With current U.S. champions John Shuster and Tabitha Peterson at rest following their exploits at the men’s and women’s worlds, all eyes turned to Wausau, WI for a look at the next big things in U.S. four-player curling.
Two of the young squads expected to challenge for the titles did just that, capturing their first U.S. crowns—and some impressive trophies.
Korey Dropkin led his Chaska, MN squad of Mark Fenner, Thomas Howell, Alex Fenson and Joe Polo to 8-2 won/loss record in winning the 2021 men’s title. His 7-3 championship victory over Jed Brundidge’s East St. Paul, MN team took off in the second half of the match with a big three-count in the sixth end.
On the women’s side, Cory Christensen’s Chaska foursome—with Sarah and Taylor Anderson plus U.S. Mixed Doubles champ Vicky Persinger—went to an extra end before Christensen threw a last-stone pick to count two and take the 2021 women’s crown, 8-6.
The victory came over the impressive Jamie Sinclair squad, a new outfit with barely any mileage under their tires before they bolted to a spotless 6-0 round-robin record.
Sinclair has veteran lead Monica Walker now playing third—both are three-time national champs—and newcomers Cora Farrell and Elizabeth Cousins on the front end.
“I’m so incredibly proud of the girls and it’s so great to be back out here,” said Christensen. “We definitely felt like we were in control and that it was our game to win.”
Christensen won her semifinal 7-6 over Chaska’s Madison Bear. Team Brundidge went 6-3 in the men’s round-robin and defeated Luc Violette’s Chaska squad 8-5 in the semi.
Violette finished 6-4 ahead of Philadelphia’s Scott Dunham (6-3). Seattle’s Steven Birkild, Greg Persinger of Fairbanks, AK and Rich Ruohonen of Minneapolis finished 5-4. Riley Fenson of Chaska was 4-5, Derek Corbett of Rochester, NY 1-8 and Todd Birr’s Blaine, MN foursome went 0-9.
Behind Christensen and Sinclair at 6-1 were Bear at 3-3, a three-way tie at 2-4 between Christine McMakin (Fargo, ND), Kim Rhyme of Minneapolis and Delaney Strouse of Midland, MI, and Ariel Traxler’s Fairbanks team at 1-5.
Team Dropkin, known as the Young Bucks, turned heads in late 2019 by becoming the first U.S. men’s team to win a Grand Slam of Curling title.
The nickname endures despite the presence of veteran Joe Polo, who won Olympic bronze with Pete Fenson back in 2006. Polo is going to need some rest after jetting to the U.S. nationals straight from the World Mixed Doubles championship in Scotland.
“We’re really looking forward to (Olympic) Trials and are so happy to have secured our spot,” said Dropkin. “It was a great week and we’re thrilled.”
Dropkin and Christensen third Sarah Anderson are a mixed doubles pairing, and posed in the 2021 Curling Cares Calendar to raise money for the Challenged Athletes Foundation, which provides active lifestyle and athletic competition opportunities to people with physical challenges.