MB5: Chuck T Reigns at the Old Orchard

Sorry Monkeyball fans: I wasn’t able to pull off MB5 recap webisodes (edited on 1/31/10: here’s a 2-minute video review), so an old fashioned written review will have to suffice. I will say, though, that the preview videos have taken our game to a new level of Monkeyball nerdery.

Champion: Chuck Trinoskey
Runner-Up: Jason Salmon
Third Place: Andy Frushour
# of Players: 110

Results/Bracket (PDF)

HEADLINES

The way I see it, three stories highlighted the day’s festivities. Chuck Trinoskey (Logansport, IN) capped off a dominating summer with his first World Championship. He was prepared, focused and no one could keep his hands off the (gold) balls. Not even Jason Salmon, the featured baller of our second headline of the day. Salmon (Marrieta, GA) knocked off three-time defending champ Dean Allen in the quarterfinals. As Dean said, even if you’re scoring 6s and 7s, it doesn’t matter if your opponent is dropping 8s and 9s. And not to brag (but I will), I did predict this outcome in my MB4 recap: “don’t be surprised if this baller knocks off Dean Allen at MB5 (yes, this is my first prediction for the 2009 Words).”

Finally, and maybe this should have been number one on the list, the rain was unforgettable. Two and one-quarter inches fell while we were at the Old Orchard. It was a fairly consistent drizzle with waves of heavier stuff all morning long, but during the first games of the afternoon session the skies opened up. In fact, according to a number of iPhone radars, we were directly underneath what meteorologists likely call a “dark red shit storm”. Photos can’t really do justice to just how wet we all were. And, somehow, it was the most fun I’ve ever had at the World Championships. Thanks to a lot of positive attitudes and four barrels of Miller Lite, we powered on and finished the event. It was awesome. I can’t tell you how many messages I’ve received that said something to the effect of “what a testament to the game of Monkeyball that 100+ people showed up, stayed for the duration of the events, and had big smiles are their faces.” Big thanks to all of you for taking this weather lemon and turning it into 150 proof lemonade.

MORNING QUALIFYING: TOP 16

The format for MB5 had a few twists and modifications from previous World Championships. Besides playing all morning session games to 11 (due to the aforementioned weather), all ballers currently ranked in the World’s Top 16 were placed in one group. And as expected, Dean Allen picked up where he left off at MB2-3-4 and rolled through morning qualifying. Allen topped Brent Morrow for the “championship” of the Top 16. Of course, Brent was quick to remind Andi and Andy of their inaccurate morning predictions (Brent: our afternoon predictions for you were much more accurate). In another surprise to the Monkeyball TV hosts, Dan Renner dropped three top 10 players on his way to the 3rd seed, topping Andy Kidle in the consolation. Kidle had earlier defeated World #1 Andy Frushour to claim his spot near the top of morning qualifying.

Four of the Top 16 lost their first two matches and were forced into a pressure-packed play-in game to qualify for the afternoon session. Alabama’s #16 Kevin Singleton worked hard this summer to squeak into the Top 16, but after a long Winnebago road trip to the Old Orchard and two quick losses, he was staring at an early exit and even longer trip home. Former World #1 Casey Frushour also lost his first two, but someone had to get the short end of the stick in a Group of Death that featured Chuck Trinoskey, Brent Morrow and Dan Kidle. Todd Byers scored 4 lonely points in his two losses, but hoped for more in his play-in game. And Andrew Alexander’s lack of summer practice caught up to him as he went 0-2 in the All-Star morning session.

MORNING QUALIFYING: GROUP A

For years we’ve been talking about Kari Dressler being a sleeper to do well, and for years Kari has gotten the shaft on some unlucky draws. MB5 finally proved to be her breakout event, dominating Group A and taking the #1 seed. Rex Danely, fresh off his shift at the Logansport (IN) Fire Department, used his intimidating presence to shutout/monkey-stomp his first three opponents before succumbing to Dressler. Rookie Pete Grostic lost his first match of the day, but fought through the losers brackets to take the 3rd seed (and build a rabid-base of Albion College support). Katie Merritt, another rookie, qualified 4th – but word on the street is she better learn how to play from both sides of the ladder if she wants to make a splash at MB6. Don Roberts won his first three matches of the day en route to the Group #5 seed. Matt Danely seems to always be a little hit-or-miss at sanctioned events (see 2009 Green Acres Open vs. the Green Acres Open After Party), but he was hitting enough to come out of Group A with the sixth seed. Rookie Dylan Holland did enough in the morning to get to the afternoon as a 7 seed, sending the Best Dressed Alabaman Monkeyballer — Bill Mills – to the 8th seed and a play-in game.

