MB3 Preview & Predictions

The Monkeyball World Championships are back, and they’re bigger and better than ever. Just think: we started with 30 players the first year at the corner of Rockford & Strathmore in Lansing, doubled that number last year at Carp National in Mason, and this year we have over 80 people vying for the world championship title at the Old Orchard in Dimondale.

Three stories have dominated the pre-tournament headlines:

#1 – To Pinch or Not to Pinch. A number of top 25 players have transitioned from the traditional end-over-end toss to the “Pinch”. Made famous by the original pincher, 2005 World Runner-up Chuck Trinoskey, and brought to the mainstream by ’06 champ Dean Allen, the pinch is no longer a fad. Six of the top ten competitors at MB3 will be pinching. The biggest holdout? The top ranked player in the world, Casey Frushour.

#2 – Dean Domination. Dean Allen steam-rolled to the 2006 title. Using the aforementioned pinch toss, no one even came close to touching Allen. Although Allen is the Vegas favorite to take the top prize again, 24 out of the top 25 players in the world will be gunning to knock him off. And who knows, maybe one of the Monkeyball rookies will have a coming out party at MB3.

#3 – Can the Old Orchard Handle MB3? Our third host venue in three years, the Old Orchard is Monkeyball’s Field of Dreams. A huge green lawn, 12 courts with room for many more, and tons of parking will serve us well. A lack of trees and a strong westerly wind, however, may make this major event play more like golf’s British Open. (Can the pinch cut through a strong breeze?)   Thanks to Jim & Debbie Blair for graciously hosting us.

TOURNAMENT FORMAT

All players have been assigned to one of four morning session qualifying groups: A, B, C & D. Each group plays single game matches in a double-elimination format until just 7 players remain. Those seven qualifiers then join the other groups’ qualifiers for the afternoon’s single elimination tournament. Afternoon matches are all best of three.

TOURNAMENT PREVIEW AND PREDICTIONS

GROUP A

Seeded Players: #1 Casey Frushour, #2 Andy Frushour, #3 Kevin Gunns, #4 Andy Kidle, #5 Jo Kidle, #6 Chad Barton, #7 Carl Swan, #8 Sheri Gunns.Some have disagreed with Casey Frushour’s #1 world ranking, but it’s hard to argue his results. A couple tournament wins and runner-ups, and consecutive 3rd place finishes at the Worlds, prove that he’s game for any competition. And the rumors about his brother are true: Andy Frushour has gone to the dark side and is now employing the pinch toss. Poor performances at the first two World Championships are always on his mind, but a recent Father’s Day win over the reigning World Champ should put Frushour on a list of favorites at the Old Orchard. Kevin Gunns may be known as “that guy who is always really loud,” but he’s got skillz as evidenced by his Top 8 finish in 2006. And wife Sherri Gunns may be surprised with to receive a seed, but she’s earned it simply by living with Kevin’s nonstop talk. Another couple may have a chance to battle in the qualifying stage – Andy Kidle and Jo Kidle . Andy finished 4 th in ’05, while Jo won Qualifying Group A in ’06. Chad Barton has competed in only one sanctioned tournament, but his win at the April 2007 Oberon Open was enough to snag him a #6 seed. Finally, Carl Swan may be a rookie at the World Championships, but he’s certainly no M-ball beginner. Don’t be surprised to see Carl talk his way into the afternoon session.

Non-Seeded Players: A player that falls into the “don’t let her world ranking fool you” category is Misty Swan. She can play. Anna Partyka is veteran of many sanctioned events and is waiting for that one breakout performance. Mike and Lisa Roy are making the trek from Vicksburg, Mich. Mike, the AD at VHS, tells me M-ball may be his school’s next varsity sport. And watch out for John Hill. I’ve never seen him play, but I’m guessing this former writer for Athlon Sports is sneaky good (and he probably misses the days of writing preseason previews like this one).

