FAIRBANKS — Greg Persinger knows about winning a national title in curling. On Saturday afternoon, he helped his Alaska Region teammates absorb the championship experience.
Greg Persinger, Chad Persinger, Jason Ostnes, David Hufman and James Brazeau combined for a 6-1 victory over the Minnesota Region in the men’s final of the USA Curling Club National Championships at the Fairbanks Curling Club.
Greg worked as the skip while Chad, his brother, was vice skip for the club national champions. Ostnes operated in the second position, Hufman played at the lead and Brazeau was the alternate.
A year ago, at the USA Curling National Championships in Jacksonville, Florida, Greg Persinger was part of the Lynnwood, Washington-based Team Brady Clark that earned the men’s title. Fairbanks native Colin Hufman, who now lives in Seattle, was among the group.
Persinger paused and reflected amid the post match celebration in the basement of the Fairbanks Curling Club.
“It’s pretty awesome,” Persinger said. “I get to curl with my brother, and some of these guys they don’t get the chance necessarily to go out ... you’ve got to curl a lot to go play like a big national event, like the U.S. National Championship (tournament).
“For these guys, they curl a lot and they play in the (Fairbanks Curling) club, so this is awesome.”
Against Minnesota, Alaska started in a defensive mode and turned on the offense late in the nine-end duel.
In the ninth end, each team had three guards, or rocks, in front of the house (scoring area). Alaska, though, had generated five points by that time, making it difficult for Minnesota to add points to the one it generated in the top of the sixth end.
“We were putting up lot of guards there, trying to guard their last shots and trying to steal (points),” Greg Persinger said. “The beginning of our game was actually pretty defensive, lot of hits, takeouts ... just trying to get everybody settled because it was the final game. Some of our team hadn’t been in a lot of finals, so it was good to pull it out.”
It also was the second national title this year for the Persinger family. Vicky Persinger, Greg and Chad’s cousin, was part of the St. Paul, Minnesota-based Team Jamie Sinclair that won the women’s final at the USA Curling National Championships in Everett, Washington, in February.
The Alaska men scored single points in the bottom of the fourth, fifth, eight and ninth ends and tacked on two points in the bottom of the seventh Saturday. The final was scoreless through three ends.
“We tried to keep it open in the beginning, and we were pretty successful controlling the game,” said Minnesota skip Mark Willmert, of Minneapolis. “But they shot better than we did, and in the end, we just didn’t get very good rock positions.”
Willmert saw a bright spot for himself, third Chris Dolan, second Tim Gartner and lead Brian Agre after the final.
“My team, we don’t really play together and it’s just something we put together for fun,” Willmert said. “It’s nice to represent the state and the club (St. Paul Curling Club). It’s (club nationals) a neat alternative to the national championships that lead to worlds.”
The Alaska Region women’s squad placed third Saturday with a 9-8 victory in 10 ends against Minnesota.
“It was right down to the very last rock,” Alaska skip Kaye Hufman said.
“It means a lot,” Hufman said of earning the bronze medal. “We didn’t know who was going to be on the team but we ended up with a very strong team. We would have liked to bring home gold for Alaska and for Fairbanks, but bronze works, too. We’re proud of ourselves.”
Hufman was joined by Adie Callahan, Catharine Persinger and Terra Bowen. Minnesota was skipped by Jamie Kraus and comprised Kerry Hadiaris, Zoe Meisinger and Amy Swanoski.
The Dakota Territory, comprising members of the Fargo-Moorhead Curling Club of Fargo, North Dakota, took home the women’s gold medal after an 8-4 win over the Grand National Region, which includes members of the Ardsley Curling Club of Ardsley-On-Hudson, New York.
Three Dakota members — Ann Podoll, Carmen Delaney and Madonna Fitzgerald — were on the women’s silver-medal team at the 2015 club nationals in Two Harbors, Minnesota. Carissa Thomas and Rachel Workin joined the team for the trip to Fairbanks.
The 2015 tournament provided a lesson for Dakota for this year’s nationals.
“Just to make every shot and not take anything for granted,” said Podoll, the Dakota skip.
“It’s a huge accomplishment,” Podoll said of earning the women’s title Saturday. “This was a great week. There was a lot of good curling. Just make your shots and get up for it.”
Dakota built on a 6-3 lead into the top of the sixth end Saturday.
“We got ahead and kept strong the whole game,” she said.
Playing for the women’s national title and gaining the silver medal was more than the Grand National squad anticipated in its first club nationals tournament.
“I think it’s tremendous. It’s first time that our team together tried for the national competition,” skip Yelizaveta Furman said.
The 10 men’s and women’s teams each in this year’s weeklong club nationals qualified through playdown competitions in their regions. The top four men’s and women’s teams after round-robin matches moved into the club nationals playoffs Friday.
“When we came here, our goal was to get to the playoffs,” Furman said. “We did a lot more than the playoffs; winning the silver medal is wonderful. We’re excited and we’re looking to staying competitive moving forward.”
Other Grand National team members are Christi Freeman-Kirchner, Alice Yeh and Lynn Salmon.
The Dakota Territory men’s team, skipped by Tucker Smith, of Bismarck, North Dakota, won the men’s bronze medal Saturday with a 7-5 win over Grand National, which was skipped by Benjamin Guzman, of Lexington, Massachusetts.
Dakota’s other members are Daniel Buresh, Curtis Bradbury and Roger Smith. Andy McKellips, Mike Sampson and Jim Fitzgerald comprise the rest of the Grand National team.
Contact News-Miner sports editor Danny Martin at 459-7586. Follow him on Twitter:@newsminersports.