Other Group A notes… Chuck Salmon: what happened? I understand the L to Kari, but Pete Grostic? C’mon. (No offense, Pete.) You’re the official leader of the SoMoCo ballers, so I expect you put together a few more of your famous large MB tournaments to get you better prepared for MB6. I also expected Ryan Portenga, Dan Smith and Jimmy Cullen to do a little more damage. Three wins among the three of you would certainly have been Under the Vegas line. And Dan – how’d you like that weather? Thanks to you, I hear Meijer has three less parkas and 50 more dollars.

MORNING QUALIFYING: GROUP B

Tony Fuller is not happy with the World Rankings. He claims to be better than Dan Renner, and his 8-4 head-to-head record against Renner along with his two championships over Renner, would suggest he might be right. At MB4, however, Fuller did not have a good showing and the result is bringing down his World Ranking. The first step in recovering his ranking was his morning qualifying effort at MB5. He did not dominate Group B, but he did win all of his matches and earn the #1 seed. Davis Feldman was not the youngest competitor, but he was close. This 11-year-old had a dominating run through the winner’s bracket, defeating Joe Frushour along the way, and finishing with the #2 seed. No doubt Davis’s success was due to practice with his old man, Dave Feldman, the eventual #3 seed. The elder Feldman defeated Gayelord Mankowski in the finals of the loser’s bracket. G Mankowski topped J Mankowski in one of the battle of the spouses. (Mankowskis: again, I apologize).  J ended up with the #6 seed after losing to #5 Adam Schrauben. Schrauben has made it a yearly tradition of quietly advancing to the afternoon session, and this year was no different. Speaking of quiet, the self-proclaimed “Nastiest Monkeyballer In the Land”, Mary Ann Thayer didn’t disappoint with either her MB skillz or her never-ending trash talk. She was one loss away from playing Casey Frushour in a play-in match (dang, I was begging to see that match), but she topped late addition Nick Costello forcing Nick to take on Casey for the right to advance to the afternoon.

Other Group B Notes… Joe Frushour had another disappointing Worlds. But what do you expect from the guy that spent the rain-soaked morning running around the Old Orchard with a drill, an oversized Monkeyball ladder and other handy man accoutrements? Thanks, dad, for all you did to get the Old Orchard playable – and maybe next year your opponents will roll over for you so you can advance to the afternoon. Since Jay “Sofa” Lomenick drives 12 hours to this event and always gets knocked out early, he’s volunteered to run a sports book at MB6. How much do you think he’ll bet on himself? A special shout out to the Kubackis and Jill Kindler for seeing our preview videos on Facebook and signing up 48 hours before kickoff. I’m guessing you’ve already set high expectations for next year.

MORNING QUALIFYING: GROUP C

I anticipated this to be a group dominated by females. Instead, the rookies took over the four Group C courts. The biggest splash was made by newcomer Keith Hagen. Rumor has it Hagen played 3 hours of non-stop MBall, by himself, the day before MB5.  Maybe this should be the training regimen for future ballers as Hagen won Group C’s #1 seed and made a deep, deep run into the afternoon. Hagen’s winner’s bracket championship opponent was another rookie, Dave Sprague. No doubt Sprague spent some time honing his skills with buddy Matt Young, who surprisingly failed to make the afternoon. The battle for the third seed was less about Monkeyball and more about patience. And knowing Andi Osters penchant for impatience, newcomer Mike Connell’s slow play ploy was sure to work to perfection. Connell knocked Osters off twice in the morning, and along the way filled her beer multiple times, offered her warm clothes and inquired as to which EL bars she frequented. From what I hear, it was the most entertaining match of the day – nice work, Mike! Brett Thiel survived the sophomore slump and took the 5th seed in his group. Apparently Chris Gates was intimidated by Brett, cuz Gates left the Old Orchard before he could finish the morning session, becoming the first player to ever forfeit a spot in the afternoon session. Jo Kidle represented for the ladies, taking the 7th seed and sending Troy Brya to the play-in game.

Other Group C Notes… I thought for sure Jason Tooker, John Kidle and Jim Shelley would make the afternoon session. This was Tooker’s first Worlds since MB2, and I’m guessing he noticed a marked improvement in the field’s skill level between MB2 and MB5. After a quarterfinal appearance at MB3, the eldest Kidle had his second-straight one-win day in 2009. Jim Shelley was a star in the once-heralded Grand Ledge Meadow Woods Monkeyball crew, but this Comet followed the pattern of all but one of their group (yea for Maggie!) in bowing out before the afternoon.

