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2021 USCA American 6W National Championship

Rich Curtis | Published on 10/10/2021
2021 American 6W National Championship
October 10-16, 202

Fountain of Youth


            After a hiatus of a year due to the pandemic, the 44th USCA American Six Wicket National Championships were held at the National Croquet Center in West Palm Beach, Florida from October 11-17, 2021.  Forty-six players of all ages competed in Championship and First Flight, but in the end, the three youngest entrants, two of them under the age of 30, were dominant.


            The first day and a half were devoted to doubles block play.  The Championship Flight consisted of two blocks of six teams each, with the top eight advancing to a double elimination ladder.  The conditions were not challenging, although in the middle of the day on Sunday, there was a drenching rainstorm that created standing water on all of the courts.   The courts drained quickly, and play resumed after an hour delay.


            Matthew Essick and Stephen Morgan were the only undefeated team after block play.  They were followed by the teams of Danny Huneycutt/Randy Cardo and Macey White/Leo McBride with four wins each.  Unfortunately, White and McBride withdrew from the doubles competition after block play.


            In First Flight doubles, eleven teams competed in a block of six and a block of five, with the top four finishers in each block advancing to a double elimination ladder.  Danna Honeycutt and Becky Essick took top honors in their block, while Nancy Crouch and Mijai Pagano won the other block.


            Singles competition started on Monday with block play.  Twenty-six Championship Flight players were divided into two blocks of seven and a cross-block of twelve with six players playing against the other six.  The top sixteen finishers advanced to a double elimination face-off ladder.  The First Flight had a block of eight players and a block of nine players with the top four from each block moving on to a double elimination ladder.


            Former national champions, Sherif Abdelwahab and Doug Grimsley went undefeated in their blocks, as did Matthew Essick and Shane Hettler.  They were followed by Paul Bennett, Macey White and Stephen Morgan, all with five wins.  Randy Cardo, the defending champion and Danny Huneycutt, another former champion followed with four wins apiece.  A notable upset in the block was Sandy Knuth beating Morgan in a one hoop nail biter.


            Both of the First Flight singles blocks were won by women.  In Block A, Mijai Pagano lost only one game.   She was followed by Ron Millican, John Spaulding and Steve Grassbaugh. The top four spots in Block B were swept by women, with Deb Millican first, Ellie Griffith second, Huneycutt third and Nancy Crouch fourth.


            In the Championship Flight doubles playoffs, Matthew Essick and Stepen Morgan continued their winning ways, ultimately advancing to the finals by beating Sherif Abdelwahab and Sandy Knuth.  That set up the match in the finals of the Losers’ bracket between Abdelwahab/Knuth and the team of Steve Scalpone/Bob Van Tassell to see who made it to the finals.  Abdelwahab and Knuth won 19-10.


            American Rules doubles matches are often more interactive than singles matches and therefore more interesting from a spectator’s point of view.  So it was in the Championship Doubles final in which Abdelwahab and Knuth needed beat Essick and Morgan twice.


Morgan, playing red made the first attack out of the fourth corner, rushing yellow to between hoops 3 and 4 and then taking off to blue and black in the second corner.  Red nicked blue for a roquet on its way out of bounds.  Morgan sent blue to yellow, caught position and ran hoop 2 before playing red as a deep pioneer for yellow between hoops 1 and 2.  Black retired to just outside of the fourth corner.  Essick then roqueted blue and split it to hoop 3 while trying unsuccessfully to get a rush on red to hoop 2.  Instead, he roqueted red and played a croquet out, sending red into the fourth corner (giving red a line rush on black to hoop 3), while wiring yellow behind hoop 4.  Morgan made hoop 3 but then missed a long return roquet on black.


Shortly thereafter, while red and yellow were joined in the first corner and yellow still dead on blue and red, Abdelwahab scored hoop 2 with black and attempted an attack by rushing blue towards the opponent balls.  Unfortunately, blue went out of bounds, leaving black even with hoop 2.  Essick hit black from the first corner, made hoops 2, 3 and 4 and then once again played a croquet out, sending black to red in the first corner.  This time Morgan ran the break from hoop 4 through 2-back where he went out of bounds after scoring the wicket.


After some back and forth, Essick two balled through hoops 5 and 6 and then attacked into the second corner, leaving red with black, destroying blue and scoring 1-back before playing yellow to 3-back.  Morgan ran the break to rover but came up short at rover and failed the hoop.


Until this point in the game, Essick and Morgan had done a masterful job of keeping the innings, although not being able to put together sustained breaks.  However, a few turns later, Essick made an uncharacteristic mental error when he rushed red to the center of the court and then attempted and scored 3-back.  Unfortunately, he was still for 2-back, although the clip was incorrectly on 3-back.


Knuth took advantage of the error and hit red before going to yellow and setting her partner with a break.  Abdelwahab ran the break to rover, peeling red in the process.  However, he stuffed the rover hoop and Essick hit and finished.  Essick and Morgan won the doubles title while going undefeated.


