APPLETON, Wis. — A resurgence for the game of pool looks evident at the Fox Cities Exhibition Center. More than 1,600 players, a new record, registered to compete in this weekend’s Wisconsin State Poolplayers Association state championships.
The record turnout is more than 20% higher than the attendance for the 2020 state tournament, which was the last time Appleton hosted the WSPA.
“The convention center here told us we were the last big event they had here,” WSPA President Gregg Andler said. “And we’re the first big event since COVID to come back again.”
Andler and tournament director Dean Roeseler oversee the action at 160 tables, trucked in from across Wisconsin as well Minnesota and Colorado. Across five divisions, the WSPA schedules call for near-round-the-clock competition throughout the five-day event. Kurt Elliott, the defending champion in the men’s masters division, was running on pure adrenaline Thursday.
“I played until 2 a.m. in the morning, then looked at the calendar and I had to play again at 8 a.m.” Elliott said. “So, I got three hours of laying in bed. No sleep.”
The 36-year-old from Beloit began playing competitively just seven years ago, but said 2020 allowed for a ton of practice time at home.
“Four hours a day, every day for six months,” Elliott said. “By myself, shooting drills, getting good at what I do.”
This weekend, Elliott will try to defend his title against the top players from every part of Wisconsin. While it’s a high-pressure environment, Elliott said it’s also a celebration of the sport.
The competition aside, it’s all entertainment for me,” he said. “I’ve still got to go to work and work my 40 hours, so it’s all about all the friends here.”