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Best of the West Recap

  • 6 min read
by Tyler Flynn

Though named “Best of the West” (despite some protestations from our North-Western Canadian brethren), Primal Axes’ first major WATL tournament, pulled in throwers from all across the States, with throwers representing home states of Colorado, Utah, California, Wyoming, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Florida, Texas, and many more. 

Vin Crescenzo (PA) walked away with the hatchet victory, marking his second first place finish at Primal Axe, after his win in their regional last year (where he, once again, beat out local Brandon Schell who walked away with the silver). While Crescenzo may have stolen first from Schell in hatchet, Schell had the lowest overall tournament placement average and thus, in my opinion, deserves the “Best of the West” title (he also is actually in the west so not too much of a stretch there).

Duals and big axe added 3 additional 1st place finishes from John Bradley/Garret Gneiting in Duals and Lucas Johnson in BIg Axe. A full list of tournament placements is shown below.

Hatchet PlacementBig Axe PlacementDuals PlacementAverage PlacementTournament Rank
Brandon Schell22531
Lucas Johnson7123.3T2
Tyler Flynn3523.3T2
Vin Crescenzo1754.34
Zach Craford4495.75
Thaddius Shipley99376
Josh Russo99997
John Bradley1317110.38

Talking to some of these top competitors about best practices in preparing for tournaments, one common response was that throwers need to prepare for variety. Not every venue will have the same lighting, floor markings, lane sizes, and comfortability as a home venue. At this particular tournament, lighting in the finals lane was set up the get some great shots, and, given that big axe could only be thrown on 2 lanes, there were long waits between matches (something that most throwers will not be accustomed to from league or practice).

The other huge takeaway from these tournaments is that stats mean nothing when it comes to tournament finishes. While throwers with the top hit percentages will (more likely) make their way into top 8 performances, as Lucas Johnson and Michael Barton and I discussed, it is more about WHEN you miss than IF you miss. Did you miss that kill when you needed it, or when you could afford a miss?

Looking at the top statistics in each category, there is certainly some overlap in the top finishers and those with the highest stats, though there are still many who appear in one list and not the other.

Hatchet Bullseye %Hatchet Killshot %Big Axe Bullseye %Big Axe Killshot %
Lucas Johnson (80.6)
Tyler Flynn (75.3)
Jorge Sanchez (69)
Lucas Johnson (80)
Alex Martin (78)
John Bradley/ Adam Fortner (71)
Tyler Flynn (51)
Brandon Schell (50)
Lucas Johnson (42.6)
Lucas Johnson (64)
Vail Cook/ Tyler Flynn (56)

Notably absent from the list here are both our hatchet champion himself, Vin Crescenzo, along with 2nd place finisher Brandon Schell. While certainly a top thrower (as most first place finishers are) Crescenzo clearly thrived under pressure hitting when he really needed to and timing misses when he could afford them most. On the flip side, I was able to knock out Lucas Johnson whose percentages dwarf my own, by hitting a well-timed 64 when Lucas missed a single bullseye in our game 3. 

This principle was very apparent in Denver in both the statistical performances given above, and from some amazing ‘underdog’ performances. Everyone misses, and anyone can get hot when they need to.

As Tyler Pantle, a new(er) thrower to the tournament circuit commented, “Going to these larger tournaments, and seeing the ‘elite’ throwers is incredibly helpful for all those who participate. I learn something new everytime I go against someone better than me that I can take home and apply to my own game.”  This tournament marked one of the first ‘big’ tournaments for Pantle, who throws out of Sheridan, WY and has been to a handful of smaller tournaments and regionals last year. Having thrown against him in both Big Axe and Hatchet, I can confirm that he will be a thrower to look out for now that he’s getting some  more tournament experience under his belt.

Much like Pantle, Josh Eggert spoke about playing up to the competition and how this can bring the best out of people. He and his partner, Mike Mariolle, took down myself and Lucas as the 1 seed in duals. While it certainly was not great to be on the losing end of that, watching the two of them smoke a 61 in game 6 for the win was pretty amazing (and further proves that a good match beats out throwing statistics every day). While Lucas and I did manage to fight back to second place, the early loss from Eggert and Mariolle made it a much tougher road.  

 It is always a blast to watch throwers making an unexpected run, and this was certainly the case with Anne Schell’s big axe performance. Watching her smack kills to take the lead on throw 5 seemingly in every game was delightful (even when she did so against me!). Brandon (her husband) commented that hearing the crowd just erupt at her victory against him in game 2 of their match was a highlight of the weekend. While Brandon did take the win in this match with victories in games 1 and 3, Anne went on to make quite the B bracket run, finishing tied 9th overall. [Anne and Brandon would also go on to take 5th in duals together that afternoon, so clearly no hard feelings were garnered].

I personally had a great tournament experience in addition to one of my better performances. This event marked my best average finish (even though I could not take the victory in any discipline this time), and I had some great highlights. I got to face Ben Edgington, world champ, for the first and second time despite being at most majors together in the last 3 years (we went 1-1), and we had some fun switching axes when meeting up the second time. I also had some fun rolling some d10s (that’s nerspeak for 10 sided dice) with Zach Crawford to decide when to go up for kills. 

All the folks at Primal did a great job taking care of us for the weekend, and the axe community continues to prove it cares for all those who work, serve, and volunteer to make this a good experience. I remember particularly Garret Gneiting encouraging a newer judge to be confident in a call and both opponents assuring her they would allow each other to look and call for seconds if needed. 

Manager, Tobias Macera, said his only goal was to make sure everyone had a good time, and owner, Michael Weinber echoed this, commenting that he was surprised and excited to see so many throwers from around the States, and he just hoped they all valued the trip as much as he valued them taking the time to travel out. From the excellent service, great food and drink options, some homemade cookies, great local talent, and a fantastic afterparty location, I’ say neither should be worried on that front.