Absurd. My partner in the booth, Ryan Alessio, poked fun at my overuse of that word the week before the Johnsonville Cornhole Championships: ACL Kick-Off Battle. But in the end, that’s exactly what this tournament was, absurd. The atmosphere, the competition, the cash. It was truly absurd.
The weekend kicked off on a great note. On Friday, We saw our women, juniors, and seniors compete. We also saw the ACL give away $5,000 to charity with a tournament open to former NFL players. Specifically, $2,000 went to the Mary Ellen and John Upperco Memorial Scholarship fund. Christine Papcke was the usual powerhouse, Ronnie Hileman raised some eyebrows in seniors, and a newcomer Dalton Mcklem stole the juniors title. The excitement we saw in the eyes of ex-NFL players like Dan Upperco in the charity event show what the sport is truly about: fun. The friendly trash talk set the stage for an incredible weekend that was just getting started.
What amazed me most about the weekend was the contrast between the two final days of the competition. Day two was all focus, or “the calm”, if you will. Jordan Camba came into the weekend with the #1 ranking and he did not disappoint. He cruised through the winner’s bracket of the Advanced SIngles division with his shades, flat brim hat, and constant stoic gaze. No one in the country slides around bags better than Camba, and he showed that all day Saturday. The wind was a factor all day, but Camba’s hard-spinning, low throw proved to be the best strategy to cut through the strong gusts. Whatever he was listening to in those headphones was working; that was until he met cornhole’s next giant slayer.
Yes, just like Jordan Langworthy’s historic upset at the 2017 Championships of Bags over “The Champ”, Matt Guy, an underdog ended up stealing the show. And yes, just like Langworthy, a borrowed set of bags turned out to be the winning set of bags. Ryan Windsor, a young gun from Illinois, lived up to all the hype that midwestern throwers have been trying to explain to us over the past few months. I don’t know if it was his own flat brim hat, stoic gaze, or the bags he threw with for the first time three hours before the finals, but whatever it was, Windsor found it Saturday. After falling to Camba in the winner’s bracket finals, he rebounded to beat Camba 23-14 in finals game one, and then won in sudden death to take the day.
The intelligence with which he played all weekend was remarkable. He forced opponents into mistakes and made few himself. Windsor’s airmail shot was probably the best of anyone all weekend with the only close second being Tanner Halbert, whom Windsor defeated in the loser’s bracket finals to meet Camba in the finals. Windsor’s sudden death match defeat of Camba in the finals has propelled him to #1 in the standings for the 2017-2018 season. Don’t think for a second that Camba didn’t notice that, he will be back for revenge.
Windsor’s interview after the win was just as calm and cool as he was throughout the tournament. But then came the storm. Literally and figuratively.
Sunday was a battle on the boards and a battle against mother nature. Players battled wind and weather all day, and just liked the atmosphere around them, the players who made their way to the end were nothing short of chaotic. For those of you who watched the finals match of Trevor Brooks/Jamie Graham vs. Cody Henderson/Adam Hissner, you know what I mean. The sudden death match alone after Brooks/Graham took game one 23-1 would make for a tense finals. But no, that wouldn’t be enough for these four. A premature celebration combined with an illegal bag touching resulted in the most incredible and ridiculous ending to a cornhole tournament I have ever seen in my nine years of the sport.
I remember sitting in the booth just stunned that in the most intense moment of a match on the sport’s biggest stage, two players lost focus in a manner that, individually, would have lost the game for their team. Most people forget how unbelievable of a shot Brooks hit before the chaos began to push a bag in the tackiness of pouring rain. But once the metaphorical dust settled amid the chaos, the game ended with a Henderson/Hissner win. Who knows if these guys would have won on a clear day, but in the wind and rain, Hissner was still able to push and slide, and Henderson rarely missed on his airmails.
Reflecting on the weekend since some time has passed has made me wonder, “Did that all actually happen?” It really was an absurd weekend filled with ups and downs and even lefts and rights. All I know is that it was a great weekend and Johnsonville helped the ACL put on an amazing show. Over $19,000 paid out just this weekend is fantastic. It just leaves me asking one question:
Is it time to leave for Vegas yet?
Results of the JCC: ACL Kick-Off Battle
1st - Christine Papcke
2nd - Courtney Coy
3rd - Courtney Baird
1st - Ronnie Hileman
2nd - Brian Lynn
3rd - Bobby Mumper
1st - Dalton Mcklem
2nd - Jay Graham
3rd - Jamie Graham
1st - Jordan Camba Team
2nd - Trae Kelly Team
3rd - Tyler Poythress Team
1st - Ryan Windsor
2nd - Jordan Camba
3rd - Tanner Halbert
4th - Frank Modlin
5th - Dalton Mcklem
5th - Jordan Langworthy
Advanced Blind Draw
1st - Rob Guthary/Timothy Pitcher
2nd - Bill S./Eddie Justus
3rd - Ashton Speas/Terry S.
Advanced BYOP Doubles
1st - Cody Henderson/Adam Hissner
2nd - Trevor Brooks/Jamie Graham
3rd - Matt Guy/Bret Guy