The men's field for the 2013 USA Curling National Championships presented by Brooms Up Curling Supplies next month is now set as the Challenge Round came to a close tonight at the Hibbing Curling Club in Hibbing, Minn.
A field of 30 teams was cut to six with several former national champions and many familiar faces earning return trips to the National Championships, which will take place Feb. 9-16 in Green Bay, Wis. In addition to qualifying for the National Championships, the chance to become an Olympian was also looming in the background as the 2013 Nationals will serve as the final qualifying event for teams to earn spots in the upcoming Olympic Team Trials in November.
In the morning action, Wisconsin's Ryan Lemke rink dominated 2007 U.S. champion Todd Birr in the B flight final in an 8-3 rout that only lasted four ends. This is the first Nationals appearance since 2007 for Lemke (Medford, Wis.). His team includes Nate Gebert (Milwaukee, Wis.), John Lilla (Trempealeau, Wis.), and Casey Konopacky (Stevens Point, Wis.). Birr's team took the ice just a few hours later and trailed Owen Sampson's North Dakota rink for most of the game but secured the last-gasp win on a steal to punch their tickets to Green Bay. Sampson had a tough shot for the win as the end didn't get set up as planned and he had to come around three center guards to make a hit and didn't make contact, handing the win to Birr's team of Doug Pottinger (Eden Prairie, Minn.), Greg Romaniuk (Snohomish, Wash.), Tom O'Connor (Minneapolis, Minn.) and Kevin Birr (St. Peter, Minn.).
Nine-time U.S. mixed national champion Brady Clark of Lynnwood, Washington also clinched a berth out of the B flight this morning with a 7-4 defeat of Joey Bonfoey's rink. Clark and teammates Sean Beighton, Darren Lehto, and Philip Tilker (all of Seattle) got a early lead on the Bonfoey team with a key steal of two points in the third end. That gave Clark's rink full control of the match as they never relinquished the lead. Bonfoey and his teammates returned to the ice at 2 p.m. to take on Mike Farbelow's third-seeded team, which had won six straight games coming into today's match - the long road to qualify to Nationals via the C flight. In a back-and-forth match, the game would go to an extra end when Farbelow's hit for the win removed one of Team Bonfoey's stones but Farbelow's shooter did not stay in the rings to secure the point for the win. Instead, Bonfoey earned a single and the game went into overtime. Farbelow, however, opted to draw for the win in the extra end, unlike in the 10th, and sealed his team's win and trip to the Nationals.
The Women's Challenge Round will take place Jan. 18-20 at the Granite Curling Club in Seattle with 14 teams competing with six berths available to Nationals. (www.curlingseattle.org)
Men's field, 2013 National Championships:
Team McCormick: Heath McCormick (Sarnia, Ontario), Bill Stopera (Briarcliff Manor, N.Y.), Martin Sather (Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y.), Dean Gemmell (Short Hills, N.J.), Matt Hames (Hamilton, N.Y.)
Team Fenson: Pete Fenson (Bemidji, Minn.), Shawn Rojeski (Chisholm, Minn.), Joe Polo (Duluth, Minn.), Ryan Brunt (Bemidji, Minn.)
Team Shuster: John Shuster (Duluth, Minn.), Jeff Isaacson (Gilbert, Minn.), Jared Zezel (Duluth, Minn.), John Landsteiner (Duluth, Minn.), Coach Tim Muller (Hibbing, Minn.)
Team George: Tyler George (Proctor, Minn.), Chris Plys (Duluth, Minn.), Rich Ruohonen (Minneapolis, Minn.), Colin Hufman (Seattle), Coach Phill Drobnick (Eveleth, Minn.)
Team Brown: Craig Brown (Madison, Wis.), Kroy Nernberger (Madison, Wis.), Matt Hamilton (McFarland, Wis.), Jon Brunt (Portage, Wis.)
Team Persinger: Greg Persinger (Fairbanks, Alaska), Nick Myers (Mansfield, Texas), Sean Murray (Watertown, Wis.), Tim Gartner (St. Paul, Minn.)
Team Lemke: Ryan Lemke (Medford, Wis.), Nate Gebert (Milwaukee, Wis.), John Lilla (Trempealeau, Wis.), Casey Konopacky (Stevens Point, Wis.)
Team Clark: Brady Clark (Lynnwood, WA), Sean Beighton (Seattle), Darren Lehto (Seattle), Philip Tilker (Seattle), Coach Ken Trask (Seattle)
Team Birr: Todd Birr (Mankato, Minn.), Doug Pottinger (Eden Prairie, Minn.), Greg Romaniuk (Snohomish, Wash.), Tom O'Connor (Minneapolis, Minn.), Kevin Birr (St. Peter, Minn.)
Team Farbelow: Mike Farbelow (Minneapolis, Minn.), Kevin Deeren (Chicago), Kraig Deeren (DeForest, Ill.), Mark Lazar (Toledo, Ohio)