MORNING QUALIFYING: GROUP D

Outside of Andy and Andi, there may be no bigger fan of Monkeyball than Birmingham, Alabama’s Sean Dameron. Dameron arrived at the Old Orchard still stewing over his early ouster at MB4. But after getting a taste of the MB festival that is the World Championships, Dameron was ready to prove 2008 a fluke. In four morning matches, the short-arming lefty gave up only four points in securing Group D’s #1 seed. The #2 seed belonged to host and MB1 champion, Jim Blair. Looking back, I’m amazed Blair could keep his focus since he was surely thinking about his liability should lightning strike one of our Monkeyballers. As previously mentioned, Maggie Olds was the lone advancer out of the Grand Ledge crew – she claims to be better in the rain – and topped her husband in the winner’s bracket quarters. (Hey Tony, whatever happened to “Maggie says we’re mud wrestling at noon”?) And Maggie wasn’t the only Group D female reaching the afternoon. Heather Hill also knocked off her husband in morning qualifying and ultimately ended up with the 4th seed. Dawn Jenkins was the third female qualifier from Group D, fighting back through the loser’s bracket from an opening game loss to Aimee Trinoskey and taking seed #6. Shawn Johnson found us online a year ago and took a weekend away from Horseshoes tournaments to make his way to Dimondale with a few friends. For his efforts, Shawn was able to nab the 5th seed. Cory Fulton, yet another rookie, handed Paul Ford a loss in the battle for the 7th spot and forcing Paul to prove himself in the play-in game.

Other Group D Notes… After picking Tony Olds to reach the quarters in MB4 and watching him go 0-2 BBQ, I’m glad I didn’t take him again in 2009. I thought John Hill could make another run to the afternoon, but couldn’t get past some tough females in his wife and Dawn Jenkins. And Dr. James Peters – you were so close. A tough first-round match-up with the Olympic gymnast and third match against vet Carl Swan took you out of the tournament. I hope you come back next year, and I hope you take it easy on my teeth the next time I’m in your dental chair. Speaking of Carl Swan, this e-bay item posted by Carl was hilarious.

MORNING QUALIFYING: PLAY-IN GAMES

The last four afternoon spots were determined by four play-in games featuring the 8th place finishers from Groups A-D against the bottom four from the Top 16. These single-game matches were billed as a fight to the Monkeyball death – or simply, lose and you go home. I’m sure the pundits thought the dudes from the Top 16 would be the four advancing to the afternoon – Kevin Singleton, Casey Frushour, Todd Byers and Andrew Alexander. Three of the four made it happen, but Todd Byers became our first-ever Top 16 to fail to advance when Troy Brya took him out for the day. The silver lining for Byers? Most people would go home and cry in their beer. Todd may have actually done that since he brews and kegs his own beer — so he’s got that going for him, which is nice.

AFTERNOON CHAMPIONSHIP SESSION

We started the afternoon with 44 players.  And the opening round of the championship session was highlighted by the nastiest, wettest, densest, most sideways rain you can imagine. It was wet before, but this rain got us soaked-to-the-bone wet. We even had some folks take a short rain delay (I’m surprised more didn’t do so).

Nine ladies made it to the afternoon. Thirteen rookies joined the final 44.  And of the Sweet 16, only 11 of the Top 16 in the world were left. Games were still shortened to 11 points, and eventually we got down to the Final Eight.

QUARTERFINALISTS

#1 morning seed Dean continued to make quick work of opponents to reach the quarters, especially when blind-siding Andy Dressler, 11-0, 11-1. Dre didn’t even see it coming. (What, you can’t poke fun at friends with one eye?). After a rough morning session, Jason Salmon fought back to reach the quarters, knocking off MB3 runner-up Andrew Alexander in the Sweet 16. It’s no longer miracle when the Monkeyball Jesus, St Pete, FLA’s Eric Trinoskey, makes a run toward the Golden Monkeyballs. This year ET topped Andy Kidle to get to the Final 8, setting up a meeting with his cousin and MB Commish, Andy Frushour. Frushour was the definition of “survive and advance” knocking out sis-in-law Jo Kidle and fellow MB nerd Sean Dameron in a pair of long three-game matches. Brent Morrow made his fourth straight appearance in the quarterfinals by taking out host Jim Blair – only Dean Allen can claim a better Monkeyball history than Morrow. Although I did pick Morrow to make it this far, I should have never have picked him to lose his first 2 matches of the day. Bad prognosticating by me. Rookie Keith Hagen continued his surprisingly staggering run to the quarters, knocking off MB stalwarts Casey Frushour and Dan Kidle along the way. Hagen is for real. After a long and wet afternoon opening match against Rex Danely, Chuck Trinoskey started to find his groove and pounding the 3-Bar. Dan Renner should have just stay out of his way. (Renner, BTW, had one of only two reported 12 Monkeys on the day. Nice work , Dan and MB Jesus.)  The last q-final spot was taken by Tony Fuller, who I am sure is not going to be happy with the new rankings (since D-Ren is still well ahead). Fuller faced a still-reeling-from-the-Mike-Connell -Experience Andi Osters, but he took out the MB3 bronze medalist to reach the quarters.

