Appleton wins the IFT for the 2nd straight year
CALUMET — Competitors had to deal with every condition from bright sunlight to rain, but at the end of the day, the Appleton Assassins successfully defended their 59th International Frisbee Tournament title, more commonly known as Guts Frisbee, Sunday afternoon with a victory in two games over the local team, Carmelita’s/Blame the Dog, 21-14, 21-14.
It was not an easy path to get to the Grand Final for the Assassins –who won their third IFT title — as they had to defeat five-time champion Boomtown Saints in the semifinals of the winner’s bracket just to earn the right to play in the in finals and earn a trip to the Grand Final at Agassiz Field.
For the Assassins’ John Luedke, beating Boomtown was an important step in his team’s journey, but to have it come so early in the tournament was a little disappointing.
“It was bittersweet,” said Luedke. “We always get them, so it is always a fun match against them.”
After topping Boomtown, the Assassins had to get past the Samurai Spirits, who had traveled from Japan to compete in the tournament and had also gone undefeated into the winner’s bracket finals.
Beating the Spirits in two straight games was no easy task, but Luedke came up with two key plays late in the second game that changed the course of the match. First, he made a circus catch, which kept the Spirits from evening the second game at 18, and then his next toss was dropped, giving the Assassins a two-point advantage, which they were able to extend to four points before the match ended.
“We were tied, so it was a major point it the game,” said Luedke. “That definitely helped get the excitement that we needed to get the win.”
In the finals, Alex Tews took control of things for the Assassins when one his early throws blew past Carmelita’s defense before any of them could react, putting Appleton up 9-7. Later, with his team up 17-12, Tews impacted the game again with a catch off a tip from Luedke. Then he followed that catch with a throw that bounced off of IFT Most Valuable Player Rudy Tikkanen, putting the Assassins up 18-12.
Alex Tews then tipped the next throw right to teammate Adam Swanson, which kept Camelita’s from answering.
“This was big,” said Alex Tews. “This is the tournament that everyone dreams of winning. We really wanted to get this done as this group of guys. This was Adam’s first time winning it with our whole team. Last year we won it it while missing Josh, so every year we have been missing pieces. We got everybody, so it was fantastic to have the whole group together.”
Alex’s brother Josh Tews also came up with two key throws late in the first game, the first put Appleton within two points of a win, the second put the Assassins within a point. A vertical throwing error by Carmelita’s sealed the win, 21-14.
In the second game, Josh Tews’ throw hit Carmelita’s Brian Beckman in the hands before falling behind his teammates, putting Appleton up 9-3 early. Newcomer Tony Hella came up with a great catch off a tip from Nick Jackson keep the Assassins from adding to their 10-5 lead, but soon after, Hella’s throw sailed out of play, giving the Assassins another point.
Appleton opened up a 16-9 lead before Tanner Beckman — last year’s Most Valuable Player while competing with the Assassins — dropped a throw from Alex Tews. Tanner tossed, looking to answer, but his throw was tipped by Luedke. As the frisbee fell to the ground, Alex Tews dove and snatched it, keeping Carmelita’s from scoring.
Alex Tews then struck right after with a well-placed throw that was tipped once before sailing behind Carmelita’s defense, putting the Assassins up, 18-9.
“I was telling Adam the whole game that I just wanted one more layout,” said Alex Tews. “He said I had to just be two steps faster, and there it was. It was a great feeling.”
With Appleton up 20-12, Alex Tews had one more good throw in him, and his toss was dropped by Beckman, ending the game and the match.
Carmelia’s earned their trip to the Grand Final by winning the loser’s bracket by topping first Boomtown and then the Spirits.
In their match with the Spirits, the Japanese national champions displayed some incredibly hard throws from Kazuho Ito and Takayoshi Suda, the tournament’s Spirit of Guts winner, which kept Carmelita’s at bay for much of the match. It was not until Carmelita’s got up 22-21 that they took control of the match with a great throw by Hella, which earned the win.
Not only was there a team from Japan, the Samurai Spirits, in this year’s 60th IFT, there also was a player who traveled from Thailand to compete, making the tournament truly international for the first time in several years.