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TEXAS ARENA LEAGUE BOOSTS UNPRECEDENTED MILITARY PARTICIPATION

Mar 24, 2020 11:45 AM

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Chris Jones of Waterski America in front of Texas Military Polo Club's Jack Crea in the Southwestern Circuit Arena Amateur Cup.
Chris Jones of Waterski America in front of Texas Military Polo Club's Jack Crea during Southwestern Circuit Arena Amateur Cup competition.

Relocating in anticipation of stormy weather, the Texas Arena League (TAL) was moved from Midland Polo Club (Midland, Texas) to East Texas Polo Club at Legend’s Horse Ranch in Kaufman, Texas, Friday, March 13 through Sunday, March 15. Four USPA arena tournament finals were played during this leg of the Texas Arena League with all tournaments being played under single elimination and TAL format.

In the Southwestern Circuit Arena Admiral Chester W. Nimitz 0- to 3-goal military tournament, 11 teams started the single-elimination tournament. All teams participating in USPA military tournaments must have at least one player with a military connection. The final came down to Notorious P.O.N.Y (Javier Insua, Devan Layton, Zoe Lehmer) against Polo InterActive (Jose Velez, James Glew, Wyatt Myr) with Polo InterActive taking the trophy.

Playing in his first year of the Texas Arena League, Polo InterActive’s Jose Velez is having success early on. “General Sun Tzu said, ‘every war is won before it is ever fought,’ and I live by that quote which is why our team has found common ground and won all of our games so far, including the Southwestern Circuit Arena Admiral Chester W. Nimitz,” Velez said. “In TAL I have enjoyed meeting people, working as a team player and winning. It’s not about me and needing to score goals, it’s about playing the game.”

Galvin Agency/American National Most Valuable Player James Glew.
Galvin Agency/American National Most Valuable Player James Glew, presented by Devan Groves Layton.

In the Southwestern Circuit Arena Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, James Glew won the Galvin Agency/American National Most Valuable Player. Ichiban, played by Wyatt Myr, was named Nutrena Best Playing Pony. “Ichiban played two amazing chukkers for me in this tournament,” Myr said. “I give credit for all my horses preforming better due to Nutrena’s Triumph Complete alfalfa nuggets and Pro Elite Topline Advantage. They are all looking and playing great and I’m looking forward to seeing how Ichiban does in the upcoming grass season.” Devan Groves Layton received the Catena Sportsmanship Award.

10 teams competed for the 3- to 6-goal Southwestern Circuit General Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller. The final came down to an extremely tough and tight match between Legend’s Horse Ranch (Kim Buttram, Nacho Estrada, August Scherer) and Williams Polo (Mark Osburn, Brady Williams, Wyatt Myr).

“Winning the finals of both military tournaments is really special to me,” Wyatt Myr said. “My father served in the U.S. Army and was a member of the Caisson Color Guard. He took care of Blackjack who was the riderless horse at John F. Kennedy’s funeral procession. Horses and the military have an important history in my family.”

Williams Polo's Brady Williams takes the ball on the nearside with August Scherer of Legend's Horse Ranch defending.
Williams Polo's Brady Williams takes the ball on the nearside with August Scherer of Legend's Horse Ranch defending.

Nacho Estrada’s Zama, played by August Scherer, was named Nutrena Best Playing Pony. Wyatt Myr was named Galvin Agency/American National Most Valuable Player and Kim Buttram won the Catena Sportsmanship Award.

Kim Buttram won the Catena Sportsmanship Award. Presented by Melanie Myr.
Kim Buttram won the Catena Sportsmanship Award, presented by Melanie Myr.

Karl Hilberg, co-chairman of the USPA Armed Forces Committee, expressed his excitement for the turnout of these events. “The Southwestern Circuit Arena Admiral Chester W. Nimitz had 18 military family members and three current or former military members (21 of 30 players) participate and the Southwestern Circuit General Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller had 21 family members and four current or former military members (25 of 33) participate,” Hilberg said. “Both the number of games and number of players participating in these two tournaments are the most military and military family members who have participated in a USPA military polo tournament in a long time. I hope that in future TAL tournaments and events like this that more military and military family members participate in our great sport." In addition to the military tournaments, the Texas Arena League has introduced an end of league award for High-Point Player with a military connection.

2020 Southwestern Circuit Arena Amateur Cup winners Bar-Spur (L to R) Ryan Owen, Brady Williams, Mark Osburn.
2020 Southwestern Circuit Arena Amateur Cup Champions: Bar-Spur - Ryan Owen, Brady Williams, Mark Osburn.

In addition to the military finals, the third leg of the Texas Arena League also saw the finals of the Southwestern Circuit Arena Amateur Cup and Southwestern Circuit Sherman Memorial. The 0- to 3-goal Southwestern Circuit Arena Amateur Cup was played as a round robin – six teams fielded the competition after being knocked out of the Southwestern Circuit Arena Admiral Chester W. Nimitz or joining TAL during the second event. The round robin pitted Texas Military (Karl Hilberg, Gal Shweiki, Jack Crea) against Waterski America (Chris Jones, Trenton Werntz, Morgan McBride – substituting for Ismael Vazquez) and Bar-Spur (Ryan Owen, Brady Williams, Mark Osburn). Bar-Spur worked hard to hold both teams at bay and emerge victorious.

“Playing Texas Arena League has been such a great experience,” Ryan Owen said. “My wife played the last two years at every location and I came in for the events at Midland Polo Club. This year Ashley has made it possible for me to play at every event and we’ve got some great camaraderie on the Bar-Spur team. Brady [Williams], Mark [Osburn] and I are all Texas Tech Polo alumni. I’m hoping I’ll be up there in the National Arena Amateur Cup (NAAC) points to participate in the National Arena Amateur Cup at OC Polo Club in Silverado, California.”

Bar-Spur's Brady Williams rides off against Waterski America's Morgan McBride.
Bar-Spur's Brady Williams rides off against Waterski America's Morgan McBride.

Chris Jones was named Galvin Agency/American National Most Valuable Player. Platinum, played by Brady Williams, was awarded Nutrena Best Playing Pony honors. Karl Hilberg was presented with the Catena Sportsmanship award.

Texas Military Polo Club's Jack Crea congratulates Waterski America's Rob Phipps on their Southwestern Circuit Sherman Memorial win.
Texas Military Polo Club's Jack Crea congratulates Waterski America's Rob Phipps on their Southwestern Circuit Sherman Memorial win.

The 3- to 6-goal Southwestern Circuit Sherman Memorial started with five teams and came down to two teams steeped in the military – Waterski America (Chris Jones, Rob Phipps, David Werntz – substituting for Cody Goetz) and Texas Military Polo Club. Between the two teams, every player was either active duty, retired military or has family members in service. Waterski America secured the win with impressive scoring from both David Werntz and Chris Jones.

Chris Jones was awarded the Galvin Agency/American National Most Valuable Player and David Werntz’s Argenta was named the Nutrena Best Playing Pony. Jack Crea recieved the Catena Sportsmanship Award.

Photos courtesy of ©David Murrell

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