Gutsy effort: Assassins retain cup for third straight year

Eddie O’Neill/Daily Mining Gazette The Assassins’ John Luedke reaches to grab a toss heading his way during the Grand Final of the International Frisbee Tournament Sunday at Agassiz Field in Calumet.

CALUMET — It was a back and forth battle on Sunday at Agassiz Field between the Appleton Assassins and the Boomtown Saints from Lansing, Michigan. The Assassins prevailed and drank from the Nachazel Cup as winners of the International Frisbee Tournament (IFT) for the third time in a row. It was their fourth championship victory in the last seven years.

“We played all together and we played well,” said Appleton’s John Luedke. “Boomtown is tough team. We have a lot of respect for them as they are very competitive.”

The championship was a best-of-three series. In the first game, the Assassins took the lead early on and never let go. Led by Luedeke and John Tews, the team threw one too many twisting frisbees past the Boomtown defense and won 21- 17. In the second game, it was a similar story. Boomtown could never get their offense and defense to work together and lost 21- 13.

Sunday’s game was the culmination of a two-day event for Guts enthusiasts from around the world. It also marked the 61st year of the IFT. Fourteen teams, mainly from the upper Midwest competed in this year’s games.

In Guts, teams consist of five players who stand in a straight line 15 feet away from their opponent in a rectangular field. Play starts with the throwing team firing a frisbee (as hard as they can) in a effort to get it past the catching team’s line. It is the catching team’s job to not let the disc get pass their line of defense. This often includes tipped and bobbled discs that have to be snagged one-handed before hitting the ground.

According to organizer of this year’s tournament, Jeff Foss, Guts began in the Keweenaw Peninsula, and in particular in Eagle Harbor. Two brothers from Minnesota came up the idea in the late 1950s while on a picnic at the harbor, and it has grown ever since.

Foss reluctantly added that in the Frisbee world, Guts is frowned upon.

“It is the antithesis of what frisbee should be,” he noted. “Frisbee should be a graceful thing, and in Guts you are chucking it at each other and trying to get people not to catch it.”

Interestingly, Foss doesn’t play the game.

“I just fell in love with the athleticism of it,” he said.

There is quite a bit of that as opponents try to catch and deflect a Wham-O Frisbee that’s come at them at top speeds of 80 miles an hour.

“That’s why it’s called guts,” Foss said.

Lee Baker came all the way from Melbourne, Australia, to compete with Buck’s Brigade out of lower Michigan.

“I am an anomaly,” the 37-year-old Baker said.

“If you like frisbee in Australia, you play Ultimate Frisbee,” Baker said. “I coach an Ultimate Frisbee team in Cincinnati and that’s where I learned about Guts. I just love the atmosphere, the camaraderie and the adrenaline as a frisbee is flying at you at top speeds.”

Sunday’s finale saw a lot of good-natured “trash talk” between teams and their adoring fans sitting on the sidelines. Despite all the teasing and taunting, Foss said that it is really a gentleman’s game.

“Each team provides an observer to watch the lines and the throws and catches and there is very little arguing,” said Foss. “Also, you see they high-five and hug each other as they change sides.”

It is also a family sport. Foss said a number of teams have father and son combos and other sibling teams.

“What happens is that the dad usually get the sons into the game,” Foss explained.

One of those dads on the field Sunday was Mark Banghart who last year was inducted into the International Frisbee Hall of Fame and Guts Hall of Fame located in the ballroom of the Calumet Colosseum. He and his two sons were on the line for Boomtown in the championship round.

“He (Banghart) was so good in Ultimate Frisbee at Michigan State that they retired his jersey,” explained Foss. “He is so good and all the different frisbee games but he said that Guts is his favorite.”