The United States Fistball Association held the 2021 Outdoor National Championship in Jackson, Wisconsin on August 7-8th with the help of the local organizers of the Wisconsin Fistball Association. With the complications of the COVID-19 virus and more current delta variant, four men’s teams competed for the right to be called the US Champion, and ultimately, the North American Fistball champion. Teams from New Jersey and Pennsylvania traveled to Wisconsin to put on a show for all viewers. The team from the Swim and Sport Club of Flanders, New Jersey came in as the defending champions from 2019’s outdoor championship in SSC. SSC likely was the favorite going in to the tournament, but perhaps the host Wisconsin Fistball Association, was at the very least, the local crowd favorite. The WFA men’s team was strengthened by internationally relocated Michael Rader of Germany (TSV Schwieberdingen) and Thomas Dazinger of Austria (TV Enns).
After the preliminary round, the seedings for the semifinals were WFA in first place, SSC 1 in second place, Milwaukee Fistball Club in 3rd place, and finally SSC’s 2nd team in 4th place. The semifinal matches were both quite clear with 3:0 victories for WFA and SSC 1 against SSC 2 and MKE respectively. The 3rd place match between MKE and SSC 2 had a rough start for SSC with an 11:0 first set. The next sets were competitive with Jordan Blank returning to the hitting role for MKE and Kyle Ejsmont finding his way in the attack for SSC. Ultimately, Milwaukee outplayed the east coast team 4:0 and earned the bronze medal. (11:0, 11:8, 11:8, 11:8)
The championship match between strong attacker Todd Strassberger from SSC and the well rounded Wisconsin team was an exciting one with the SSC squad coming out firing. The east coasters took an early lead in the first set due to the lack of difficulty coming from the Mat Henrichs serve. After a timeout, the local team put up a fight but fell short on the first set 7:11. The second set was much closer with a stronger setting presence from Patrick White, Eric Kindler, and Thomas Dazinger. A couple of situations of luck went the WFA’s way early in the set and a few strong defenses from Aaron Weninger gave Todd Strassberger some doubt about where he can score. Some tactical services and attacks on Mat Henrichs kept the SSC boys neck and neck with the WFA squad in the set. Mat Henrichs however found his groove in the service game and was able to score some late set points on setter Kris Graham to pull forward at 9:9 and 10:10. Ultimately, the set was closed for WFA by a service error out of bounds 12:10.
With the set score of 1:1 and the temperature starting to heat up with the sun coming out, it was anyone’s championship to win. The third set moved in the direction of the home team quickly as service errors and attacking errors from Todd Strassberger and Cory Dahn. An early run of points was never able to be undone and the WFA squad easily took the third set 11:6. The fourth set was where the going got tough and the tough got going. Both teams found ways to keep the game close with a trading of points for most of the set. Cory Dahn brought a different aspect to SSC’s attack with a strong service game that gave Thomas Dazinger some difficulties. A system change for the WFA team brought Thomas into the field and ultimately tamed Cory Dahn’s service scoring. Due to the system change and a few service errors, Todd Strassberger returned to the service and immediately scored a long service that nearly took off Thomas’ head. A trading of service points ensued between Mat Henrichs and Todd Strassberger leading the set to 13:13. A missed call by the referee should have awarded a point to SSC for a bench player entering the field after a strong attack scored for Mat Henrichs. An intense rally at 14:13 took place with outstanding defense from James McMahon of SSC, but Todd Strassberger lost his footing and made a devastating attacking error which gifted the WFA boys the 4th set 15:13.
After a 10 minute break that both teams needed due to the warm temperature, the fifth set was under way. An early service error from Todd and a missed defense from James McMahon gave the WFA an early lead. It was clear that when Mat Henrichs was hitting the ball that it was getting wet from sweat and the referee made a ball change after the missed defense and as needed. Todd and Cory both were finding the back line in the middle of the set and giving the WFA defensive back line trouble. Service aces and a setting error brought the set to 8:8. Some strong defensive plays by Eric Kindler kept Todd and Cory in check and gave momentum to the WFA boys in the late part of the set. At 10:8 for WFA and after a perfect set from Kris Graham, Todd Strassberger would not be denied with a super strong strike that went through the WFA defense which fended off the first match ball. A missed pole touch kept the SSC boys alive and Todd Strassberger hammered home a 25 meter shot to tie the game 10:10. A service that was too difficult by Mat Henrichs led to the ball not being able to return to put WFA in front. An intense final rally was concluded by a Mat Henrichs strike to bring the match to a close. Final result 4:1 (7:11, 12:10, 11:6, 15:13, 12:10).
Wisconsin Fistball Association
Swim and Sport Club 1
Milwaukee Fistball Club
Swim and Sport Club 2