California's John "Mr.400" Schmidt became the first American in 22 years to hoist the World 14.1 Trophy when he defeated legendary Efren Reyes of the Philippines
Photos courtesy Brian Loeng of www.NYCGrind.com
Queens, New York- Europe's dominance of straight pool has ended. John Schmidt of Hesperia, California put USA back on top again in the 100th anniversary tournament of the game. A fitting end for the oldest pool tournament in the world. To do so, Schmidt had to defeat a field of international superstars whom most put well ahead of Schmidt as favorites. Undeterred by critics, Schmidt proved to the world America still has game.
The 2012 Predator World Tournament took place July 29th - August 3rd in New York City. The event was produced by Dragon Promotions & Dr.Michael Fedak and proudly co-sponsored by Championship Cloth, Olhausen Tables, Amsterdam Billiards, Aramith Balls, Pool & Billiard Magazine, Championship Tour Edition Chalk, and straight pool aficionados Dr.Louis Pannullo of NYC, Stu Mattana of NYC, Ralph Rubin of MD, and Tom Gleich of NC. Co-contributors Dr.James Heller, Drew Thomas, and Charles Eames.
Some major roadblocks en route to his victory included facing France's Stephan Cohen the 2009 World 14.1 winner; Ralph Eckert of Germany, a former European Champion; and Germany's Thorsten Hohmann, the reigning World Tournament of 14.1 Champion who was Gold in 2006 and 2011. In the finale, Filipino master Efren Reyes waited in the wings. Reyes is a multiple World Champion in 9-Ball, 8-Ball, and One Pocket.
On day 2 of the six day World Tournament, fans were highly anticipating the France vs USA match, with France the clear favorite. However, Schmidt put on a masterful clinic running a flawless 100 balls in a row to win 100 to 0, with Cohen being scoreless and helpless in the match.
Packed!! Fans stretch their necks to get a good view of the big matches. World 14.1- New Yorkers love their straight pool
2006 Bronze Medalist of the World 14.1 Max Eberle of Las Vegas gave Schmidt a surprise defeat in the second stage of the event. Schmidt bounced back from the loss and defeated Dennis Spears and later avenged himself against Eberle in the final stage of the event 200 to 46 in resounding fashion.
In the quarter finals, Schmidt faced the demons of his 5th place finish in 2008 where he faltered in his chance to defeat Netherlands's Niels Feijen who eventually went on to win the title. And to add to the challenge, Schmidt would face reigning champion Thorsten Hohmann, most who consider him the greatest player in 14.1.
In a neck to neck battle that tied several times in the match, Schmidt pulled through for a close 200 to 164 win that wasn't pretty, but dramatic and pressure packed.
"John has done more than any other American player the past few years in drawing attention to the game. With his videos and 14.1 records in his high run competitions . Of the Americans, he has the most passion for straight pool. On being the world 14.1 champion, all I can say is, welcome to the club," grinned Hohmann. Thorsten could console himself with the overall high run of the event, 141, coincidentally the digits of straight pool.
The classy Hohmann congratulates Schmidt and "welcomes him to the club"
The final day, Schmidt faced another German in Ralph Eckert, who the day before defeated USA Champion Johnny Archer. Schmidt came on fire running 98 balls in the first half of the match. Eckert mounted a short comeback, but John was too much to handle as he flew around the table running racks in minutes.
Meanwhile, in the other bracket, Efren Reyes was terrorizing his opponents with his pinpoint cueball control and defense. The Filipino star went undefeated in 9 consecutive matches and pocketing 1250 balls to reach the finals.
USA vs Philippines. For the first time in nearly a decade, no European in the finals. "We really couldn't ask for much more in terms of a huge match-up. An American versus the greatest player of all time. It's a fabulous combo", said Cindy Lee, CEO of Dragon Promotions.
The final day was a packed house of fans and players that wanted to watch the climactic conclusion of the event. Even some special VIP guests flew in such as BCA President Mike Serra and Predator Cues owner Paul Costain alongside Dr.Michael Fedak.
Asia vs USA. The greatest of all time versus the best of America!
The finals was spectacular. Schmidt came out guns blazing with a lightning fast 107 ball run in 36 minutes. Then unbelievably, Reyes came back with a 112 ball run. Something extremely rare in 14.1 to have two century runs in the same match, let alone the finals. Schmidt came back with a short 20 ball run, and Reyes returned to finish the job. The match had gone back and forth with both players taking over the lead at different points in the 3 hour match. With Efren at the table needing 31 balls, Schmidt would hope for one more chance. And he got it. Efren missed letting Schmidt back needing 37 balls. Schmidt came with a tough off angle combination shot into a pocket partially covered. He slow rolled it in.
Schmidt pocketed a total of 1650 balls to win the whole tournament while Reyes pocketed 1450 balls.
Needing 9 balls only, Schmidt faced the biggest breakshot of his life.
