four score and four years ago, "Over-40 Ultimate" became official. Yes, it was July 2009 when USA Ultimate, then the Ultimate Players Association, sanctioned and held the first-ever Grand Masters Championships, combining it with the reintroduction of masters women's.

I was the tournament director for that epic inaugural event, and it went off smashingly well, if I do say so myself. Being tournament director, team captain and playing in the party band Saturday night did prove a little too much that year, as J.D. Lobue, Jr., likes to remind me. Ah well, but it was GREAT fun to facilitate so many old friends getting back together to play the best sport in the world, and there are absolutely no regrets on my part for biting off so much.

DoG from Boston won that first title in Denver, coming from behind to overtake upstart locals Yomo Fog oho in a tightly contested final. This year, Grand Masters Nationals returns to Denver and the very same venue of its inception, Dick's Sporting Goods Park, although this year with a new twist.

First, after what many participants would call a failed experiment to hold Grand Masters Nationals by its lonesome ("what, no women?") over Labor Day weekend in September, it is once again being held in July and reunited with Women's Masters Nationals. Yay!

Second, USA Ultimate has decided to pull the Masters Division Championships away from the other divisions and combine it with the Grand Masters and Women's Masters Championships. Thus, 2013 represents the first time that grand masters, masters and women's masters will all share a combined national championship event. Welcome to the future of age-segregated ultimate.

I can see the greeter at the captains meeting now, "Welcome to 'Old People's Ultimate' folks! Step right up and grab your free samples of Depends and Ensure and your USA Ultimate Nightlight on a keychain for helping you find the bathroom in the dark hotel room after a long day competing in the sport you've now been playing for 20 or 30 years or more."

Ah, so sorry dear readers, but I couldn't resist picking the low-hanging fruit and making the obligatory, "Yes, we're old for ultimate" jokes.

So our champions to this point have been DoG, Old and in the Way, Scrapple and Surly. Who will win this year? Let's take a look at this year’s teams, in order of their seeding.

1 Surly      
Minneapolis, Minn.

They are the defending champions. Here's what they had to say in their team bio:

The Surly team is named after the Surly Brewing Company, which was formed by one of our own and has a reputation for fashioning some of the finest beers you will ever have the pleasure to swill. Surly teams have a proud tradition of playing tough, competitive ultimate on the field and generously sharing our fine craft beer at the end of the day on the sideline. The previous Surly GM teams brought together friends and foe from around the Midwest Region with a unified purpose under the Surly flagship. This year’s version will be no different. Since we are the defending champions this year, we are suddenly feeling quite overrated, so will have plenty of Surly’s new creation of the same name. The Surly brew will be flowing strong, so come on by, have some fun and get a little Surly!


They are calling themselves overrated and have even created a new beer called "Overrated." Well, that's a good strategy, boys. The defending champions and number one seed always want to try and move that target off the center of their foreheads.

Last year's grand masters champs lose some of their best players to the masters version of Surly this year, who is also coming to Denver looking to repeat. As they always do, they've added some new players to the mix. It will be interesting to see how they gel and if they can repeat. Or, are they indeed "overrated" this year? To quote Yomo's Karger, "That's why they play the games."


2 Yomo Fog oho    
Denver, Colo.

Yomo represents Colorado’s finest, with a few additions. Here's what co-captain Jim Nolte said about Yomo:

Yomo started in 2009, the first year of grand masters. As the 10 seed, we made it to the finals and played against DoG and lost on universe point. The next year, in 2010, Yomo was also in the finals, losing to Old and in the Way. In 2011, a combination of Yomo guys mixed with old Johnny Bravo guys (Boulder Gun Club) was in the finals against Scrapple and lost. Matt Krei, Jim Nolte, Mark Karger and Guy Martin are the only ones to play on all three of those teams and be in the grand masters finals for three years in a row. Now Yomo is back, retooled with Old and in the Way, and a spice of Texas and California, for their best chance ever to make it back to the finals and take [home] a national championship. Players to watch: Matt Krei, Tad Martin, Heath Mackay, "Tall" Tom Etchison...for starters...of course – JD and Buzzy are some big names.


