Assassins repeat as IFT champs

Eddie O’Neill/Daily Mining Gazette Samurai Spirit, a Guts team from Japan, makes a defensive play.

HANCOCK — By 5:45 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, Josh Tews had had enough. Since Saturday morning, he’d been throwing a Frisbee and been hit by a Frisbee one too many times. He was tired and dirty. His feet were swollen. It was time to go home.

He and his team, the Appleton Assassins, were down by two points to the Boomtown Saints in Game Two of the championship series of the 62nd annual International Guts Frisbee Tournament. They had already won Game One and were four points away from 21 points and a victory in the best-of-three match. The captain of the squad decided to give his team a quick pep talk.

“I told them to not get down and not give up,” he said. “While we have the game advantage. I knew that we could pick it up and finish it in two (games).”

He and his teammates did just that winning the 22-20.

“We strung together a couple of catches and put together some good throws and we won it. It was really awesome.”

Provided photo Stephen Dudenas of Shottle Bop chases down the disc during the 62nd Coca-Cola International Frisbee Tournament held in Hancock this past weekend. Teammates Carter Nettell, Kyle Suvanto, and Al Nettell are in pursuit.

Fifteen minutes later, he and teammates were chugging beer from the championship trophy as family and friends snapped pictures. This was the second year in row that they had won it.

The Assassins were one of 12 teams who made the trek to Hancock’s Driving Park for the tournament. While the two-day Frisbee event had three teams from Marquette, one from Detroit and the Boomtown Saints from Lansing, the superstars of the weekend by far were two Guts teams that came from Japan — the island nation in the South Pacific.

“It has been an incredible experience,” said Suda of the Samurai Spirits. “The competition is very strong as we saw a lot of close games and everybody has been so welcoming.”

He added that the Guts is not that popular in Japan. There are a few clubs here and there. However, he and his teammates were in Frisbee heaven here in the western Upper Peninsula.

“The game is believed to have started in 1957 in Eagle Harbor,” said Pete Rilei, one of the event organizers. “Guts was the original Frisbee sport, and its thought that ultimate (Frisbee) and disc golf all branched off from this.”

He added that Guts and the International Frisbee Tournament stayed in Eagle Harbor for many years, moved to Calumet, did a stint in Atlantic Mine and now in Hancock.

Also of local interest is the fact that the second floor of the Calumet Colosseum is home to the International Frisbee and USA Guts Hall of Fame.

As for the name, well, according to Rilei, it is simple.

“You’ve got to have guts to play this,” he said with a smile.

The way the game works is that two teams of five face each other on two lines roughly 15-meters apart. They then throw a Wham-O Frisbee Pro Model disc as hard as they can, trying to get it past their opponents line of defense. Meanwhile, the defense is trying to catch the Frisbee with just one hand and not allow it to hit the ground. Teams take turns throwing and catching. According to Rilei, it is not uncommon for the disc to reach up to 85-miles per hour, giving the opponent just a fraction of a second to react.

“It’s been called one of the original extreme sports,” he added.

Because of its unique nature, Guts has a built-in camaraderie among its participants. Players certainly came to Hancock to win, but even more importantly, they came to connect with friends, drink beer and have fun. They see each other several times a year at various Guts tournaments in the upper Midwest.

With that in mind, there was a Hall of Fame banquet held at Gino’s Restaurant in Hancock on Saturday night.

“The Japanese loved it,” said Rilei. “They loved going to the Colosseum and seeing the Guts Hall of Fame. We have been so lucky to have them here.”

Jericho Luedke of the Appleton Assassins agreed.

“It was a great honor to have them here,” he said. “It great experience to play against them as they have a unique style of play. “They have defense and shots down to a science. They are all about technique.”

Suda and his teammates are already planning their 12,000-mile round trip for next year.

“We are passionate about this game,” he said. “It has been an incredible welcoming experience.”