I recently sat down with NCDA alum, and frequent stream commentator Tony Stumpo. We had a quick chat about last year, what he expects this season, and the impact of playing USA Dodgeball events during the NCDA offseason. Check out our interview below:
Kevin Bailey: Tony, thank you for sitting down to chat as we get back into the groove of another season of college dodgeball.
Tony Stumpo: Happy to be back talking dodgeball, feels like we have a lot going on with the sport right now.
First off, let’s recap last year and Nationals specifically. You were on hand for that event. What were your main takeaways from the first NCDA Nationals in years?
I was loving some of the parity that we saw across the board. Yes, Grand Valley State sort of ran away with it on Championship Sunday, but we got some incredible matches from teams that maybe we didn’t expect.
I was a big fan of how competitive Nebraska and Wisconsin Platteville were given some of their constraints. Like, those two teams don’t just have other schools an hour down the road to go play twice a month and yet they still showed up and balled out. I really hope they can keep it up and it will also help the efforts to expand the league in their areas which, again, should only make those schools better as they get to play more actual games.
I was very happy with the crowd on Sunday as well.
Now, let’s dive into this year. We are a few tournaments into the season so far. What have you seen so far that has intrigued you from the early Ohio Region events?
I was very happy just to see all of these schools travel and have big tournaments so early in the season. You can just feel the energy of the league and tell that all of these kids love to play and were chomping at the bit to get back out there. The Ohio Region is in a perfect location to really bring teams together and host great events.
I think Ohio University made a statement with some big early wins against Ohio State and Cincinnati to put that region on notice again. I truly have no idea who will come out on top for the Ohio Dodgeball Cup, and that makes it so much more exciting as I look at it from a fan perspective.
Almost makes me wonder if this is the year Ohio supplants Michigan as the toughest region. They have the numbers.
Overall, who do you expect to contend for a national title this year?
Well, I will start off with the obvious and say GVSU and Michigan State. Those 2 seemed to truly be on a level above the rest of the league last year, no disrespect to Cincy or JMU. I think both of those teams return so many good players that you can’t go wrong leaning towards them. I think Ben Smart is going to be playing with a chip on his shoulder and that should scare the rest of the league.
After that, it gets muddy. I really like Ohio and Cincy to find themselves in the Final 4 as well, so to me it is those 4 teams.
Again, JMU and Towson might read this and feel the disrespect but I guess I just gave them some bulletin board material. I still think those teams are very good but just one step below being true contenders this year.
Outside of those top contenders, can you talk about some other schools that you are intrigued by this year? Dark horse candidates / up and coming programs / etc.
If you had asked me a week ago I might not be sure what to say but after seeing their performance this past weekend I am going with my Nittany Lions. I am a big Penn State football fan and now their dodgeball team has caught my attention. I would love to see them make a run at the Final 4. Next to them I am buying into the Nebraska hype machine. Corn and Protein, Baby!
As far as up and comers, I am loving what I am seeing from Western Michigan and UWP. They have been very active on social media and appear to be getting solid numbers at their practices and you love to see that. Caleb Newell is very good and is a first team All-American type player in my eyes.
You compete in the USA Dodgeball Premier Tour during the NCDA offseason. Did any current NCDA players stand out to you at those events? And do you consider that summer dodgeball circuit to be an important piece for player development for NCDA players?
So, I mentioned Caleb Newell already but he jumped out to me in the premier tour which is why I had mentioned him; Mutiny and Spartans each have multiple current NCDA players that I was impressed with as well as Final Justice. I was just really happy to see so many kids make the jump from NCDA to the Premier Tour and inject the North Region with some much needed youth and energy. A team like Mutiny had some growing pains in the Open Division but wasted no time making their presence known in Pinch by eliminating Detroit City Omerta at Round 1 and us (Grand Rapids Kraken) at Round 3. They are all pretty much current NCDA players and I love that. For Kraken, we added Matt Budai (GVSU) with short notice for Round 1 and he was crucial to us winning that tournament and I think it helped him as a player too. I got to practice with him last week and he is already better than he was last year in my opinion. I think that playing with and against teams full of experienced players can really help jump start development. Iron sharpens iron, so to have all these people come out and get more playing time during the summer definitely helps elevate the overall level of dodgeball. For those individuals who played this summer, they are still in dodgeball shape and when other people are trying to shake off rust at a September tournament these guys are rounding into midseason form already.
Lastly, I know there hasn’t been an event in the Michigan Region yet this year, but when will we see you next in the booth?
Boy that is a good question. I guess it will depend on when GV or MSU host an event. I know GV has asked me in past years to come help with their stream and I have fun with it so I always oblige. I just hope it is before MDC, I can’t keep being known as the voice of college dodgeball if I am not out there calling games. I really wish I could attend the Bobcat Bonanza, and Women’s Tournament this weekend. These 2 events look loaded and seem to be the marquee events of the fall semester so far.
Thanks again for sitting down to chat. Any final thoughts?
I just hope all the teams have fun this year.