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Local teams gear up for 66th International Frisbee Tournament

Daver Karnosky/Daily Mining Gazette Shottle Bop’s Will Blau prepares to make a throw during a practice session in February at the Hancock High School gym. Blau and his teammates look to defend their International Frisbee Tournament title this weekend at the Hancock Driving Park.

HANCOCK — While they needed a pair of very close game victories to do it, Shottle Bop won the 65th Annual International Frisbee Tournament last year at the Hancock Driving Park, finally getting over that proverbial peak that they had struggled with for multiple years.

This weekend, Shottle Bop enters the 66th IFT knowing that they are the team to beat. They have swept every Guts Frisbee tournament they have taken part in over the past 12 or so months, but that does not make them feel that this weekend is in the bag.

“Oh, my gosh, yeah, we’re excited,” said Shottle Bop’s Will Blau. “Trying to defend our title. We should have upwards of 20 teams over there. So, it’s looking like one of the biggest turnouts in about, I’d say, 15-20 years up there. We’re all getting excited.”

Shottle Bop had to beat another Copper Country team in Monte Carlo for the IFT title last year. The two teams have done battle several times in recent years, which has been fun for everyone involved, since almost everyone on both teams either went to school together, or they competed against each other for rival high schools.

Shottle Bop features a roster that includes Blau, who won the Most Valuable Player honors last year, Al Nettell, Carter Nettell, Stephen Dudenas, and Kyle Suvanto as its main core, and that group has found a real rhythm together.

“I’d say the main thing is that we haven’t really swapped our main core four or five guys in about, I’d say, since the inception of our team,” said Blau. “It’s me, the two Nettell boys, Steven Dudenas and Kyle Suvanto, are the main five. Just kind of having the balancing camaraderie between us, we all know where our place is on the team. Nobody’s really bickering with each other, or anything like that. Everybody, like I mentioned, they know their role, and it’s just easier to talk to the guys who’ve been lifelong friends forever.

“So, that really helps as opposed to jumping on a team. It takes awhile to mesh. It’s not just a game where you can kind of (play in their) first tournament, and then all of a sudden everybody gels. It does take a while to get to know people’s games, how they play, what they want to do on the line, where they want to play. So, that’s really been helpful, just keeping those core five of us together and really upping our game the past couple years, especially.”

Monte Carlo, who came in second a year ago, and just lost to Shottle Bop again in Wisconsin a few weeks ago, features a roster that includes Tyler Turcotte, Tyler Brunet, and Cameron Murray, all of whom went to high school at Hancock alongside the Nettells and Blau. When it comes to practice time, the two teams often work out together, which only helps add to the rivalry that is brewing between the two teams.

“We practice together twice a week during the summer, so even practices get pretty competitive, pretty heated,” said Blau. “When we see them in the tournament, it just kind of ramps up the competitiveness that much more.

“It’s just fun to play against them. They’re all of our buddies. We’ve known them since high school and everything. Just having that competitive edge against each other makes it a lot more fun to play.”

This year’s field includes more teams from the Marquette area as well as another Calumet team, which will make things even more competitive than it already is.

“We’re actually going to have another local team again from Calumet, so we should have three to four local teams from here, which is great,” Blau said. “Then Marquette is bringing a whole slew of teams down, so that’ll be really good.”

Having managed practice sessions throughout the winter at Hancock High School, and now running outdoor practices in the summer, Blau is really proud of the growth of Guts Frisbee in the area in recent years. Of course, when one of the new faces takes a point in practice off a Shottle Bop player, they know it means something.

“I remember, when I was in high school, I had to beg people to play in and out,” he said. It seems like everybody from Calumet, even like some of the Lake Linden guys now, they’re eager to play. Once you get them out to practice one or two times,they bag their first shot, score their first shot on a Bop player, and then it seems like they’re kind of hooked. So, it really means a lot.

“I’ve known these guys also, too, playing against them in high school. Now to actually see them on the Guts line, and have a good time with them on the weekends and everything, it’s great.”

This year’s tournament will also feature a number of teams from the Lansing area and Wisconsin as well, which should help make the tournament, Blau says, even more exciting throughout the weekend.

For Blau and his teammates, winning is very important, but they also enjoy the atmosphere of the IFT every year.

“That’s why we like to urge people to come out,” he said. “The crowds are always great here. It’s a good atmosphere. It’s really nothing like any other sport. You can pick out of the five fields that we have a game that you want to go watch. The pace of play is different. You have different levels of competition. Obviously, some people aren’t there to win. They’re just kind of there to have fun.

“Some of the older guys, they’re in it just to see their old buddies, and just have a good time and really socialize with each other. So, it’s really a sport like none other, especially up here at the Driving Park. Being the granddaddy of them all, everybody wants to win. This is the one that you want to win if you are looking to make a good run at the (other) tournaments.”

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