National Player of the Year: Jack Girling
MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY
After finishing a record-breaking season, National Player of the Year is icing on the cake for Spartan left corner, Jack Girling. Quite simply put, he just doesn’t make a mistake. Boasting the most accurate arm in the country, few teams have been able to keep the lefty in check. He opened the fall semester in dramatic fashion and never let up, averaging 3.5 kills per point through all fall matches. You may feel safer staring across the court to see Girling without a ball, however he’s flashed strong catching abilities throughout the season as well. With an off-the-charts court IQ, there didn’t seem to be a spot on the court this year that Girling showed a weakness.
Girling exudes an All-American mentality and shows that a National Player of the Year should be more than their in-game play. In the past two years that Jack has been an assistant Captain, he has been an integral part of shaping Michigan State’s future classes. Between leading film sessions and stopping practices for strategy breakdowns, he exudes MVP qualities in any stage of the sport. While it may be near impossible to find another Girling, he has made sure the Spartans are in good hands. The left corner for the Spartans may just go down as one of the best Spartan players…ever.
2) Barry Butler III
MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY
After the historic finish that Michigan State had, it should come as no surprise that Barry Butler III is finally getting his flowers and finishing near the top of the All-American Team. If you’re trying to think of one of the hardest throwers in the NCDA, Butler III should immediately jump off the page. His explosive speed from the middle coupled with a cannon of an arm has made him an absolute terror for teams. His looming presence on the court drew eyes away from teammates, allowing them to shine in key moments where others may think Barry was going head hunting. His “run-and-gun” play style commands respect in any court he steps foot on from the opening rush, however he can never be counted out defensively as Butler III has shown off insanely clutch catches.
Another integral part of the Spartans off-court success, Barry has made it a mission to set MSU up for future success as a powerhouse program. Even in his senior year, Barry still treated practice like he was new to the game, putting himself in uncomfortable situations, picking his coach’s brain for new strategy and always improving. It’s rare for someone in their senior season to still be molded into a new player, but Butler III shows why that mentality can push a player above the rest. While it will be hard to coach anyone into the fearless mentality that Barry has let alone have the shear arm power, he has done his part to coach up future classes and leaves MSU as another Spartan great.
3) Ben Smart
GRAND VALLEY STATE UNIVERSITY
A well-known name throughout the league for many years, ben Smart once again lands on the All-American 1st-Team after another strong season. Grand Valley State had a subpar regular season by their standards, but put everything together at the end of the season, making it all the way to the National Title Game. Smart was a key reason for that success, as his impressive instincts and playmaking were on full display at Nationals. One of the best catchers and most-feared transition players in the game, Smart was once again a leader for GVSU on the court and gave the Lakers a chance to win the point any time he was still in the game. This marks Smart’s 3rd All-American nod, with all 3 times being inside the top 3 spots. An impressive feat to say the least.
4) Tyler Peach
GRAND VALLEY STATE UNIVERSITY
After his best season in a Laker uniform, Tyler Peach lands at number 4, securing yet another highly ranked position on our annual All-American list for the Grand Valley State University Lakers. Peach, while a formidable thrower in his own regard, is likely most known for his knack for making clutch catch after clutch catch, bailing the Lakers out of some truly tough spots throughout the year. Most notably, Peach clutched an 11 on 1 comeback for the Lakers against the Bearcats in January, making 3 massive catches and multiple hits. To say this man has the clutch gene is an understatement, and the Lakers would not have made it back to the Championship match at Nationals without him.
5) Evan Eschenburg
JAMES MADISON UNIVERSITY
Eschenburg will retire with the most illustrious career in JMU dodgeball history. A league MVP, two Final Fours, and five First Team All-American selections should explain enough the impact he has made. If the NCDA ever has its own Hall of Fame, Eschenburg will be a unanimous first ballot selection. You can’t tell the story of the sport without mentioning his name. He was the engine of his team this past season, with teammates almost always feeding balls to him to get the offense going and delivering more often than not. Time and time again he has come up clutch for this team including an impressive overtime performance against Akron which resulted in them advancing to this year’s Final Four. Evan, be proud of everything you meant for your teammates and the NCDA as a whole. The sport of dodgeball owes you a standing ovation.
6) Ryan Ginsberg
OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY
Slotting in just above the All Ohio MVP, is another big name from the Ohio region, Ryan Ginsberg. A well deserved nod for Ginsberg, who lead this Buckeye team to perhaps their most successful season in 15 years. Ginsberg features a very powerful left-handed throw, that has caught many an opponent sleeping. Playing the middle of the court is not a position suited for many, as it truly requires you to have eyes on both sides of the court at the same time, but Ginsberg was able to navigate this role with a lot of success, often throwing out someone to his right and catching a counter throw coming from his left. A truly remarkable player, slotting in at a well deserved spot on our All-American list for 2023.
Is Ginsberg the best Ohio State player ever? It’s certainly possible, and his spot on this list supports that theory, as we’ve yet to have another Buckeye rank higher since our All-American lists have existed (notably, Dylan Greer finished 7th last season).
7) Brett Liming
UNIVERSITY OF CINCINNATI
The Slim Reaper, claimant of souls, bagger of bodies. All apropos ways to describe the first Cincinnati Bearcat on our All-American list. This season truly was Brett Liming’s best season, as he was recognized by his peers as the 7th best player in the NCDA for the 2022/23 season. While UC struggled in the fall, Brett was a constant force keeping the team positive, and keeping the team afloat and winning games that they should. In the spring, though, is really when Brett turned it on, having an absolute banger of a coming out party in the finals of the Ohio Dodgeball Cup against rival Ohio State Buckeyes. Ryan Ginsberg was quoted as saying Brett single-handedly won the game for the Bearcats, and while they knew he was good, that performance was truly exceptional. From Brett’s devastating pumpfakes, to his no look throws, and developing a 12-6 arm slot this season, Brett’s offensive arsenal competes with anyone in the league.