Predicted to Advance: Chad Barton, Andy Frushour, Casey Frushour, Kevin Gunns, Andy Kidle, Mike Roy, Misty Swan

GROUP B

Seeded Players: #1 Dean Allen, #2 Andi Osters, #3 Dan Kidle, #4 Chrissy Blair, #5 Andy Dressler, #6 John Kidle, #7 Ryan Hintz, #8 Jill Hintz. What can you say about Dean Allen? He obliterated the field on his way to the 2006 World Championship. And an early season Fathers Day Open loss has likely put him into M-ball training overdrive. It will certainly be an upset if he doesn’t make it to the day’s final four. A vet of all three Worlds events, Andi Osters is undoubtedly the top female in the field. Don’t be surprised if she’s wearing the Golden Monkeyballs at the end of the day (it’s the champion’s trophy, get your mind out of the gutter). Dan Kidle and Andy Dressler have both recently switched to the pinch – will this be a banner year for one of the tournament’s new pinchers? Chrissy Blair shocked the Monkeyball world with back-to-back victories over Chuck Trinoskey and Joe Frushour in 2006. Will the magic continue? On her own turf no less? In his first summer of retirement, John Kidle has had time to work on his game…but has he actually done so? And M-ball’s first ever seeded mother-son combo, Jill Hintz and 9 year-old Ryan Hintz, hope to make the most out of their drive from Indiana.

Non-Seeded Players: Add Kari Dressler to the “don’t let her world ranking fool you” list. A rough outing at the ’06 Worlds is the only thing holding her ranking down. Tim Obbink takes a day off from the stage to join our party, and he’s bringing the future Marketing Director of Monkeyball Worldwide Inc. with him – Kelly Bourque. Jim Ferguson’s appearance will create a reunion of sorts with his former student-teacher, Julie Price (both taught this author, but I don’t remember the lesson on writing an M-ball preview article). Julie and her daughter Mallory Price, claim to be super-competitive; we’ll see how nasty Mal gets after a few Miller Lites. A spy in Ann Arbor tells me Katie McFadden has turned the corner and shouldn’t be taken lightly. And one M-ball pundit claims Katie’s first round opponent, Andrew Alexander, may be the breakout performer of the ’07 Worlds. Trust me, though, Andrew, a few drunken games with your little buddy cannot adequately prepare you for the pressures of the World Championships.

Projected to Advance: Andrew Alexander, Dean Allen, Chrissy Blair, Andy Dressler, Kari Dressler, Andi Osters, Dan Kidle

GROUP C

Seeded Players: #1 Jim Blair, #2 Joe Frushour, #3 Renee Dutcher, #4 Brent Morrow, #5 Kadi Pojeta, #6 Matt Young, #7 Derek Girton, #8 Joe Zimmerman. It’s almost not fair that former World Champion, Jim Blair, gets to host this event. As one player already said, “It’s like Peyton Manning hosting the Super Bowl in his own back yard.” Blair was primed for another big run last year, but was ousted by his protégé, Renee Dutcher, in the first round of the afternoon session. Dutcher came out of nowhere last year, but she’ll surprise no one this year. Joe Frushour, the “Godfather of Monkeyball”, is looking to unveil his new pinch to the world. Brent Morrow was another breakout performer of last year, celebrating his birthday while making it to the semifinals. Earlier this summer he was toying with the pinch – will he give the new toss a chance at the Old Orchard? Kadi Pojeta was the brainchild behind the recent middle-of-the-night Relay for Life Monkeyball event. I’m guessing the game plays a little different with some daylight. Matt Young is a late addition to the field, but he’s part of a veteran U-M crew making the trek from Ann Arbor. Remind me to check their IDs. Tom Izzo’s bringing back most of his Spartan squad from 06-07, the only real loss may be hall-of-fame team manager Derek Girton. I heard Girton once tried to substitute full contact M-ball for one of Izzo’s famed football pad practices. And Joe Zimmerman once mentioned trying to stream live video of the Worlds to playmonkeyball.com. He may get a few bonus points if he can pull that off.

