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More to ice than just hockey

March saw a number of successes for Bowling Green athletics. The women’s basketball team won the Mid-American Conference and earned a trip to the NCAA tournament, while the men’s basketball team experienced a roller-coaster season and the hockey team experienced great successes as well.

One sport that also experienced success, albeit with little fanfare or tailgatings, was the BGSU curling team.

The College Curling National Tournament was held March 18-20 in Chicago, with two separate teams representing BGSU.

One of the two teams placed fourth in Division III. The team, made up of teammates Matt Cary, Matt Sussman, Luke Dubin and Nik Geller, finished 2-1 in round robin play, beating out Drake University and Sitting Bull College, and losing to Division III champs Medical College of Wisconsin.

In the bronze medal game, they were defeated by Eastern Michigan State University, who won the Great Lakes Regional tournament held in Bowling Green last December.

While the fan base for curling is considerably smaller than other sports at the University, the sport is gaining popularity due largely to the exposure provided on the Winter Olympics, where curling is a medal sport and intramural curling, as well as the sport being offered as a physical education course on campus.

Dubin, a sophomore, got his start in curling in a Canadian Studies class. Part of the course curriculum included a trip to the ice arena to learn the basics of the sport.

After the brief introduction, Dubin began attending open curling. By then his interest had be piqued enough to enroll in the physical education class with curling instructor Dr. Mike McKay.

According to collegiate players from other schools, the university is fortunate to have a curling class, and even more fortunate as to have a sheet in the ice arena specifically designed for curling.

“They’re amazed,” said Dubin of envious curling teams. “Some of them drive up to three hours to the nearest sheet.”

Because of this, Bowling Green has hosted a number of collegiate curling tournaments, including the Great Lakes Curling Regional Tournament, which includes collegiate teams from Michigan and Ohio.

While many sports focus on competition and fierce rivalries, curling separates itself from other sports in that it is a very friendly, laid-back sport.

“I look forward to the regional tournament every year because of the people you meet,” Cary said. “You make friends with other teams, and it’s like a reunion when you see them at the tournaments.”

Dubin agrees.

“We always want to win, but we’re usually really friendly with the opposing team, and it is tradition to go out for a drink with [your opponent] after the game.”

This year’s trip to the national tournament was the team’s second. Last year, the team, which included both Cary and Sussman, finished 0-3. This year’s fourth-place finish, and the team’s improvement as a whole, came as a result of a number of factors.

“As a team, we had four people, as opposed to last year when there were only three of us,” Cary explained. “And personally, I did better because I gained a lot of experience, having taken the curling class twice now and also joining the Bowling Green City Curling Club.”

The BGCCC also provides an opportunity for collegiate curlers in the area to gain experience and learn the game from experienced curlers in the community. Cary curls in the league on Thursday nights, but leagues are also available on Monday, Wednesday and Sunday nights.

“Hopefully, if enough people get interested, next year there will be a Tuesday Night Instructional League, which is a great way to learn how to play,” Cary said.

Besides curling class and the BGCCC, many students’ initial interest comes through intramural curling, which is offered by the University’s intramural department. Dubin, however, is skeptical about the instructional value of intramural curling.

“It’s not a good learning experience,” he said. “And most people don’t know what they’re doing and they damage the ice as a result.”

“But at least it gets people into the game, and at least the ice is getting used,” Cary said.

As interest and involvement on the BGSU campus increases, Cary, Dubin and Geller will be returning next winter for tournament play. And according to Cary, the future looks bright for the returning team.

“Luke and Nik showed that they were very talented,” Cary said. “I look forward to playing with them next year if they wish to go to regionals and nationals again.”

Cary, who will be graduating in December, retains his collegiate eligibility for the entirety of the 2005-2006 school year.

Dubin and Geller also plan on returning for another season.

As for Matt Sussman, his college curling career ends with his graduation in May. But according to Sussman, his curling career is just beginning.

“I’m turning pro and training for the 2010 Olympics,” he said.

Was he joking or serious?

“Find out in four years.”

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