Ladies and gentlemen, the wait is over! The 2019 ACL World Championships are upon us!
It has been an incredible season in the American Cornhole League and personally, I don't think I've ever been as excited for an event as this one. The World Championships will be a six-day event, packed with as many cornhole tournaments as we could possibly fit. The guaranteed minimum payout is $180,000, with the expected total payout to reach $220,000. We are also slated for five ESPN network broadcasts, headlined by our first ever live ESPN broadcast on 8/11 at 1 pm EST which will showcase the semis and final of our Pro Doubles tournament as well as our Women's Doubles final.
In this season alone, over 19,000 unique players competed in over 9,800 tournaments leading up to these championships. Over 150,000 games were played and an estimated 14.4 million bags were thrown during the ACL season. This event will be used to not only to crown champions, it will also be used to celebrate the great season that we had.
With so many events happening throughout the week, there are so many opportunities for top players to earn victories. This season has taught me that we have so many players that can compete at the highest level, but the "hottest" players are the ones winning the big titles. Dalton Mcklem swept singles and doubles at the Kickoff Battle, Ryan Windsor won singles and crew and finished second in doubles at the Cornhole Mania, Scott Lane won singles, blind draw, and crew as well as finishing second in pro doubles and advanced doubles at the Bag Brawl, and Trey Burchfield won the Pro Invitational, blind draw, and crew cup at the Final Chase. Essentially what I'm trying to say is that if it's your week, it's your week. For that reason, it would not surprise me if one player takes a couple victories at the championships in the main events. The problem is identifying exactly who that player is.
For my preview, I want to look at all the big events and identify the headliner, the supporting cast, and the dark horse. The headliner would be the team or player that has emerged as probable favorites to win. The supporting case would be the player(s) or team(s) that people know and have a good chance to win with some timely top performances. The dark horse is simply that, a player or team that not many are betting on, but who I believe will make some noise in the tournament.
WCO International Invitational
Headliner - USA. Not much to cover here, the USA should handle this event with ease...should.
Supporting Cast - Canada. At the 2018 ACL Championships, Canada sent a small crew of 6 players to compete in the event. As expected, they were a little overwhelmed by the talent pool from here in the states. But, Matt Pleil, WCO Canada Director, took his bumps and bruises north of the border and has built an impressive director network up in Canada. Over 60 players have competed in sanctioned Canadian cornhole events this season and the country will be sending 16 of its best to compete at this year's World Championships. They've now had a year to practice and build up the confidence to compete, it's now time to see if they can upset some American juggernauts.
Dark Horse - Australia. I really have no scouting report on the Australian crew of 16 players coming to compete at these championships. The hardest opponent to prepare for are those that you don't know.
Headliner - Chuckie Love and Stacia Pugh AND Christine Papcke and Adam Hissner. The team that has played together as an ACL Pro team and earned a top ten ranking has to be one of the favorites...right? Papcke and Hissner won this event last season and there isn't much argument for them not to do it again this year.
Supporting Cast - Many to choose from here. Katie Beason/Isidro Herrera, Amber Jacobs/Jordan Camba, Scott Lane/Rosie Streker, Kamryn Belvin/Jay Corley, Cheyenne Renner/Tanner Halbert, Kyle Malone/Sam Finley, Derrick King/Courtney Coy, and Kerry Mittermiller/Ryan Windsor are just a few of the names competing in this stacked division. I have extra confidence to those players that play in the same region. Therefore, Jacobs/Camba, Streker/Lane, Renner/Talbert, and Malone/Finley I think have the best shot of moving out of a supporting cast role and into the headliner spot. With many of the male partners being top ACL Pros, I really think that the performances by the women will provide the separation between the top finishers and the early outs. The Florida women come into the championships particularly hot, so don't be surprised if you see Streker, Finley, or Renner win Mixed Doubles.
Dark Horse - Cody Henderson/Taryn Skojec, Eric Ryder/Sandy Peacock. Skojec is widely unknown across the country and the little that I had the chance to watch her at the Final Chase showed me she has potential. Mostly, I'm interested in seeing the personality matchup between these two because if anything, it could be entertaining. Peacock has emerged as a top female in the Northeast and she will be paired up with Ryder. Ryder has struggled and battled a different opponent off the court this season (cancer diagnosis in Jan 2019), but is feeling better and is ready to start competing at a high level again, perhaps a Rockwell-esque resurgence.
