Youth pool tournament draws from UP and Wis.

By John Vrancic

ESCANABA — Kaden Hillman has come a long way in just 1 1/2 years.

The 10-year-old from New London, Wis. showed just how far that is by winning the age 8-12 division in the 31st Annual Great Lakes Youth Pool tournament Saturday at Crazy Joe’s Pool Hall.

Hillman, who made the nearly three-hour trip to Delta County, defeated two-time defending champ Tyler Quinnell (age 12) of Marquette for the title.

“I’ve never been up here before,” said Hillman, who often took time to offer pointers to opposing players. “I was a little nervous before we started playing, then that feeling went away. There were a lot of good players. It was challenging and fun. I made a lot of new friends today.”

Sportsmanship indeed was in full display as girls’ champion, 18-year-old Genesis Schafer of Rock, gave her custom-made pool stick and cue to Skyler LaPine, also of Rock.

“Skyler is a very skilled player,” said Schafer. “There was a lot of good competition here today, but I wasn’t stressing out. I just tried to play for fun. This is something I can do and have a chance to be successful. I was surprised the one boy (Hillman) was only 10 by how he played. I was impressed with the way he lined up his shots. This is a fun event. I would like to see more tournaments up here (in the Upper Peninsula).”

Sixteen-year-old Dominick LaValley of Kingsford retained his (13-16) title by defeating 15-year-old Connor Lesperance of Stephenson.

“It was just a matter of keeping my concentration,” said LaValley, who was runner-up three years ago. “I had a better idea what to expect after playing here a couple times. Crazy Joe’s does a great job with everything they do, and I appreciate all those who donated to the tournament.”

Wyatt Kossow of Coleman, Wis. outlasted Hunter Couilliard of Escanaba for the 17-20 crown.

“I just tried to take my time and focus on my shots,” said Kossow, who came back from the loser’s bracket to take his first title. “It was a very intense final round. It was going back and forth, but I found a way to get it done. In the last game, he had two balls left and I had the 8-ball left. It helped a lot to have the upper hand down the stretch. I had a lot of fun. I enjoyed playing him.”

Skyler Wallace (age 18) of Escanaba and 14-year-old Emma Wise were winners of the $300 Wal-Mart gift cards.

Master player, Terry (Ziggy) Zagar of Sheboygan, Wis., was on hand to offer pointers to players of all ages.

“I showed kids and adults how to stand and taught them techniques about trick shots,” he said. “I also told them a few jokes. They all responded real good. The kids were very respectful. They treated me real good.”

The event drew 36 players, one of its lower turnouts in recent years.

Age 8-12 — 1, Kaden Hillman, New London, Wis.; 2, Tyler Quinnell, Marquette; 3, Landyn Downs, Marinette.

Age 13-16 — 1, Dominick LaValley, Kingsford; 2, Connor Lesperance, Stephenson; 3, Alex Naser, Spalding.

Age 17-20 — 1, Wyatt Kossow, Coleman, Wis.; 2, Hunter Couilliard, Escanaba; 3, Hunter Dupont, Carney.