Oh, and "everyone" asks about the team name. I defer to Yomo original member Guy Martin, who excelled in the 2009 Championships. Guy came up with the name and wrote this cool poem to help explain it:

Yomo Fog oho! 
(That's the way it's spelt. I know, cuz my dog told me so in a dream, and, he, in the dream, came up with the name) 
People often ask, what does the name mean? 
Really, it does have meaning.
Is it Asian? No.
Latin? No.
It's rhythmic. Kinda like a drum beat. 
It makes you wanna leap.
Leave your feet. 
It puts you in the know.
Yomo Fog oho.
Once you get it,
It describes an energy that's yours to have, and to hold.
Once you're in the know.
Yomo Fog oho!
It pulls from the ancient depths, of men's souls.
There is energy that is yours to use. Find it, use it. 
It allows us to come together from places distant, to run in the fold of Yomo 
It creates an atmosphere of comfort in which to hide or shine. Fog
 It can make you soar. oho!   
Yomo Fog oho


3 No Country 
Brattleboro, Vt.        

Team History/Bio:

No Country was formed two years ago by a bunch of Vermont and western Massachusetts guys to compete in the masters division. The core of the team had played together for years on a number of teams with revolving names, each year trying to find a new batch of young players who were not yet sick of us. This year, it was decided that, since we had to choose, we were all too old to run around with a bunch of 33 year olds, so we have headed off to greyer pastures to compete in the grand masters division. After discarding our young guys (who were holding us back anyway), we formed an alliance with our one-time nemesis, the evil DoG empire, and hope to contend for the coveted title of Grand Masters National Champions.


What do you get when you take two players with somewhere around 15-25 gold medals between them, Jim Parinella and Alex de Frondeville, and then add many-medaled Condor Steve Dugan, 2011 grand masters champion Billy Maroon, seasoned veteran Steve Finn, speedster Arnold Sanchez – and that's just for starters – to the core of a team that's already played together for years? You get one helluva good team. NO COUNTRY.

Look for this team to be in the semis or the finals with a strong chance to win it all.


4 Georgetown Brewing Company   
Seattle, Wash. 

Team History/Bio:

Seattle has been a hotbed for masters and grand masters ultimate for the past 15-20 years with the Keg Workers bringing home multiple championships, followed by Throwback taking the masters title in 2006, and now Georgetown Brewing that formed in 2011 and a semis showing in 2012. Fueled by Manny’s, Roger’s and Chopper’s Red, among other darn tasty beers provided by Georgetown Brewing co-owner and former Throwback player Manny Chao, this year’s crew has added some Bay Area, Boston, Atlanta, and Alabama flavor to form a bigger and badder roster for the march on Denver. As the late, great, Macho Man Savage would say, "Whatcha gonna do when GTB comes for you!"


Here's what co-captain Dan Powers had to say about Georgetown this season:

Same strong Seattle core of the last two years returning with Seattle additions of Jeremy Dewitt and Sockeye alumni Dennis Karlinsky and Spencer Reeder, both who played with Colorado last year. Dennis has returned to his Seattle team/roots and will co-captain with Dan Powers this year.

Other notable additions include Bay Area standouts brothers Steve and Ken Joye, Daryl Nounan and Hartti Soumela. Also, three of Dan’s Atlanta Ball & Chain teammates are now with Seattle: Charlie Yood, Mark Moore and Donovan Thomas.

In addition to our standout player last year - cutter, deep and defensive whirlwind Alex "Virus" Blanton, we have added a newly minted 40-year-old military doctor with blazing speed making his first Nationals appearance, Travis Frazier, and standout, very experienced speed demon Justin Hughes.

Also, Jeremy Clark who had a devastating Achilles rupture in the DoG quarterfinal win last year has made his recovery, and this will mark his first tournament back, returning to the Georgetown roster for our run again. Great to have Jeremy back!

Did your team practice? How much?

Twice per week since the start of April.

Did you have Regionals? How did it go?

We had a skeleton crew and some injured players. Played most games with 14-15 (full roster will be at Nationals and everyone is "knock on wood" healthy now). We lost our first game to Portland Afterburn, then won the rest. Regionals with four teams makes pool play games on Saturday pretty worthless, and we played that way most of day. We came out Sunday when games counted guns a blazing and beat Portland by five to start the day and Big Sky by five to win Regionals. Nothing like games that matter to motivate a team.

Does your team expect to do well at Nationals? Does your team have a goal or goals for Nationals? It could be as simple as having fun and connecting with old friends. It doesn't have to be about winning.

We all play this game as you know for fun, camaraderie and now, at this age, seeing if a bunch of very experienced players can gel over a weekend. Most teams have 20-30-50 percent who have not practiced or played together until Nationals. We have a great core that practices together, and we're all competitive, and winning is a goal.

Bottom line – we have been training and practicing very hard for Nationals this year to do better than last year and improved the roster significantly over last year’s team. Our team goal is to win it, which is only a few steps away from last year’s finish.

