The Michigan Region has historically been the best in college dodgeball, and this year looks to be no different. In the past, the state of Michigan has earned up to 9 of the 15 1st-Team All-American spots, showing how good the top level of talent is in the region. But unfortunately, as is often the case, the veterans on these teams seem to steal the headlines, making it difficult to learn enough about the up-and-coming talent in the region. Well, time to give some of those young players the recognition they deserve. I had the chance to ask a captain on each team who their young star are. Below are the responses I received:
Michigan State (written by Rebecca Shappell):
Payton Schuster (Freshman): It’s no surprise by now that he has quickly become the new face of the MSU team. Payton has an incredible throw and has been quickly developing his hands and court knowledge. He’s already proven to go above and beyond what we’ve expected of him. I know every other school likes to say they have the “best rookie in the league,” but there’s no contest with this one, it’s Payton. With his NCDA experience as well as participating in Elite this summer, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s a top spot All-American next year.
Dennis Sullivan (Freshman): Another GREAT pickup for us this year. Dennis is always pushing, baiting throws and covering his teammates. This guy has become someone we can look to in a pressure situation. He has the presence of a seasoned vet on the court and he doesn’t back down, regardless of the player. I can’t wait to see him develop into a leadership role on this team as his court IQ and play-style is already advanced. With what he’ll gain from playing Elite this summer I expect him to come back vastly improved into one of the best players in the Michigan Region.
Brent Weakland (Sophomore): Some people may not have heard of Brent yet but I will say Brent has easily been the most improved player we’ve picked up with this new class, developing into one of our top rookies. Brent is always countering, placing his throws in great spots and playing like it’s his last match. He has been constantly trying to develop himself, always asking what he can do differently or what should happen in certain situations. As he gains more experience I feel like this guy can become a great key player for this Michigan State team as he already plays with a calm presence and always seems to make the right court decisions.
These three guys together have the potential to rebuild Michigan State into an entirely new force. I’d keep a close eye on these guys in the next few years, you’ll definitely be hearing their names a lot more.
Saginaw Valley State (written by Kenny Mize):
Jake Bruce (Sophomore): The younger Bruce brother, in his second year he has blossomed into one of the most polished players in the Michigan Region. He has two more years and is stepping into a co-captain role next year. He is going to be an All-American before it’s all said and done.
Dylan McDonald (Freshman): One of the top throwers for us, who has continued to grow at every tournament. He has stepped up with countering abilities and his in-game knowledge. He has 3 years left and with not many people knowing him. He has the ability to make the sneaky big plays during the games.
Chase Roelofs (Freshman): Giving Chase a shoutout was hard in my mind. Why? He has not played a single tournament this year. On the other hand he has out performed all my expectations for someone who has only been practicing for less than 5 months. He is going to be a huge strength for this team in the future. He already shows the flashes of elite talent and he is scary good at catching for a rookie. If you go by his progression just now, he is on track to be in a captain spot in the upcoming seasons.
Central Michigan (written by Mike Riley):
Eric Nelson (Freshman): I’ve stated him to be the best rookie in the league, and I stand by that statement still. This kid has got it all. An incredible arm, good hands, and a knack for the strategy. I think the thing that sets Eric apart from others I’ve seen is his dedication and interest in the sport. When you see the natural interest and don’t have to push them for commitment, coupled with the high talent level, that’s when a stud is created. His probable ascension into a leadership role next year will only further improve his game. If he’s not on your radar yet watch out for him to make waves at Nationals this year.
Kyle “The gun” Garner (Sophomore): This young rookie has improved tremendously since we first picked him up at the beginning of this year. Kyle’s key for standout success is his drive to constantly improve. He put in extra hours, full attention, and sought out advice in order to enhance his skills rapidly; and it’s paid off. He is now a solid all-around player and when he gets his release right, a strong thrower. Also, his fearlessness in the face of close-quarters trades and team throws is an attribute hard to come by. When he smooths out the technical aspects of his game and gains more experience, he will be a sure thing for All-American in the upcoming years and name for CMU to rely on.
Grand Valley State (written by Brandon Meisel):
Ben Smart (Sophomore): Although you’ll never hear him talk an ounce of trash on the court, if there was a golden glove for dodgeball, this kid would be a solid contender every year. Ben can catch absolutely anything within reach, heck, I have even seen him make numerous catches that weren’t within his reach, that he had to lay out for. He’s smart (pun intended) and controlled on the court. No doubt teams will need to keep an eye on him in these next few years.
Josh Hill (Freshman): Out of all of the players I have helped coach these past few years, Josh, by far has the best dodgeball instincts. At our freshmen tryouts Josh was an unstoppable force that not a single player could manage to stop. Along with having great instincts, Josh also has a cannon for an arm. Since the beginning of the new semester folks have started to realize this, most of the time after it was already too late. If you enjoy getting bruises from rubber balls thrown at you, stand in-front of this kid for the next few years. I promise you’ll end up with more than a few.
Nolan Stanko (Sophomore): Nolan, also known as the Stumpo killer, single-handedly turned the tide for us in the semi-final match last year against MSU. Four balls were thrown at him, and he managed to catch the only one that connected with him, turning the tide and propelling us onto yet another National Championship. Although Nolan should be known for that astounding performance, he should also be known for his overall dodgeball ability. The kid is an athlete. Fastest guy on our team, and one of the more reliable arms as well. I’m sure you’ll be hearing his name more and more these next couple of years.