The National Collegiate GUTS Championship is recognized by the United States GUTS Players Association (USGPA) as the crowning collegiate championship event. The tournament is played in a single-elimination bracket format. Teams are made up of three players. All matches except for the Finals are won by the first team to reach nine points. We play in an indoor arena with a soft, clay dirt floor. We couple the GUTS championship with our Player Party so the energy is high and the players are all in a good mood. The arena was set up with four courts, one for each section of the 64 team bracket. All 41 teams were placed in the bracket. Some schools fielded two teams. To keep it fair, those teams had to play against each other in the first round to see which one would represent their school. They were also rewarded for fielding the two teams by being placed in a seed that resulted in a bye. Each court had an official to keep score and make any calls that the competing teams could not agree on. The annual Collegiate GUTS Championship Director, Walter Clay, went through a brief overview of the format and rules and then announced each of the brackets and the first round matchups.
The first slate of matches is always interesting as some of the players have never seen the game played before, but there was music playing on the loudspeakers and everyone was ready for a great night. Once we were into the tournament a few matches, the cheers and jeers started roaring from the crowd. Court 1 was our feature court and was outlined by bleachers full of tournament volunteers and teams waiting for their matches. The first two rounds usually separate the teams that have attended the event for a few years from the somewhat timid new teams, who may have still felt awkward launching discs at the row of players across from them.
The sweet 16 round had a lot of great, closely-contested matches and the Elite 8 round was even better. It was hard for the teams on courts two, three, and four to stay focused as they could hear the crowd noise from court one. When it came down to it, we had narrowed it down to our Final Four. The University of North Carolina - Charlotte, North Carolina State University, first-time participants and comeback masters Liberty University, and the defending champions Purdue University had outlasted the field. Liberty had advanced by scoring 4 straight points after being down 5-8 to a talented Georgia Tech team. They had also won their sweet 16 match 9-8.
For the Final Four, we moved all the matches to court one and the offiicial called the match over the PA system. In the first match, Liberty let UNCC jump out to an early 5-3 lead, but they had been down before and knew what they had to do. A couple catches later, along with scoring each time on their throws and they were right back in it. They outlasted the 49'ers and advanced to the finals with a 9-7 win. Then we had the match of the night, the North Carolina State Wolfpack versus the Purdue Boilermakers. Both of these teams had three quality competitors toeing the line. The score was back and forth the whole match. They were catching some of the hardest throws, especially NC State. Purdue had Jeremy Johns, the current collegiate disc golf distance record holder, lined up at center. It was the longest lasting match of the night, as both teams were making catches and keeping the scoring at a minmum. The Boilermakers were able to get enough big haymakers past the Wolfpack, though and they advanced to continue their title defense.
The Finals were set, upstart newcomers Liberty would take on the veteran defending champions Purdue. The crowd had thinned a little, but the Purdue and Liberty cheering sections made up for any lack of noise. The Liberty team seemed ready for the big arms as they caught three of the first four throws. The problem was on their throwing side. They also had three illegal throws in that stretch and instead of taking a big lead of their own, had let Purdue keep it tied at 2-2. Mor poor throws form the flames and scoring throws by Purdue led the boilermaker on a 5 point steak and they lead 8-2. They had taken note of the first weak throw by Liberty's right side player, and kept at him. The rest of the match was a little back and forth with a a couple of catches, but Purdue's lead was too much. The Purdue University Boilermakers won their second straight National Collegiate GUTS Championship, 11-6.
Watch the Finals match coverage provided by DiscGolfPlanet.tv!!
Congratulations to Purdue University. Along with their trophy, the USGPA is also awarding them with a trip to one of their national tournaments to compete against some of the country's top teams.