On a competitive level, what finish would you be happy with?

We would really be most happy with winning it all this year, and that is the goal going in for us. If we didn’t win it, I would hope we ended up doing better than last year and making finals.

How many players on your team have won a Nationals or Worlds before?

Many on the roster.

If so, how many open, masters, mixed, grand masters, college?

"Given the age of players, not sure if any of them won college Nationals, or can remember :-). Well except Dennis - 1991!

We have players that have won open, masters, mixed and Nationals and Worlds. No one from the team has won grand masters yet.

What do you think makes the grand masters division unique? How do we stand out or differentiate ourselves as players and teams from the other divisions?

Experience, lack of hair, grey hair :-) I also don't think we have lost any competitive juices at all, which doesn't make us unique – just normal ultimate players – and the level of play is still remarkably high. Also I think this division, more than others, allows many players who never got a chance in their career, for whatever reason, to make a team and make it to Nationals. This division is not about your ultimate résumé; it is about the kind of shape you stay in. Alex Blanton on our team last year is a great example. He didn’t ever play on an open or mixed team at a Nationals level, but he came out last year and was shutting down all the best players, scoring at will and running around the field like a deer.

The top players in this division are the ones who eat right, keep weight off, stay in shape and have kept playing this sport through the years at whatever level. Leave your résumé at the door." 


5 The Le Grande Tigre 
Santa Fe, N.M. 

Team History/Bio:

You are NOT taking crazy pills, we really are this incredibly good looking. Combining a love of 3D glasses, David Hasselhoff and tight tiger-striped briefs, The Le Grande Tigre brings a fresh breath of SoCal beach cool and desert suavity to the ultimate field. We know there is more to life than being really, really, really ridiculously good looking ultimate players. We just haven't found out what that is yet.

  This team played well at 2012 Nationals. They are one of the up-and-coming grand masters teams, for sure. On top of that, they have retooled with a whole bunch of youngsters. Their roster is peppered with players ages 40, 41 and 42. They appear to be, by far, the youngest team in the division. They may also be the fastest. It will be very interesting to see how this team performs. They are definitely a force to be reckoned with. Take them lightly, and they will make you pay. They may make you pay anyway. They are looking to take another step up this year and make the semis or even finals. If not, dang, they're good looking.


6 Afterburn   
Portland, Ore.

Team History/Bio:

Afterburn is a grand masters team based in Portland, Ore. While a handful of our players have competed in previous grand masters tournaments, we are essentially a new team, formed to compete in the inaugural USA Ultimate Masters Championship Series. Our name is a nod to our connection with the Portland men’s masters team Burnside, with whom we share history, practice space and organizational efforts. Most of our players are local to Portland, but we enjoy an infusion of talented players from Bend and Eugene, as well.

  Afterburn is stocked with some very solid players, including ex-Colorado players Ted Wardlaw and Steve Kelly. They are typical of many grand masters teams in that they have some personnel that got started late in club-level ultimate. They may not have many "big name" players from their days of open or masters, but often these players are super hungry to perform well, since they may have never tasted Nationals before. Afterburn played strong in the Western Regional Championships, beating Georgetown Brewing Company on day one. You can always count on Portland teams to be good runners and in great shape. They are a dark horse for sure, but don't be surprised if they do some significant damage and outplay their seeding.


7 BIGS   
Garden City, Idaho    

Team History/Bio:

Named for the gorgeous Chinese Gardens that were once abundant here, Garden City is also the former home of bars, legal ___________________, and ___________________ houses. It was here in 1956 that Raymond Snowden went on a drinking binge, "blew his top," and ___________________ Cora Dean to ___________________ outside the Hi-Ho Club. ___________________ in ___________________, he hitched a ride to nearby downtown Boise and ___________________ the ___________________into a sewer drain in front of Hannifin’s Cigar Store. It wasn’t long before Cora’s ___________________ was ___________________ and Snowden was in ___________________. In his ___________________ he ___________________to ___________________ her ___________________, ___________________ ___________________her many times, and ___________________ her ___________________ ___________________ and ___________________ it. He was the last man to be ___________________ and legally ___________________ in the state of Idaho. 

While all of these events are true and are an inescapable part of our past, they are not who we are and they do not define Big Sky Grand Masters. We simply acknowledge their existence as they drift through our history. Just like those Chinese Gardens of days gone by.