In the quarterfinals, there is only one match really worth mentioning. Sure, Andy Frushour made the semis for the second consecutive year by beating Eric Trinoskey, and the rookie Hagen knocked out the seasoned veteran Morrow, and Chuck made quick work of Tony Fuller – but no one will ever remember those three matches. The one folks are still talking about was the world class MB exhibition put on by SoMoCo’s Jason Salmon and our three-time defending champ, Dean Allen. The high-scoring affair featured two uber-focused ballers and a liquored up crowd that had been whipped into a frenzy. It was an anything you can do, I can do better kind of match. And in the end, Jason Salmon was just too hot and brought Dean Allen’s three-year reign to a close. (Have a mentioned I predicted this in my MB4 recap article?) Unfortunately for the rest of us, I’ll bet Dean comes back even more prepared to take home his fourth championship at MB6.

SEMIS & FINALS

In semi #1, Chuck T faced newbie Keith Hagen. Chuck rolled to an easy game one win, but game two was a little different. Poker players always talk about their “bad beats” when everything seems to going right and then the unexpected happens and you’re done. As Keith wrote to me after the event:

“I had him down 10-7 and I was hanging plus 2 with just my last throw to go. So a triple would have won. Anyway my throw goes perfect but it just hits one of his balls and it falls down to three. At the same time that moves one of mine completely off. So instead of being up at least 12-7 he cuts the margin to 10-9. He then hangs a +6 on me and I am out. Those two racks have kept me up the past two nights.”

This is what will keep you coming back to the World Championships, Keith – the mere chance that you could knock off a highly-ranked player and wear the Golden Monkeyballs. We’ll see you at MB6.

In the other semifinal, ASU grad school buddies Frushour and Salmon faced off. Frushour – the defending silver medalist — had been struggling and Salmon was coming off his historic quarterfinal win. Frushour won a quick first game, 15-2, but lost the second almost as quickly 15-7, setting up game three with the winner advancing to the World Championship match. And this is where things get very hazy for me and I’m not really sure how it all went down. What I do know is Salmon was down 13-12 heading into the last rack, and for the second time in the match he owned the last throw and had the opportunity to win. This time he capitalized, sending Frushour home and himself to the championship.

(Side note that no one will ever remember: Frushour beat Hagen for third place. What is memorable, though, is that even though Keith didn’t get the bronze balls, he did get a tasty Monkey Bread courtesy of Mike’s Village Restaurant in beautiful downtown Dimondale.)

I just realized the championship match between Salmon and Trinoskey was rematch of a Sweet 16 meeting at MB4. Trinoskey won that battle in 2008, and he did it again in 2009. I don’t have much of a written report about the championship (I must have still been woozy from my semifinal exit), but we do have a lot of photos and a little video. I do know the Jason lost game one but had a good grip on game two before Chuck dropped three straight 3s to take the title. Both finalists were deserving of their place in the championship, and they will both surely walk into MB6 with huge targets on their backs.

FINAL MB5 NOTES

Two Eaton county sheriff deputies showed up at the Old Orchard in a squad car. I have to admit, I was a little nervous for a minute. When Jim Blair asked, “What can I help you with officers?”, the man with the gun responded, “Just checking to see if there are any sober people here.” JB quipped, “Yeah, good luck with that.” Turns out the men in uniform were there to visit a number of EL firemen and cops that were in the MB5 field. Unknowingly, their car also ended up in a picture or two.

MB5 By the Numbers: 110 players (one less than MB4, even with all the rain), 4 kegs consumed, 312 games played by ballers from 8 states (MI, IN, OH, KY, GA, AL, FL and TX).

Thanks again to everyone that helped to make MB5 a HUGE success. Thanks to all the players for making a wet day a lot of fun. Thanks to the gold shirts for keeping things rolling. Thanks to the extended Frushour clan for setting up in the rain and tearing down at the end of a long and wet day. And thanks to the Blairs for once again letting us invade their private property for a day of Monkeyball, beer and fun.

The countdown to MB6 has begun.


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