Non-Seeded Players: Our second AD in the field, Megan Thayer, will be playing for the first time. Sorry, Megan, I foresee a short day in your future. While reviewing Channel 10’s coverage of the 2006 event, I noticed Richard Pojeta droppin’ mad racks on cue – that’s hard to do with the camera’s spotlight in your face and the pressure on. I expect to see more of this in ’07. Rex Danely is taking a day off from fire-fightin’, stumpin’ and softballin’ to test his M-ball skills against the best in the world. He’s a dangerous early round match-up. Lisa Wilkes is one of six former/current MHSAA interns competing this year; I’m sure she’ll be ready to play after suffering through nonstop MB3 talk by her co-workers over the last two months.

Projected to Advance: Jim Blair, Rex Danely, Renee Dutcher, Joe Frushour, Brent Morrow, Richard Pojeta, Matt Young

GROUP D

Seeded Players: #1 Curtis McFall, #2 Chuck Trinoskey, #3 Maggie Olds, #4 JP Miller, #5 Adam Schrauben, #6 Eric Trinoskey, #7 Tony Olds, #8 Dan Renner. Some were surprised to see Curtis McFall in the last year’s championship match. After spending the summer on his boat, they thought his game might be rusty. Not a chance. Let’s see how another summer on the boat treats his game at the Old Orchard. A legend in Logansport (Ind.) Monkeyball circles, the original pincher, Chuck Trinoskey, has the game to knock off anyone in the field. And I’m sure his son, Eric Trinoskey – a.k.a. the “Monkeyball Jesus” – would love to be the one to eliminate his old man from the tournament. The Trinoskey family gets to reunite with Tony Olds in Group D, but the best Olds baller may be T’s better half, Maggie Olds. Maggie has repeatedly finished near the top in most tournaments she’s played in. After a lackluster summer in 2006, JP Miller made a nice run at the 2006 Worlds. Like a good golfer, he trains with the aim of winning majors and I’m expecting another nice run in ’07. Adam Schrauben may be the only player participating solely for the beer, so I probably need to apologize in advance: there will be no PBR keg. Another dark horse is Dan Renner. Earlier this summer he had made the pinch switch, but I’ve heard he’s gone back to the traditional toss.

Non-Seeded Players: Six-time state champ hoops coach (and our third athletic director), Al Schrauben, highlights the prep showcase otherwise known as Group D. And who’s there to chronicle the happenings? If you guessed Lansing State Journal Prep Sports Editor, Geoff Kimmerly, you’d be right. Heck, Group D might just be the proving ground for bringing M-ball to high school sports. A couple of Mason High School’s top former athletes also join the mix. Ricky Clark is arguably the top talent to ever grace the diamond in M-town, and back in the day, Paul Mountain was a key player on the Bulldogs’ only state championship tennis team. Unfortunately, however, P-Mount recently had a run-in with a freight elevator door and his status as a right-handed player is still up in the air. Finally, Alex and Kyle Schrauben raise the Schrauben-O-Meter to FOUR in Group D. I’d love to hear the conversation on that bus ride home if the Schrauben family gets shut out of the afternoon session.

Projected to Advance: Curtis McFall, JP Miller, Maggie Olds, Dan Renner, Adam Schrauben, Chuck Trinoskey, Eric Trinoskey

CHAMPIONSHIP PREDICTION

Final 8: Dean Allen, Andy Dressler, Andy Frushour, Casey Frushour, Joe Frushour, Brent Morrow, Andi Osters, Chuck Trinoskey.   For those counting at home, that’s seven pinchers…and Casey.

Championship Match: The deepest M-ball field ever assembled will make every afternoon session match worth the price of admission. Reigning World Champ, Dean Allen, will be walking around all day with a target on his back. And although the route to the finals won’t be as easy as last year, it would be silly to think he can’t make it back. Fan favorite and 2005 runner-up, Chuck Trinoskey, will meet Allen for the championship. Ultimately, however, Allen will capture his second straight world title.

