IRON RANGE — Brazil. Mexico. USA.
Men and women curling teams from these countries are scheduled to compete in the Americas Challenge between Thursday and Saturday at Curl Mesabi in Eveleth. The winners will join Canadian teams who already secured a position representing the Americas Zone in the 2020 World Championship.
Minnesota-born Pete Annis, a team member of Team USA in the 2008 World Men’s Curling Championship, is coaching the men’s team that includes Rich Ruohonen and Colin Hufman, of the Twin Cities, as well as teammates from Alaska and Washington.
The men’s national coach is Phill Drobnick, the Eveleth-raised head coach of the 2010 and 2018 men’s Olympic Winter Games. After coaching his team to a gold medal last year, Drobnick is helping the men’s team this week and coaching the women’s team that includes sisters Tabitha and Tara Peterson of St. Paul, Natalie Nicholson of Bemidji, and Aileen Geving of Duluth.
The teams are set to play round-robin style and the team with the best record advances to the World Championship.
“I see this as a great opportunity for curling fans to come out for Thanksgiving and pop on over to the club for some of the best international competition,” said Drobnick, the Interim High Performance Director of USA Curling.
For those interested in attending, Drobnick mentioned that admission is free and the bar and restaurant will stay open all weekend.
In addition to the Americas Challenge, the Iron Range is also hosting six USA national teams at the 16th annual Curl Mesabi Classic from Friday to Sunday in Eveleth.
There are 16 women’s teams hailing from Brazil, Canada, South Korea and the USA.
Krista McCarville and her team from northern Ontario is returning with a team which won in 2018.
McCarville is competing against teams skipped by Jamie Sinclair from North Carolina and Madison Bear, of St. Paul, who placed in the Women’s Junior Championship earlier this year.
The Peterson sisters and Geving are bringing a team from St. Paul with a fourth Olympian named Becca Hamilton.
Also, there are 14 men’s teams coming in from Brazil, Canada, Mexico and the USA.
Chisholm-born John Shuster, who led the USA team to defeat Sweden to win the first-ever American curling gold, will skip a team here deemed the favorite to take the event this week.
Shuster’s Duluth team is expected to find competition in Ruohonen’s squad from Minneapolis. Ruohonen skipped teams which won the events in 2017 and 2018.
The curling veterans will square off against Korey Dropkin, a 24-year-old from Massachusetts who now skips on his Chaska team. Dropkin, a student at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, has quickly gained recognition among curlers for garnering experience in World Junior and Men’s championships.
“These are the best teams in the country and it’s nice to have them in Eveleth,” Drobnick said.
The entrance fee for each team in the Curl Mesabi Classic runs $900. The total purses are typically the largest payouts in curling competition in the USA: $15,000 for men and $16,000 for women.