  The core of Big Sky Grand Masters has always been a force to be reckoned with, going back to their days as BIG SKY Masters and back even further to KAVU, when they nipped Old and in the Way at universe point to take the 2005 Masters Championship. Never underestimate an ultimate team from the Big Sky region, see Trigger Hippy and their run to the 2001 Club National Championship. Kraig Kempt you are a legend, and you are missed on the ultimate field. Good luck with the new limb! 2014 Olympics!


8 T-REX  
Raleigh, N.C.   

Team History/Bio:

Rising from the boneyard of Triangle ultimate players, T-Rex found a renewed inspiration that led to great times and solid finishes. We continue to play with the intensity of a bipedal carnivore, but in the spirit of Mr. T, we never take ourselves too seriously. Some experts have suggested T-Rex was primarily a scavenger - that's ok with this team. We'll take advantage of any opportunity (as would Laurence Tureaud). We continue to fight against extinction.

  This team features captain David Kaminski and Christian Schwoerke, two players who helped win gold for the U.S.A. with the 2011 World Championships of Beach Ultimate grand masters team in Italy. 


9 Kingfish  
Gainesville, Fla. 

Team History/Bio:

Created in 2012 for the fall masters USA Ultimate Championship Series, Kingfish is actually two teams, a school of teams. There are the Young Kingfish who competed in the 2013 masters division and the older Kingfish who play in the grand masters division.  

The Kings aim to break all expectations and play with more spirit than you'd expect of a fish. We draw spirit from all over the south, from Dallas to Atlanta, and from all over Florida – but be careful, or the Kingfish will school you!


10 Sick Hammers   
Austin, Texas

Team History/Bio:

Smelted by the intense heat of a Texas summer, hammers are forged. From these hammers of silver, all things good are built. With leathery necks, granite hands – and corporate-issued sandals – the men of Austin toll and sweat under burning skies. Meanwhile, the muscle-thick men from Houston, self-cooking in their own sweat, swing on through water-soaked air. San Antonio and College Station also give shelter to more men skilled in the power of the mighty sledge. Together, the Texans build, but not alone. Two men of courage and grace from California will bridge the arid deserts and rugged mountains to assist this cause. United, they swing their hammers to build.

For five years on end, the Sick Hammers of (mostly) Texas have been pounding what needs pounding to create what heretofore did not exist. Now, from a mile above the sea, Denver will behold what the hammers have created! It is that which cannot be destroyed by fire or drought, nor washed away by wind or rain. Nothing will tear down what the hammers have created because it exists free of material limits. It is bonds of friendship, loyalty and trust that the hammers have built. It is legacy.


11 Old Line  
Cockeysville, Md.   

Team History/Bio:

Old Line (aka Cockeysville) is in its second year of existence and is comprised of friends and competitors from the Baltimore and D.C. metro area (with a few other long-distance friends) who just don’t know when to quit.  We are excited to be attending the Grand Masters Championships once again and to try to improve upon our results from last year.


  This team features 2011 U.S.A. World Championships of Beach Ultimate gold medalist Graham Katz. 


12 Big Wheel    
Deep South – AL/GA/TN  

Team History/Bio:

Resurrected from the Rocket City, the Magic City and the ATL, stripping away kudzu from the cleats, we’re low-ridin’ yellow handle streamer flyin’ fools with the hand brake to back it up. Like Danny riding the endless halls in the Shining, we’ll be running down deep hucks on the fields in Denver. Deep South Grand Masters looking to roll big in the Mile High City.

  I love the Shining reference to Room 237 in the Stanley Hotel, in nearby Estes Park, Colo. Will all play and no work make Big Wheel dull boys? Doubtful!



13 Charred Guys    
Sudbury, Mass.  

Team History/Bio:

The team formed in 2013 to compete in the Grand Masters Championship Series. The core of our roster is from two BUDA summer league teams, Flying Salsa and Get Flat – both teams are based in Sudbury, Mass. These teams have hosted Char Guy, a summer league mini-tournament, for the past 10 years. We have picked up a few other players from teams around metrowest Boston and southern New Hampshire. Some of us have played together in the BUDA Grand Masters Leagues, but Northeast Regionals was Charred Guys’ first tournament. We look forward to many more years of grand masters competition.


As told by captain Victor Impink:

It was Chris Borden, the real captain, who had the vision, long ago, to make it happen. I include our exchange in late February:

Sent: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 9:17 PM
Subject: Re: Grand Masters Nationals

I think you're nuts, but am willing to help organize. Lord knows I could use to run some.

Who are you thinking?


Hope you are well.  Attached is the process for entering Grand Masters Nationals. If we put together a good roster, I think we have a realistic chance to be one of the ~3 teams from the Northeast. Are you interested? We need 10 active UPA members on a roster by 4/19 to enter. If there are Regionals, it would be in June. Championship is July 26-28 in Denver.

