WELLS - Veterans or rookies, it didn't matter. All skill levels were present and getting their rocks off Saturday at Wells Sports Complex for the First Annual U.P. College Curling Classic hosted by the Delta Rocks Curling Club.
Bay College, Northern Michigan University and Finlandia University were the three participating schools. Michigan Tech was invited but had to decline due to Winter Carnival taking place..
"Curling is growing everywhere. There's a real push in the USCA (United States Curling Association) to make it a varsity sport in colleges. University of Minnesota-Duluth is currently the only schol that has it, but there's others on the cusp and the U.P. schools have a chance as well," said Finlandia coach Soren Schmidt, a native of Escanaba.
Photo courtesy of Kathy Kohtala
Bay College Team Captain Chad Hays looks on as Gabe Aschbacher, back, and Andrew Vitek sweep a curling rock into play Saturday at Wells Sports Complex.
The sport, which involves sliding a granite rock down the ice inside a targeted area, seems a natural fit for the Upper Peninsula with it's penchant for winter sports, though curling actually originated in Scotland.
"It's a unique sport that's over 500 years old," said Delta Rocks secretary Kathy Kohtala. "In fact, all of the granite rocks come from the Ires Cliff off the coast of Scotland."
The schools competed all day in the Round Robin Tournament or Bonspiel, as it is called in curling.
Finlandia, which has had a club team since 2010, brought two full teams. The school curls out of the Copper Country Curling Club in Calumet and makes use of a unique facility that has natural ice.
Bay College had a mix of veterans and beginners, including Gabe Aschbacher, who was curling for the third time after a two year break from the sport.
"It's a very fun sport, it's all about finesse," he said. "I'm just looking for a fun time and something to do on a Saturday. There's good team camaraderie here."
Aschbacher described curling as "sort of a mix between shuffleboard and billiards on ice."
The teams alternate sliding their rocks toward the scoring zone, sort of like tossing darts at a dartboard. Brooms are used to speed up or slow down the rock. The teams can also use their rocks to knock the opposing teams' rocks out of the scoring zone.
"It's easy to learn, a lifetime to master, " said Kohtala. "Nationally the sport has grown, but we want more people to come and try it out here. The last few weeks, people have started to come out and invite their friends. Once you do it, you kind of get addicted."
Kohtala hopes to make this an annual event, with more schools next year, including Michigan Tech and Lake Superior State.
"Tech has curling as part of the Winter Carnival but we hope they'll be here next year. It's nice to be able to promote the sport in the Upper Peninsula.
The Bonspiel was won by Northern Michigan University, with a 4-3 victory over Bay College in the championship game. Finlandia Jarvi beat Finlandia Kallas 3-2 for third place.
The Delta Rocks club meets at Wells Sports Complex each Saturday from 8-10 p.m. for open curling. There is no experience necessary and training and equipment are available for no extra cost.
"Just wear warm, loose fitting clothes and shoes with a good grip," said Kohtala. "We usually have pick-up games going on one sheet and we teach on the other."
Students are $5 and adults are $10.