Persinger rink advances to gold medal game at Nationals in Fargo

March 09, 2018, 1:22 a.m. (ET)


March 9, 2018


Persinger rink advances to gold-medal game at 2018 National Championships


(STEVENS POINT, Wis.) – In his Nationals skipping debut, Greg Persinger has led his team to the gold-medal game after defeating Heath McCormick’s team tonight in the Page 1-2 playoff game of the USA Curling National Championships at Scheels Arena in Fargo, N.D.


Persinger (Fairbanks, Alaska) and teammates Rich Ruohonen (Brooklyn Park, Minn.), Colin Hufman (St. Paul, Minn.), and Phil Tilker (Seattle) had a near-perfect shooting output in defeating McCormick, 8-3.


“It was an awesome game. I think we maybe missed two or three shots the entire game. We were in total control of the game almost the entire time except for one end. When we play like that, we’re tough to beat,” said Ruohonen, who won the national title in 2008. “We just made some really good calls and a lot of team shots tonight which is important.” 


McCormick (Sarnia, Ontario) and his team of Chris Plys (Duluth, Minn.), Korey Dropkin (Duluth, Minn.), and Tom Howell (Milwaukee, Wis.) will now take on Todd Birr’s team in a single semifinal match at 7 p.m. CT Friday night with the winner advancing to the final against Persinger. Birr’s team (7-3) made a takeout with the final stone of the game to eliminate Kroy Nernberger’s team from the national title hunt with the 7-6 victory.


“It was a grind,” said Birr, who won the national title in 2007. “Even the game we had against Heath the other night, we did manage to win it early, but it just seems like it’s a grind all the way, you know. We just stuck with it. They made a couple of mistakes and we made a couple of mistakes. You just have to keep throwing.” 


Persinger, Hufman and Tilker won the national title together in 2016 with Tilker also winning the national championships in 2013.


“One win away and I’m pretty happy. But, it doesn’t matter. I’ve taken enough second places and I’d like to see a gold. I’ve only got one and I’d like to make it a second. Second place is getting old,” Ruohonen said.


Team Persinger (9-1) got off to a solid start to the game by scoring two points in the opening end and holding McCormick’s team to singles each time they had the last-rock advantage. A key steal of two points in the fifth end put the team fully in control and fueled the team’s playoff win.


“They’re good curlers,” Ruohonen said about Team McCormick (8-2). “There are some teams here we’d play to their in-turn or their out-turn. That wasn’t the case with these guys. I know them well but at the same time, we knew we had to keep control and put the pressure on. Having the hammer is a big deal. We have played great when we start with the hammer. To get that two in the first when we were frankly in a little trouble – that was big.”


In similar fashion, Birr (Ham Lake, Minn.) and his team of Olympian John Benton (Blaine, Minn.), Hunter Clawson (Clarksville, Md.), Tom O’Connor (Brooklyn Center, Minn.) got the early deuce, held Nernberger’s team to singles and stole two points in the fifth end to take a 5-1 lead. Nernberger (Madison, Wis.) and teammates Sean Beighton (Seattle), Derrick McLean (Bothell, Wash.), and Quinn Evenson (Duluth, Minn.) would tie the game in the ninth end when Beighton successfully played a double takeout to score three points with the final stone. Birr’s team, however, was able to keep the house tidy in the 10th end and earned the win with a takeout to send them to the semifinal against Team McCormick.


“We’ve played them a couple of times and at the Trials. I think we know very well what he wants to do against us and he knows what we want to do against him. It’s just gonna be an issue of executing and as cliche as that sounds, that’s exactly what it’s going to be,” Birr said about the semifinal matchup against Team McCormick.


The women’s semifinal between Cora Farrell and Cory Christensen will take place at 2 p.m. Friday with the winner moving on to the final to face the undefeated Jamie Sinclair rink – the defending champions from Minnesota.


A live webstream, produced by the 12th End Sports Network in partnership with USA Curling and the U.S. Olympic Committee, and live scores are posted at


Line scores:

Men’s Page 1-2 playoff:

*Greg Persinger              200 120 102 x – 8

Heath McCormick           001 001 010 x – 3


Men’s Page 3-4 playoff:

*Todd Birr                        020 012 010 1 – 7

Kroy Nernberger             001 100 103 0 – 6


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