Forget Super Bowl Sunday.
For college curling fans across the Midwest, this weekend’s true sports showdown took place at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s inaugural Cornhusker Bonspiel.
Hosted by Nebraska’s curling club Jan. 31 through Feb. 2 at the John Breslow Ice Hockey Center, the bonspiel — or tournament — was attended by seven traveling schools from across the Midwest. Visiting teams included the University of Oklahoma, Denver University, North Dakota State University, the University of Minnesota, the University of Wisconsin–Steven’s Point, Wayne State University and Creighton University.
This weekend marked the first time that college curling has come to Lincoln since Nebraska’s club was founded in 2007.
“For me, it’s just an accumulation of tons of work that’s gone in, not just from me, but from past and current exec members working to bring it all here,” said Logun Gunderson, the team’s president and a senior biology and psychology major from Wausau, Wisconsin. “There’s a lot of pride for the university to have it here. Nebraska curling has a tradition of going above and beyond what a normal sport club does, and this is the next step in that.”
In order to get ready for the tournament, Gunderson and his teammates worked with the United States Curling Association to ensure that the Breslow met all national competition standards. The rink was outfitted with smoother curling ice in place of normal arena ice, which is achieved by freezing small droplets of water across the playing surface between each match.
Those months of preparation paid off on Sunday, when the Huskers won second place in a final matchup against North Dakota State University.
“I’m just super proud of everyone helping out and making it happen,” said Gunderson.
Sam Lydiatt, a sophomore psychology major from Bellevue, Nebraska, said the opportunity to curl on campus and bring the sport to Lincoln spectators was a special experience.
“It’s really cool to be on our home turf,” Lydiatt said.
‘Chess on ice’
Gunderson, who grew up curling in Wisconsin and came to Nebraska specifically for its curling team, said he was inspired to start playing the sport by the sense of community it offers to competitors.
“The sport originated in Scotland on frozen lakes and ponds. They had rocks sitting out there and didn’t have anything else to do, so they started throwing rocks at a target to pass the time. They would just go out there with their friends and hang out,” Gunderson said. “That tradition is still very much still with the sport. It’s very much a communal sport, a ‘gentleman’s game,’ so there’s very few written rules to the game — a lot of it is just etiquette-based. You shake hands before and after, there’s a tradition called ‘broomstacking’ where you sit down and have a meal with your opponents.
“That atmosphere, the social bit of it, is what really drew me to the sport.”
While most club members agree that the friendship aspect is what drew them to curling, the sport isn’t all fun and games. Nebraska has routinely placed as one of the top teams in the country since its founding and is currently ranked second nationwide.
The club’s 26 team members spend each Tuesday night in Breslow completing drills that sharpen their throwing, sweeping and strategic skills.
“When you throw a curling stone, there’s a couple factors in how well it does. You have to be able to hit the right line, so throwing it where you’re supposed to throw it, because you’re such a far distance from the other house you’ve got to be able to get that line perfect,” said Tucker Loosbrock, a junior mechanical engineering major from Sioux Falls, South Dakota and the club’s social chair.
“Then you’ve also got the weight element — so you’ve got to be able to throw it heavy enough, but not too heavy. Also, you need to put the right spin on it. That’s why it’s called curling — you put a curl on it.”
Loosbrock joined the team his freshman year as an amateur curler, and since then, has enjoyed the challenge of competing on a national level.
“A lot of people call it ‘chess on ice’,” Loosbrock said. “It’s really the melding of mind and ability.”
Growing the sport
As someone who had never curled before coming to Nebraska, Loosbrock encourages any interested students to reach out and join.
“People always come up to us when we do club fairs and say, ‘I’ve never curled before. Do I need to have experience curling?’ The answer is no, you really don’t. Neither of us had experience coming in, and you’re really able to go places without experience. Every single practice, you improve and grow,” Loosbrock said.
Those outside the university also have the opportunity to get involved.
“Another thing we like to do is try to get the community more involved in curling. We offer Learn to Curls — so once or twice a semester, we open up our ice to the public and teach people how to curl. That’s something we’ve always pushed. Just being able to grow the sport and get people to say, ‘Hey, curling is kind of cool. I want to try it.’ And get them out on the ice,” Loosbrock said.
The club is sponsored by Nancy Myers, who recently retired as director of organizational development for Human Resources.