Local cornhole juggernauts win Basin Recreation’s tourney for third time | ParkRecord.com

Local cornhole juggernauts win Basin Recreation’s tourney for third time

For Park City, the Midwest is often a place where people are from but not where they're going – a home supplanted in the heart by the mountains.

But that is not to say it is without its charm. It is, for instance, the likely origin of modern cornhole, or bags, as it is called in the Midwest's northern climes, in which two teams of two compete to score points by throwing bean bags onto a slanted piece of wood with a hole cut in the center.

On Saturday, the heartland's tailgate game came to Park City's Willow Creek Park for the fourth annual Basin Recreation Backyard Bash Cornhole Classic competition.

Among the 10 two-person teams were two-time champions Shawn Levinson and Greg O'Horo, and their neighbors, who were last year's champions, Kevin Maxie and Brad Bassett.

There were also those who hoped to upset everyone's expectations, beat the champions on their home turf, and run away with the pint glass prizes and the title.

"We lost our first game, but it's just a warmup," Tyler Schroll said, standing near the awnings behind the playing field.

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It was a double-elimination tournament, and Schroll was unfazed by his team's rough start. For the past week he had been on the shores of Lake Michigan, unwittingly training for this event during a Fourth of July trip to Traverse City, Michigan.

"It was what I needed," he said of the trip. "Had a beer in the hand, and played cornhole a bunch of times."

Schroll explained that, as a Michigan State University alum, and therefore linked to college football's Big 10 Conference, he felt he had to do his best as a Spartan.

"We took cornhole very seriously at our tailgates," he said. "So if I don't represent Michigan State here today, I'm going to have buddies that are going to give me some crap."

He credited the initial loss to the slick surface of Basin Rec's boards, saying he was having trouble parking the bags where they needed to go.

"It's either been in the hole or it's been nothing," he said. "So I have to get that figured out."

Sam Schwoebel, field event and program coordinator with Basin Recreation, said with the organization's slicker boards, a reliable strategy is to try a lofted shot with a little spin.

But Schroll never got the chance to perfect the technique. He was between a rock and a hard place that afternoon, as he played Levinson and O'Horo out of the gate and lost, then in the second round, faced the team that took third, and lost to them, too.

Maxie and Bassett advanced, beating O'Horo and Levinson and putting them into the losers' bracket. But Levinson and O'Horo fought their way out, defeating the third place team to advance to the finals.

The other competitors, who had all been eliminated, pulled up a line of lawn chairs beside the finals game to watch the cornhole juggernauts battle for the title.

Both teams competed fiercely, sometimes in volleys of three bags sunk in the hole each per turn, but O'Horo and Levinson started to pull away. A three-point shot won the first game for O'Horo and Levinson.

However, Bassett and Maxie had not lost before, and the double-elimination format required a rematch, so the bags started flying again.

The teams ridiculed each other in speech that would make a pirate blush – like only two teams that have played each other many, many times, on friendly terms, can.

"They are best friends, neighbors, and we play them all the time," said O'Horo, who, according to his Facebook account, attended Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts.

He had the honor of sinking the final shot to beat Bassett and Maxie 21-13.

As he let go of the bag, he called his shot.

"That's game," he said, just as the bag reached its apogee.

It was the third time in four years his team had won the Backyard Bash.

"When you see it going through the air, you almost know it's dropping right on and you're golden," O'Horo said. "It's nerve-wracking when it leaves your hand, but once you know it's on a good path, then all of a sudden you put a little smile on your face."

Levinson and O'Horo received their pint glasses with the event's name on them and a pair of socks each.

To prepare for the tournament, Levinson said the two "drank a lot."

O'Horo added that they had also spent countless hours playing the game in their front yard.

"It takes a bunch to get a cornhole body," he joked. "It's pretty tough out here."

Bassett said he and Maxie had no one to blame but themselves.

"We've got to get back to training," Bassett cracked. "We have to get back to the film sessions too."

In reality, that meant playing more games in the front yard against their neighbors.

One of the contestants offered a simple rhyme to sum up the competition.

"There are good ships and there are wood ships," he said. "But the best ships are friendships."