CURLING: Olympic bronze medalists fall to No. 10 seed at 2008 U.S. Nationals

Feb. 19, 2008, 1 a.m. (ET)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE February 18, 2008 Upsets served up all across the board at 2008 USA Curling National Championships (HIBBING, Minn.) - All of the higher seeds pulled off upsets in an unpredictable night of action Monday at the 2008 USA Curling National Championships at the Hibbing Curling Club. The first upset came courtesy of Tyler George's rink shooting lights-out to hand Craig Brown's team its first loss of the competition, 9-4. Next came John Shuster's No. 6 seeded team upending Jason Larway's top-seeded team from Washington in what proved to be a rough Monday for the Larway group as they dropped two straight. "He had some unfortunate picks that were costly," said Shuster, the 2006 Olympic bronze medalist making his skipping debut at the Men's Nationals. "We're playing well and just need to pick it up a notch." The biggest upset of the night, however, was the No. 10 seeded Willie Wilberg team from Wisconsin taking down the 2006 Olympic bronze medalist Pete Fenson (Bemidji, Minn.), 6-4. Fenson's team struggled with their takeouts and Wilberg's rookie Nationals team kept the pressure on playing with nothing to lose with an 0-4 record. Down three with the last-rock advantage in the final end, Fenson didn't get a chance to throw his last rock to force an extra end as Wilberg eliminated Fenson's second stone in scoring position with his last toss. Wilberg (Green Bay, Wis.) and teammates Charles Taggart (Green Bay, Wis.), Alex Leichter (Wayland, Mass.) and Andrew Quigley (Green Bay, Wis.) led for most of the match as they capitalized on mistakes for three steals that proved to be the key to the win. In a rematch of last year's National Championships gold-medal game, Craig Disher's team came out on top this time, dropping Todd Birr's team, 8-7, to improve to 4-1. With tonight's loss, Birr's quest to defend the national title looks dim with a 1-4 record. The game was well played by both teams with Birr almost converting a tough takeout for the much-needed deuce to send it into an extra end. Disher (Rolla, N.D.) and teammates Kevin Kakela (Rolla, N.D.), Zach Jacobson (Langdon, N.D.) and Carey Kakela (St. John, N.D.) scored three in the seventh end to break open a tight match but Birr's team bounced back with a draw for three to tie the game. A deuce in the ninth end by Disher's team, who have finished second at the last two Nationals, was the difference-maker. Greg Romaniuk led his team to a 6-4 defeat of Jeremy Roe's team to improve to 4-1 and in a tie for first place with Disher and Brown. "We'd didn't make all of them but we made the ones we needed to. I think that was our best game so far though," Greg Romaniuk said. Roe's team almost had a big end laid on them right out of the gates but Roe made a hit and roll to cut Romaniuk (Snohomish, Wash.) and teammates Doug Pottinger (Eden Prairie, Minn.), Leon Romaniuk (Kirkland, Wash.) and Mike Calcagno (Kirkland, Wash.) down to just a steal of one. Key deuces with the last-rock advantage allowed the team to apply pressure to Roe and come away with another win. The women's teams return to the ice at 9 a.m. tomorrow followed by the men at 2 p.m. The ladies will have the night draw with action beginning at 7 p.m. The winning teams at the 2008 Nationals will represent the U.S. at the 2008 World Championships. The women's event is scheduled March 22-30 in Vernon, British Columbia. The 2008 Men's World Championship is slated April 4-13 at the Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks, N.D. Live scoring from the 2008 Nationals can be found on the USA Curling website at Game scores: Wilberg 6, Fenson 4; Shuster 7, Larway 4; Romaniuk 6, Roe 4; Disher 8, Birr 7; George 9, Brown 4 Men's standings: Brown (Wisconsin) 4-1 Disher (North Dakota) 4-1 Romaniuk (Washington) 4-1 Fenson (Minnesota) 3-2 George (Minnesota) 3-2 Larway (Washington) 3-2 Shuster (Minnesota) 2-3 Birr (Minnesota) 1-4 Wilberg (Wisconsin) 1-4 Roe (Wisconsin) 0-5 Women's standings: Lank (New York) 2-0 McCormick (Wisconsin) 2-0 Sormunen (Minnesota) 2-0 Potter (Minnesota) 0-1 Stuhlman (New York) 0-1 Gervais (North Dakota) 0-2 Lin (Connecticut) 0-2 USA Curling is sponsored by AIT Worldwide Logistics, AmerAust Technologies and Nike as well as by AT,T through a joint marketing program with the U.S. Olympic Committee. (30) For more information: Terry Kolesar, USA Curling,, 715-344-1199, Ext. 202, or 608-338-9900 (cell).