Overland Park, KS — The pea soup fog stayed around all weekend as Iowa beat all comers to win the first edition of the Free State Classic. The strange weather began with two inches of snow on the field and freezing fog on Saturday and ended with thunderstorms and hail right after the final on Sunday.
The one thing the strange weather could not compete with was the peculiar outcomes of games. The first round started it off with Missouri beating Arkansas 13-8. It was almost like Arkansas did not know how to play in the snow, which is strange considering that the Fayetteville, Arkansas area got somewhere around 24 inches of snow two weeks ago.
The peculiarities continued into the second round as Arkansas got behind against Missouri S&T, fought back to take the lead, and then squandered it at the end to lose to the Miners 13-11. In the other pool, Kansas State’s star player Pat Shriwise separated his shoulder in the third point against Illinois. The Huckstables were able to keep the game close, even leading 11-10, only to lose 13-11.
The strangeness was seemly abated in the third round as every game easily went to seed. But the fourth round brought it back as Missouri fought Missouri S&T for the A Pool #2 spot. Missouri ended up with a nail biting 14-12 victory that was full of calls and layouts.
Round five was not as weird, but Kansas and Illinois had a back and forth game that Kansas ultimately won 13-11.
The thick fog still hung in the air on Sunday, but the snow was gone. The lack of snow changed how teams played because cutters were now able to get separation from their defenders. Teams used that advantage to huck the disc for scores, something that had been difficult the day before. As a result, Arkansas had great success with long throws to beat Kansas, while Kansas State dismantled Missouri’s cup, which had been their go-to defense the day before.
The semifinals ended up being very different games. On one field Kansas State outran Arkansas in route to a 15-7 win. On the other, Illinois and Iowa played a game of momentum. At one point Illinois had a 9-5 lead but was unable to keep the advantage. Iowa made some defensive adjustments and slowly chipped away at the illinois’ lead to win 15-13.
The weird weather came back in the finals as a cold north wind began to blow. That wind allowed Iowa to use a four man cup to get three breaks at the very beginning of the game. Kansas State was never able to recover and IHUC wrapped up the game 15-9 just before the thunder and hail began to come down.
So what did this tournament teach us? We don’t know. It’s unlikely that there will be snow on the fields come Sectionals, and that traditional offenses will prevail. But Free State does raise questions about the consistency and flexibility of some of the top-tier teams in the Ozark Conference, and even the nation.