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The Surge of the Seemillers

By Larry Hodges | June 19, 2018, 1:53 p.m. (ET)

If you are in mind for a pretzel, you could buy some. Or just follow the swath of pretzeled players left behind by the Four Seemiller Grippers of the Veteran Games.

A pretzeled player is one who has gone up against the Seemiller grip, made famous by Dan Seemiller and Eric Boggan, former USA top 20 world players. The grip, where only one side is used for hitting - allowing an alternate surface on the other side to flip to, usually antispin - is perfect for angled blocking, changing pace, and sudden antispin dead balls, which turns opponents into near pretzels as they twist about going for these balls. Four players with expertise in this grip are here. All are originally from Pittsburgh and the South Park TTC, though Dan long ago moved to South Bend Indiana to coach full-time. And all play golf.

Dan Seemiller is here. He is the co-chair of the tournament, and one of the top seeds in 65-69 Men's Singles, and in 60-64 Men's Doubles with Cheng Yinghua. (Dan's a lefty, Cheng a righty, and both are even better at doubles than singles.) At the U.S. Nationals he's won Men's Singles five times, Men's Doubles 12 times (including in 2009, at age 55, with Mark Hazinski), and Mixed Doubles eight times. But frankly, if you don't know Dan Seemiller, you don't know table tennis! He's probably been the biggest name in USA Table Tennis in the past 50 years - not just as a player, but as one of the top coaches (including many years as USA Men's Team Coach) and former president of USATT. Alas, his brother, Ricky Seemiller (who won Men's Doubles with Dan eight times in a row, 1976-1983) couldn't make the tournament. His brother Randy says Dan's a 14 handicap in golf.

Randy Seemiller is here. He's 58 and another Seemiller brother with the Seemiller grip. At his peak he was rated 2444, #7 in the U.S., and a member of the 1983 Pan Am Team, but he's now down to 2234. He famously upset Eric Boggan in the ninth match to win the U.S. Open Team Championships for the Seemillers (Danny, Ricky, Randy) in the late 1970s. He's also 12-time Pennsylvania Men's Singles Champion. Outside table tennis he's been in the plumbing industry since 1986, selling plumbing supplies - for the past twelve years he's been the Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia rep for Moen Faucets. He's a 10 handicap in golf.

Chip Coulter is here. He's been rated as high as 2310, but he's down to 2171 now. He was 7-time Pennsylvania Open Doubles Champion with Randy Seemiller, and once won the West Virginia Open. He's been called an "honorary" Seemiller - he practically grew up with them, playing touch football with them at 14, and playing table tennis with them at 16. He coaches part-time at a private studio at his office, and also has a side-table tennis business where he rents out eight Butterfly tables for parties and corporate outings. Outside table tennis he runs a wholesale plumbing supply business. Many years ago he broke a hand and hired Randy Seemiller for ten days - and Randy stayed 15 years! Chip is an 8 handicap in golf.

Mike Walk is here. His highest rating was 2312, but now he's down to 2176. His said his best highlight was winning Under 2300 at the 2010 U.S. Nationals. He started out with his dad, then went to Seemiller camps. He was already using a semi-Seemiller grip, with his index finger on the back of his racket, and after watching him at his camp when Mike was around 11 or 12, Coach Dan told him to stick with the grip. As Mike pointed out about Pittsburgh, "Most players play that way." When I asked if he meant back in the 1979s and 80s, he said even now - the Seemiller influence has lasted to this day. Mike was an optometrist, but just retired. He is a 4 handicap in golf.

So is the Seemiller grip about to make a comeback? Maybe not at the world level, but there's a small invasion here - of Seemiller grips, Pittsburghers, plumbing supplies, and golf!