PREDICTIONS FROM OTHER PLAYERS

Dan Kidle: Tragedy marked the beginning of MB3 as defending champion Dean Allen was forced to withdraw before play began due to injury. Allen seemed to be on top of the world as he stood at the practice court in an “I’m #1” pose with his index finger raised high in the air – little did he know that his Monkeyball career was about to come to a startling halt. In a freak accident, an errant throw struck Allen’s raised finger. With a swollen digit, he was unable to use his signature pinch and was forced to withdraw, thus giving everyone else a chance at the glory of becoming MB3 Champion. In the end, the top banana was the founder, Andy Frushour, who used his newly developed pinch method to beat out the competition. The Final 8: Andy Frushour, Casey Frushour, Curtis McFall, Andi Osters, Kevin Gunns, JP Miller, Matt Young, Jo Kidle. Championship: Andy Frushour defeats Andi Osters (15-4, 15-13).

Casey Frushour: I’m the #1 ranked player in the world… so who do I think will win Worlds? That’s a pretty stupid question… I’ll be taking home the top honors this year – there is no doubt about that. And I don’t really care to throw out my predictions of who the other top “contenders” will be because when it’s all said and done, no one will remember them anyway.

Brent Morrow: With the incredible number of converts from the toss to the pinch, along with some beginner’s luck, some heralded veterans will be knocked out early this year opening the window for a new group of top-tier competition. The final 8 should include Curtis McFall, Casey Frushour, Jim Blair, Brent Morrow, Kevin Gunns, Andi Osters, Dan Kidle, and Emily Frushour. Emily had to step up and fill in for Andy after a brawl ensued when Andy knocked Dean Allen out of the tournament in the qualifying round. Both players were injured, could not continue, and had to sit in the corner the rest of the day.

Dean Allen: Final 8 – Dean Allen over Jim Blair (old wounds die hard); Andy Frushour over Andy Osters (battle of former MHSAA intern and supervisor); Joe Frushour over Kevin Gunns (Gunns goes back to cheerleader); Dan Kidle over JP Miller (familiar territory for young Kidle). Final 4: Andy Frushour over Dean Allen (the apprentice is now the master); Joe Frushour over Dan Kidle (extra motivation for Joe to meet the eldest Frushour boy in the final). 3rd Place Game: Dean Allen over Dan Kidle (with Casey Frushour’s poor performance, Dean takes the #1 World Ranking). Championship: Andy Frushour over Joe Frushour (the forefathers of Monkeyball battle it out, the webmaster general takes home the long awaited title).

Andi Osters: Final 8 – Casey Frushour, Andy Frushour, Curtis McFall, Andrew Alexander, Kevin Gunns, Brent Morrow, Andy Kidle, Chad Barton. The morning session begins with a flurry of major players storming through their respective groups. All the top seeds qualify for the afternoon, with one notable exception. Navigating the choppy waters of Group B turns out to be a major task for reigning champ Dean Allen, who runs into an enigmatic buzzsaw in the second round by the name of Andrew Alexander. (Don’t fret Dean; I’m sure the loser’s bracket will treat you with the utmost respect.) The championship match features two brothers, destined for a fateful meeting; Andy with his tried-&-true “new Pinch” toss, and Casey striving for ultimate redemption as the #1 ranked player in the world. As the evening light creeps in, Dean loudly smashes his 11th beer can against his forehead, and mighty Casey drops a mad rack in the third game to take the match, along with all of Andy’s remaining hope of winning his own tourney.

Bruce Blair: As much as I want to say the host, and Kevin Gunns’ crush, Jim Blair, will win this year’s World Championship, Jim will be too busy engraving the MB3 logo into his yard to adequately prepare for an event of this nature.  Casey Frushour would be a logical pick; however, he looks a lot like Sergio Garcia — the best player to never have won a major/Monkeyball world championship.  He may lead wire to wire, but don’t count on him getting two byes again this year.   Does he have the endurance to withstand two possible match-ups with older brother and role model Andy?  I think not. Andy, who is at the top of his game after finally beating Dean, will get his chance to hoist the GOLDEN BALLS when it is all said and done.


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