by Tyler Flynn
In my first tournament since Best of the West, I traveled to Riverbend Axe Throwing in East Alton, IL. There was concern earlier this year about the new tiered tournament system and how that might affect some smaller, non-tiered tournaments. Well, as some weird sports ghosts told Kevin Costner in some really old movie, “If you build it, he will come.” And, really, who is Kevin Costner but a poor man’s Dan Brynildson?
Dan and Erika Brynildson from Riverbend Axe Throwing set out to create a smooth, fun, focused-on-the-thrower tournament, and they did just that. John Doepke (Blades and Boards) and Dylan Teets (Rockstar Axe Throwing) both commented on the incredible pit crew, the overall atmosphere, and the fantastic food they secured for the throwers in addition to well-oiled and smoothly run brackets. Erika asked for some help with the first big axe bracket, after which she said “I got this” and ran through the next 6 brackets of the weekend like a pro.
Perhaps the greatest helpers they had all weekend (other than the black-clad, muscle-bound, youth of their pit crew who were ungodly efficient) were their daughters Emma and Anna, ages 9 and 12. These two were fearless in the crowd, fantastic duals partners, and (in no way joking) some of the best judges I’ve seen. These two were excellent representations of both their parents and their venue. At one point they commented that they love (their parents) owning a venue, because they’ve had the opportunity to meet friends from all over that they never would have met or known about otherwise, and I can say that we all feel the same! Most importantly, the two of them wanted to come disc golfing with us Sunday, for what had to be the best, post-tournament experience I’ve had to date: a pleasant afternoon of disc golf, followed by a chill cookout/hangout at the Brynildson’s with burgers and dogs by Dan the Man and fresh brownies from chef Anna.
But these two girls were not the only youth to make an appearance at Riverbend, and the tournament was a fantastic reminder of where the sport is headed in the future. Liam Etter (Ironside Axe Club, 11), and Josselyn Allen (Riverbend Jerseyville, 14) are both fierce competitors who will be making their way up the ranks in the next few years. I remember Liam from the first ThrOHIO doing very well in our ‘random implement’ tournament, beating some well-known names in ninja stars and shovel throwing. At Riverbend in particular, he said he loved getting to throw duals with Jesse (Throvv) and how much the community would cheer him on as he threw. I personally had the opportunity to throw duals with him just a few weeks later!
All three of the previously mentioned members of the next generation will most definitely be names to look out for in the future; however, Josselyn Allen has already firmly put herself in this position with her big axe performances both at Riverbend and at Show Me State (Tommyhawks Axe House) last year. Here, Josselyn took 5th in her bracket, and both her losses were in OT of game 3. She represents everything positive about the next generation of throwers, a fierce competitor who is always having fun, win or lose. Both she and her father, Kraig Allen, are some of the nicest most welcoming people in the sport who love meeting people from all over (and spotting their many different liscense plates!). Kraig spoke on how much the community means to them and how comfortable he is at these large tournaments; he said he always knows Joss is safe and with good people.
In the end I was able to win both Big Axe and Hatchet (weird) beating A-bracket winner, Lucas Johnson (Murfreesboro Axe) in 2 sets of 3. While my bulls were never really fully dialed in, I went 91% on kills through the final 8, which I guess is just barely enough to do it against the monstrous amount of talent that now engulfs the sport. One particular match sent Lucas and I to a quintuple overtime, and I wish I could tap into the confidence I felt during that match forever. For some reason, I KNEW I was going to win that match, that I would not miss another kill, and that confidence just allows someone to throw so much better. If I could just will myself to be that confident all the time, I may just be ok at this thing.
I do, as always, want to shout out the top 3 competitors. The best finish of the weekend was Lucas Johnson with 2 second place and a first place finish which he took, along with partner Ian Malpass (Angry Jacks Axe Throwing). Despite 2 first place wins, I only managed the second best finish with a 5th place duals finish, along with fellow Flo Bro, John Doepke, who took the third place spot overall.
I know all competitors who were there cannot wait for the next event at Riverbend and are definitely hoping this is only the first of an awesome annual event.