Headliner - Justin Stranger. This kid has been good. Obviously, a big run in advanced doubles at the Final Chase with pro Eli Stevens is enough for people to start noticing you, but I've been particularly impressed with Stranger's composure, which is so tough to master at a young age.
Supporting Cast - Alex Boulay. I think Boulay may actually be the most talented junior in the country. He had a big performance at the Kickoff Battle to put himself on the map and did it again at the Cornhole Mania with Tyler Lugo. Boulay vs. Stranger would be fun to watch.
Dark Horse - Hunter Thorne. Coming all the way from California, Thorne may surprise some people.
WCO World Cup
Headliner - Atlantic Conference. I went through the Atlantic Conference lineup and it is outrageous. The team has 13 ACL Pros and 9 players with television broadcast experience...c'mon. Here's just a possible lineup: Baldwin (S), Smith (S), Morton (S), Camba (S), Hudson/Kitchin (D), Allen/Washington (D), Dinges/Lucas Jr (D), Corley/Rockwell (D), Justus/Beach/Powers/Stowe. Sick.
Supporting Cast - Mideast, Southeast. The Mideast has depth like the Atlantic, with all of its singles and doubles matches being filled with top Pro talent. For them to beat the Atlantic, Henderson, Hissner, and Dotson should be playing singles and all of them need to win. For the Southeast, missing some key players like Scott Lane and Dalton Mcklem may hurt. They may have the best top talent though, with 3 top ten overall players playing in singles matches...we assume.
Dark Horse - Great Lakes. I've "picked" on them all year (mostly because of their conference director, Josh Keck), but they really do have incredible talent. Anytime you have the ACL Singles Player of the Year competing on your team, you stand a great shot of competing. In order to beat the powerhouse teams, they'll have to get creative with their lineup cards. Look for them to try and throw some bottom-tier talent towards the top of their lineup to give up a few wins and try to win some 5-4 matches utilizing game strategy over depth. Dave Morse is on the team and I know he will get creative with lineups, can't wait to see who they throw onto the court.
Headliner - Daymon Dennis and Philip Haydon. They've won this event three years in a row. They met in senior singles final last year at the championships. They already have a Pro Doubles National win this season. What else do you want from them?
Supporting Cast - Allan Rockwell/Bob Vonch, Dickie Adams/Brian Lynn, Ken Schaef/Chuckie Love, Steve Sileo/Ronnie Hileman. I think Rockwell and Vonch give Haydon and Dennis the biggest run for their money simply because they've beaten them once already this season and came close at the Bag Brawl to doing it back-to-back. Ken Schaef and Chuckie Love have an advantage of playing together regionally, which as you readers know I always value in a partnership. Lynn/Adams have been around cornhole a long time, it's just about whether it can be "their day". Sileo/Hileman have had little experience playing together, but have played in big games before. If their chemistry fits, watch out they could make a run.
Dark Horse - Tex Christman and Bill Smith. These two Floridians are tough competitors in the state of Florida that will be underestimated by other talent from around the country. I expect them to use that underdog mentality and to surprise a lot of people in senior doubles.
Devour Man of the Year
Headliner - James Baldwin. He's the 2018 ACL Singles Champion and is coming off an Advanced Singles win at the Final Chase. He's a reigning champion in all sense of the word.
Supporting Cast - I could list all 15 other competitors but I'll try to limit to a few. Matthew Sorrells has improved exponentially this season and came close to "skunking" Philip Haydon in his first round game. The winner of Eddie Grinderslev/Josh Groce could very well win the whole thing, one is the #2 ranked singles player and the other is the #1 ranked overall player, ridiculous. Derrick King is who I had winning my Devour bracket and I think he still has a great shot to win but he's got Dave Morse in the next round who is on a mission to prove the entire world wrong for not picking him as a champion.