"He is wishing the cueball was 10 inches more to the right. The pressure is huge", said Darren Appleton, Bronze Medalist of England, who was sweating the final balls along with Thorsten Hohmann.
"I am still the World Champion....for five more minutes", joked Hohmann in a whisper to Darren and the group of pros watching the end.
3-cushion World Champion Torbjorn Blomdahl intently watching the pool finals. The audience was enthralled in the tightly
Schmidt fired the final break shot with authority and upon success of it, he slammed the table rail with his hand in partial relief and celebration. He had exercised his demons and overcome the pressure.
John Schmidt had beaten every European player he faced at the World Tournament, including two past World 14.1 Champs. And now was 7 balls away from defeating the greatest player in history.
As he made the final ball, Schmidt let out a yell and fist bump as the emotions could no longer be contained. He came over to event promoter Charlie Williams and gave him a big hug as he picked him up off the ground in joy.
John, overcome with emotions , hugs Charlie whom he credited with helping him throughout the World Tournament
John was littered with phone calls and texts within seconds of making the final ball. Some of his friends like Bill Marapolous was overcome with joy and emotions that they cried over the phone.
"This is so huge for him. He never celebrates when he wins, even at the US Open and Derby City. But this time he fist pumped and yelled because this meant more to him than anything", said Bill Marapolous, longtime friend and supporter of John. Bill wasn't able to personally attend the event, so he watched online and admitted he couldn't help the tears from falling. "The final rack I was pacing around the room and couldn't watch. I would find myself talking or screaming at the monitor "hang in there, John!" With the Olympics going on and the inspirational sports stories daily, it just makes this win more heartfelt. I really never thought it would hit me like that. I was a professional drag racer, so never expected emotions like this from a pool tournament. I admit, it was a very emotional afternoon and evening."
Fans were chanting shouts of "USA!" as they highfived the new champion of 14.1. Eckert, Appleton shared the Bronze while Reyes took the Silver.
In the closing ceremony speech, Efren commented ,"I really thought I was going to win when I ran the 112 balls. I needed some luck. But John played too good! "
"This title means so much to me. It means to me as much as anything I've ever won. I was so nervous in the end that I can't remember everything. I hardly ever celebrate like this with a fist pump and stuff, but I couldn't contain it. I want to thank all the sponsors and people that supported me and this great event. And to Charlie WIlliams who coached me throughout the week and helped me keep things positive", said the new World Tournament of 14.1 Champion.
Former World 9-Ball Champion Johnny Archer's reaction to John's win , "It is freaking awesome! Go USA!"
Charlie Williams, the World 14.1 promoter from Dragon Promotions, commented "Europe has had a stranglehold on this event and 14.1. Between Asia and Europe, they have dominated the international pool scene the past few years. Until now. This was an important win for USA." Williams is a pro player and coach/captain of Team USA at last year's Mosconi Cup in which USA plays Europe annually.
The World 14.1 Cup listing the World Champions of straight pool from 1912 till present day
John Schmidt's name will be inscribed on the World 14.1 Trophy as the 72nd winner alongside names such as Hohmann, Mizerak, Mosconi, Martin, Greenleaf, Ortmann and the past legends of the game.
The USA has finally gotten to shine back in the limelight of billiards.
The 2012 Predator World Tournament takes place July 29th - August 3rd. The event is produced by Dragon Promotions & Dr.Michael Fedak and proudly co-sponsored by Championship Cloth, Olhausen Tables, Amsterdam Billiards, Aramith Balls, Pool & Billiard Magazine, Championship Tour Edition Chalk, and straight pool aficionados Dr.Louis Pannullo of NYC, Stu Mattana of NYC, Ralph Rubin of MD, and Tom Gleich of NC. Co-contributors Dr.James Heller, Drew Thomas, and Charles Eames.
More aftermath stories and info on World Tournament at http://www.facebook.com/Worldstraightpool and www.twitter.com/Dragonpromoter
Brackets can be found at www.worldstraightpool.com
Dragon Promotions is one of the leading producers of billiard programming in the world today. In a span of over 11 years, Dragon Promotions has produced over 100 international events airing on networks in USA, Korea, and Europe such as ESPN, ABS-CBN, ESPN Star Asia, MBC ESPN, XTM, XPORTS, and Euro Sport. Events include The World Tournament of 14.1, The Predator International 10-Ball Championship, King & Queen of Carom, Empress Cup, Pro Pool Schools, DP Pro Classic, Women's Trickshot Challenge, World Junior 10-Ball Championships, The World Mixed Doubles and many more. Dragon also manages some of the world's best players including Johnny Archer, Allison Fisher, Mika Immonen, Shanelle Loraine, Rodney Morris, Charlie Williams, Mike Davis, and Erica Park. Watch their decade long anniversary video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LZrvwijI8fg visit www.dragonpromotions.com