Chris drove this to conclusion, including securing a location for Grand Masters Northeast Regionals in Sudbury, Mass., and running the event with Tucker Evans. And then Charred Guys secured a berth at a 14-13 universe point in the final game to go, and here we are.

Finally, let me address a couple of specific questions you raised in order to percolate the mind.

We had one practice, and one guy showed up for it (he was not clued in I guess). That was it. Many of us have been playing together – or against one another – since the early 90s and before, so there's some mojo. We also add a number of new players from Boston grand masters club.

What makes the grand masters division unique?  

That's easy. We all play competitive, aggressive old-school ultimate where non-contact is the foundation. Watch the athleticism and the control next weekend as guys 40+ dial in catches and play killer defense without contact as a precept. It's beautiful. This is real ultimate for us, as a team, and for Boston's BUDA Grand Masters Leagues.

What's the brief history/bio of your team?

With the exception of three players, none of us have any experience in college or open club levels. We all live within four miles of each other."

Does your team expect to do well at Nationals? Does your team have a goal or goals for Nationals? It could be as simple as having fun and connecting with old friends. It doesn't have to be about winning.

We are winners just by having the opportunity to play. Our goal is to have fun and learn a lot so that we can win Nationals next year.

On a competitive level, what finish would you be happy with?


How many players on your team have won a Nationals or Worlds before?


If so, how many open, masters, mixed, grand masters, college?

One person on our team played for Windy City in 1986, and they came in first or second place.

What do you think makes the grand masters division unique? How do we stand out or differentiate ourselves as players and teams from the other divisions?

We make it unique! We are high school teachers, local builders, realtors, lawyers, doctors, financial advisors, etc. And we are all fathers who started playing pick-up about eight years ago and now are playing for the National Championship! Even our town paper did an article on us.

Thanks everyone!


14 Ozark Hillbillys   
Fayetteville, Ark.

Team History/Bio (as submitted by team after article was written):

The Ozark Hillbillys are a grand masters team based in Fayetteville, Ark. Some of us have been playing together for over 20 years. This is our fifth Grand Masters Nationals, somehow participating in every one. We’re coming in through the backdoor this year with our typical smallish team, but hope to prove worthy.

"Our livers are strong, our wood teeth are good-looking, and our grammar are above average."


These guys are class acts. Buy them a beer (even though they make some real good stuff themselves and probably will bring it) because they decided at the last minute to replace a team that dropped at the last minute. Not naming names...That's why they didn't have time to submit a team bio before the deadline. No worries. I'm writing it for them, while they are "loading' up the truck to move to Beverly" i.e., come to Nationals at the last-minute! HUGE EFFORT!

The Hillbillys were part of the first Grand Masters Nationals in 2009. They were elated to outperform their seed, and they made the quarterfinals! They stayed at Mark Witherell's house in Golden that year. They had a tall, fast black man who looked like a Division I track sprinter (probably was) and caught some goals for them, serious. I hope he's back with you guys this year. Thank you, Ozark Hillbillys! You kept it a 16-team field and helped avoid some funky pools and scheduling.


15 WSUC   
Western Springs, Ill. 

Team History/Bio:

We are Western Springs Ultimate Club, a group of guys who live within five miles of each other that decided to form a team after enjoying years of weekly pick-up games. Last year was our first year in existence, and this will be our second tournament – EVER. We play to honor the memory of our teammates who have gone before us. We are WSUC! (And yes, that is pronounced phonetically, "we suck.")   


16 Old Milwaukee    
Milwaukee, Wis.

Team History/Bio:

We are a team with surprisingly few roots to Milwaukee, but we like beer! We are coming to Grand Masters Nationals for the third straight year. The nucleus of our team has played together for several years in masters and grand masters. Our roster consists of players scattered throughout the Central Region. Historically, we have been the oldest team at Nationals. Although we still have the same old poachers and geezers, we have added some younger blood to the roster. Our goal is to continue our history of highly spirited play while improving our seeding in the end.

With younger legs this year, we feel confident we can reach our goal. Players to look for would be Jeff "Army" Armstrong at O handler, Nathan Stuart at D handler and Trent Troyer, who is always open in the middle. Jake Reynolds and Bradley Strahan are great as deep threats. Because we are so spread out in the region, we do not practice regularly but have had a few scrimmages with other similar-aged teams. We are a spirited team, always ranking high in the spirit score, and are still miffed at our second-place finish last year.


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