The headline is easy EVAN NAGAO WINS but there are so many other stories from an amazing weekend of yoyo play....
It started on a picture perfect Friday night. The Wildcard round went off in just over 40 minutes leaving many to wonder why it couldn't have been added to the next day. ask them again 24hrs later and you would find out there was enough yoyo action to more than fill Saturday.
The contest had moved back to Chico but it also moved to a new venue, a theatre auditorium which offered not a bad seat in the house. Action started early and didn't end until late.
There is a bit of debate over the whole wildcard/prelim/semi/finals structure. especially when you consider it would have been faster to just let everyone do 3 minutes so its a good one to analysis how good a barometer 30 seconds and 1 minute can be to the overall results. As it turns out, wildcard winner Ryan Cvijanovich just missed a spot in finals meaning no-one who played Friday night would survive the 3 rounds it took to get to the finals. The bottom half of the semi-finals qualifiers filled out the bottom half of the finals result so the seeds certainly showed they earned their pass through the earlier rounds.
While 11 players stepped up to the finals, it was viewed by many as a three horse race. Crowd favorite, Nate Dailey looked unstoppable in qualifying and based on previous results including a pair of 3rd placed finishes looked ready to ascend to the title. Evan Nagao had a date with destiny and both of them would have to beat the king to be the king. Gentry Stein.
In the 'other A' divisions there are changes going on. The 2a and 5a crows were not being defended. The reigning 3a and 5a champs both double digit favorites. It might not be remembered as a stellar year but long time competitors Josh Yes and Conner Scholten got titles and Philip White and our own Alex Hattori added another title each. Alex is 1 title away from equaling the record for most national title and conveniently, he only has to wait until the spring to aim for it.
1A started off clean. Chandler Steele went early and held down the 'most likely to be in first spot' until we got pretty deep in the back end of the competition. As the judges called it, Kieran beat him out, to be in the 1st spot until Michael Feridco took the lead with 3 players remaining. It was Nates time and in literally the blink of an eye, the pull on a string to release a snag he had a yoyo on the floor. In terms of scoring this is -5. In the semi-finals this would have taken a player from 1st to 5th... The way the scoring works, the dream of winning basically ends at that point. Nate didn't quit, he doubled down. threw hard, put on a show. Might not have won but was definitely a champion.
And then there were two.
Evan first came to Nationals in Chico when he was 3. He came as a 2a player 1 year and then a few years ago he stunned everyone to come as a top 5 1a player. He rolled on the floor and was focused on the show. Still focused on the show, he also showed he could consider the judges and in recent years has been putting the elements together to construct a winning freestyle. The wins have been spaced out but PNWR 2016, EYYC 2017 (open) showed his ability to get the nod and take a crown.... and it was shaping up to be his day. it was cleaner than everyone before him, his pacing was great, dense dense piles of tricks broken up with BIG BIG HARD tricks. This was a winning freestyle. When it ended he was in the lead. It would have been the end of the story if it wasn't for Gentry Stein.
There isn't anything Gentry hasn't done and everyone knew he was going to bring it. When the dust settled it wasn't perfectly, clean. If it had been there would have been little doubt ... but there was. Gentry had it, everyone knew it. When the announcers called him for second the crowd was on the edge of their seat (pun intended). Evan Nagao was the new champ. When his emotions got the better of him on stage during photos it could be argued the happiest person on stage might have even been Gentry, he looked stoked for Evans win. There was going to be a celebration. Evan is King!