Something Brett is less known for, perhaps, is being a true student of the game, and an excellent teacher to young players. Brett has truly been instrumental the last two seasons in helping mold & cultivate the freshman talent Cincinnati has brought in, particularly this past fall, and most intimately Will Hyatt, Brett’s PP (Read: Personal Protector). We already see a lot in Will’s game that we see in Brett’s, and that’s all thanks to the hard work and dedication both have put into improving & pushing one another to improve, and in particular Brett’s patience & willingness to take on this extended role. Brett’s influence on this Bearcats team from day-one of the club’s existence to his graduation a few days ago is unmistakable, and he will be forever remembered and greatly missed next season.
8) Cory Heitmann
UNIVERSITY OF CINCINNATI
A familiar face to the All-American list comes in at #8 this season, the human homing missile, Cory Heitmann. What more can be said about a player who’s been so special, so unique, and so dynamic to this league? We’d be hard pressed to think of a player who has less fear running and putting their body on the line to get a kill than Cory. Coming from a soccer goalie background, Cory’s most utilized throw is a very over the top, 12-6 release and boy does it drop. Cory has been a top tier player in this league for several seasons now, dating back to the Bearcats’ second season as a club, where they ran a very specific play for Cory (Appropriately named Kill) where he’d just dead sprint at a team’s best player to get that person out, knowing that many times, Cory would draw multiple extra throws and probably even manage to survive. Perhaps the most impressive thing Cory was able to do this year was midway through the season transition from playing in the middle of the court, to anchoring UC’s left side, and providing some much needed consistency and communication to that half of the court.
As Cory’s incredible career as a UC day-one player comes to a close, we’d be remiss to not mention the many leadership traits Cory has displayed, particularly this season, but really throughout his entire career. Cory has been brilliant in thinking of unique ways to look at the game, and teach it to his teammates and incoming freshmen, and has been instrumental in the Bearcats’ fast-paced style of play that we’ve seen evolve and improve over the last several seasons. Without Cory, the Bearcats would not be in the spot they are as a program today, and would not have done nearly as well as they did this season.
9) Colby Chohrach
UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA
Landing at #9 is Nebraska star Colby Chohrach. A cannon of an arm, and great athleticsim overall, Chohrach turned into the most well-known players in collegiate dodgeball over the last year and led Nebraska to new heights this season. UNL came into the year with increased expectations after bursting onto the scene at Nationals 2022, and Chohrach and Co. were able to live up to those expectations. After an up and down regular season that saw the Cornhuskers lose multiple games in the spring semester and tank their ranking, Chohrach and his team stepped up big time at Nationals, with an undefeated day 1 before falling to eventual champion Michigan State on day 2. Chohrach graduates as likely the most decorated Nebraska player of all-time, cashing in two 1st Team All-American finishes, and helping lead his team to their highest Nationals finish ever.
10) Josh Kramer
MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY
As Tony Stumpo once quoted, “if you want to get him out you’re going to have to hit him in the mouth,” and even then we aren’t sure he’ll drop that. Showing off some of the most impressive hands in the country, Kramer has been the defensive glue behind a powerhouse Michigan State program. His catching has been putting up highlight reel quality plays all year, but as he showed during MDC and Nationals, Kramer can’t be counted out as a strong corner thrower for a team either. Josh picks his spots well and plays incredibly smart. His team-first mentality is something other teams dream of having in a leader role and it has helped allow Josh to shine in key situations by setting others up for big plays.
If there should be one person you can credit with building MSU to this historic point, it’s Josh. Without as strong of a leader the past two years, MSU may not be in the same space they currently are. He always works to bring out the talent of every player on the roster and push them as far as they want to go. A true statement of leadership, he has set a bar for future leaders within Michigan State. He has an eye for the game that very few can replicate which allowed Kramer to put himself and his team in key spots on the court to make those big, clutch plays that swing a point. Josh has been a guy to put his head down and work with accolades being an after-thought of success, so it’s about time he gets recognized for the vast skill set he’s brought to the game in his NCDA career and marks another historic Spartan player.
11) PJ Antalek
UNIVERSITY OF AKRON
Landing at #11 on the All-American Team is a veteran from Akron, PJ Antalek. An all-around player for the Zips, Antalek elevated his game in his senior season, turning into a household name in the NCDA. Anatalek helped lead Akron to their best season in program history, and an overtime away from making their first Final Four. His combination on impressive on-court awareness, strong catching, and powerful arm helped PJ become one of the most respected players not only in the Ohio Region, but across the entire country. A highlight reel headshot waiting to happen, Antalek will go down in history for Akron, not only for his amazing plays but for the legacy and foundation he leaves.
12) James Turner
JAMES MADISON UNIVERSITY
While not as widely publicized as his teammate (Evan Eschenburg), James Turner was an important catalyst for JMU’s Final Four run this past season. The southpaw helped provide additional fire power to an already loaded roster, and had an uncanny ability to pick players off on cross court throws. What stood out the most about Turner though is not the obvious talent on the court, but instead the intensity and heart he brings which helped fuel his and his team’s success.
The above writeups were prepared by various members of the NCDA Content Team