The First Flight doubles championship was between Crouch and Pagano, who were unbeaten in the ladder, and Ron Millican and Jon Spaulding.  Millican/Spaulding won the first match 13-12 to force a second winner-take-all match.  This one was also close, but Crouch/Pagano won it 14-12 and with it, the title.


Ron Millican and Nancy Crouch again met each other in the First Flight singles finals. Millican advanced undefeated through the ladder, while Crouch had lost by one point to Millican in the finals winner’s side of the ladder and beat Debra Millican to set up the return engagement.  Crouch had to win two games and she did just that to take the championship, 18-8 and 14-11.


There were few surprises in the Championship Flight singles ladder.  On one side of the draw, Stephen Morgan defeated Leo McBride, Doug Grimsley and Sherif Abdelwahab (all former champions).  On the other side, Shane Hettler and Matthew Essick squared off as the only two remaining undefeated players.  Hettler won, sending Essick into the loser’s bracket, and advancing to the semi-finals against Macey White, who defeated Abdelwahab in the loser’s bracket and was strong throughout the tournament.  Essick defeated Danny Huneycutt to earn a spot in the other semi-finals match against Morgan.  Since Essick and White had already lost in the ladder, they each had to win two games, to advance to the finals, while Morgan and Hettler needed only one win.  Hettler won the first game against White to advance.  Essick, won both games to set up a return engagement with Hettler, this time the best two out of three.


Essick was on a mission in the finals, winning both games, 26-2 and 26-3.  Playing expeditiously, he took less than 45 minutes to finish each game.  Hettler had a chance in the second game.  With yellow not yet in the game, he attacked and set a break for blue with an on-court leave at hoop 3.  Essick entered the game with yellow and calmly drilled a 75-foot shot, then ran two breaks around to finish and take his first American Six Wicket Singles title.  It probably won’t be his last.  Steven Morgan and Shane Hettler may have something to say about that.


Rich Curtis


Final Order

Championship Flight Singles
Championship Flight Doubles
1. Matthew Essick
  1. Matthew Essick & Stephen Morgan
2. Shane Hettler
  2. Sherif Abdelwahab & Sandy Knuth
3. Stephen Morgan
  3. Steve Scalpone & Bob Van Tassell
3. Macey White
  4. Doug Grimsley & Rich Curtis
5. Sherif Abdelwahab
  5. Danny Huneycutt & Randy Cardo
5. Danny Huneycutt
  5. Paul Bennett & Gary Bennett
7. Paul Bennett
  7. Derek Wassink & Shane Hettler
7. Doug Grimsley
  7. Matt Griffith & Rick Sheely
9. Beverly Cardo
  9. Leo McBride & Macey White
9. Leo McBride
  10. Johnny Mitchell & Beverly Cardo
9. Matt Griffith
  11. David Ekstrom & Lynda Sudderberg
9. Randy Cardo
  12. David Isaacs & Rob Byrd
13. David Isaacs
14. David Ekstrom
15. Rick Sheely
16. Lynda Sudderberg
17. Derek Wassink
18. Steve Scalpone
19. Jay Hughes
20. Sandra Knuth
21. Rich Curtis
22. Brian Hovis
23. Gary Bennett
24. Rob Byrd
25. Randy Reid
26. Johnny Mitchell
Championship Singles Plate
  Championship Doubles Plate
1. Steve Scalpone
  1. David Isaacs & Rob Byrd
2. Dick Sullivan
  2. Derek Wassink & Shane Hettler
3. Brian Hovis
  3. Matt Griffith & Macey White
4. Gary Bennett
  3. David Ekstrom & Lynda Sudderberg
5. Derek Wassink
6. David Ekstrom
6. Rob Byrd
6. Sandra Knuth
6. Randy Reid
First Flight Singles
  First Flight Doubles
1. Nancy Crouch
  1. Nancy Crouch & Mijai Pagano
2. Ron Millican
  2. Ron Millican & Jon Spaulding
3. Deborah Millican
  3. Steve Grassbaugh & Leo Leither
4. Ellie Griffith
  4. Brand Shank & Lori Matway
5. Danna Huneycutt
  5. Becky Essick & Danna Huneycutt
6. Jon Spaulding
  5. Stuart Price & Daniel Bolduc
7. Mijai Pagano
  7. Deborah Millican & Ellie Griffith
7. Steve Grassbaugh
  7. Brian Hovis & Chris Smith
9. John Grabow
  9. Randy Reid & Sonia Alexandra
10. Stuart Price
  10. John Grabow & David Kepner
11. Brand Shank
  11. Robert Mitchell & Jane Bolduc
12. Leo Leither
13. David Kepner
14. Lori Matway
15. Becky Essick
16. Chris Smith
17. Sonia Alexandra
First Flight Singles Plate
  First Flight Doubles Plate
1. David Kepner
  1. Deborah Millican & Ellie Griffith
2. John Grabow
  2. Randy Reid & Sonia Alexandra
3. Stuart Price
  3. Robert Mitchell & Jane Bolduc
4. Sonia Alexandra
4. Chris Smith