Dark Horse - John Kitchin. I had Matt Morton in the finals of my Devour bracket and John Kitchin beat up on him pretty good. When you watch Kitchin play, his bag isn't the prettiest and it also bounces instead of slides up the board, but the dude can sling it. I think he gets doubted because he's pretty reserved but there's no doubt that if he plays well he could be Jay Dotson in this next round.
Headliner - National winners: Dave Sutton/Isidro Herrera and Jay Corley/Tyler Poythress are the only Advanced Doubles National winners from the current season that are playing together in the championships. Players like Kyle Malone, Dalton Mcklem, Jay Rubin, and Chris Novy are either not yet committed to attending or are playing with different partners. I am a firm believer that the hot hand is usually the one that performs the best at these championships so I have no reason to count out the current year's winners.
Supporting Cast - Winners from previous years: Allan Rockwell/James Baldwin, Matt Guy/Bret Guy, Curtis Vogel/Brandon Bobilya, Cody Henderson/Adam Hissner, Trevor Brooks/Jamie Graham. Each of these teams has had moments of greatness this season but haven't been able to put it all together for a big win.
Dark Horse - Josh Groce/AJ Sims. Obviously Josh Groce has emerged this season as a top contender, but AJ Sims is still flying under the radar. The streak that he had at the Final Chase proved to me he's ready for a big finish, no better place to start than with a Texas favorite.
Headliner - National winners: Dalton Mcklem, Ryan Windsor, Scott Lane, James Baldwin. Again, those that are hot, usually stay hot. Special emphasis on Baldwin for being the 2018 ACL Singles Champion and Windsor for being the 2019 ACL Singles Player of the Year.
Supporting Cast - Players that have come close: Jay Rubin, Isidro Herrera, Josh Groce, Matt Guy, Trey Burchfield, Noah Wooten, Matt Morton, Jay Dotson, Eddie Grinderslev, Cody Henderson. Each of these players have made it to the four player playoff at a National this season. They've battled through the ridiculous field of players to get to the end but just came up short. Extra credit goes to Herrera, Guy, and Henderson for doing it over multiple seasons.
Dark Horse - Players that have come real close to winning but you haven't noticed unless you paid close attention: Eric Stowe now in back to back Nationals has been 2 wins or less away from a playoff, Sean Short was ridiculous at the Final Chase, Tanner Halbert played the first half of the season and came close twice, Michael Lucas Jr won the toughest conference in the country...twice, Courtney Coy may have never won a women's doubles title but she is still the reigning women's singles champion.
Headliner - Christine Papcke and Stacia Pugh. Although they suffered a loss at the Final Chase, these two still have won 3/4 Nationals this year and deserve the top spot.
Supporting Cast - Rosie Streker/Sam Finley, Courtney Coy/Harlee Culpepper, Brittany Emge/Kerry Mittermiller. Each of these teams have either beaten or come within 3 points of defeated the headliners. For that, they stand as good a chance as any for winning the title
Dark Horse - Kamryn Belvin/Sara Davis. There are so many tough teams but this one definitely has the biggest floor-to-ceiling differential. Belvin started the year at a high but hasn't made much noise since. Davis hasn't competed consistently throughout the past few seasons. It would not surprise me if this team struggled or if they made it all the way to the finals. Who knows.
Headliner - National Winners: Jordan Camba/Derrick King, Philip Haydon/Daymon Dennis, Jimmy McGuffin/Josh Lunsford, Jay Dotson/Sean Short. These four have already done it once, my only concern is that all four of these teams lost their first games in the Pro Invitational...I should also include the Pro Invitational winners Trey Burchfield and Brandon Corwin in this list.
Supporting Cast - Those that came close: Matthew Sorrells/Emory Parker, Cody Henderson/Adam Hissner, James Washington/Ryan Smith, Michael Lucas Jr/Michael Dinges, Greg Geary/Lester Price, Frank Modlin/Scott Lane. All of these teams have made it to a four team playoff at a National, some have even made multiple. The question is if they can finally have the closing power.
Dark Horse - Jay Rubin and Josh Groce. It's my preview article and I'll label whoever I want as a Dark Horse! In all seriousness, these two have no experience playing together, that's really the only reason I can put them in this category.
Next Stop: Pennsylvania.
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