The 2014 US National YoYo Contest was the high-point of this years US contest season, with a 1A Division that was absolutely stacked with top notch talent and had some of the best 1A freestyles we’ve seen all year! YoYoNews correspondent Matt McDade tracked down most of our new US National Champions for a Q&A.
(Editors Note: The 2014 5A National Champion, Tyler Severance, couldn’t be reached for the last two weeks. So instead of his answers, we’ll be giving you lyrics from his favorite song: “Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus.)
Did you expect to win?
Zach Gormley (1A): I certainly felt that it was possible to take first, however, knew the competition would be fierce. The day of it all just comes down to who hits their freestyle the cleanest. While many other competitors this year made mistakes, it appears that I made the fewest.
Joseph Harris (2A): Yes, without a doubt, I expected to take 1st place. Unless I had a major screw-up in my freestyle, I had little doubt about defending my title. Rumor was, Party Rick (aka Pat Mitchell) was not competing, so I had nothing to worry about…he makes me worry. Like. A LOT. P-Mitch is so gee-whiz good!
Alex Hattori (3A): I always go to a competition to have fun and to do my best. I never bring any expectations. There are many great yoyoers, and anything can happen.
Zac Rubino (4A): No, there are so many good players that could have won. Going into a contest, I don’t think in my head, “I am going to win this contest.” I just have the mindset that I want to hit my routine and put on a good show for the audience.
Tyler Severance (5A): We kissed, I fell under your spell. A love no one could deny.
What was your practice schedule like?
Zach Gormley: Typically, I try to get in around an hour to two of practice each day, starting a month before the contest. This doesn’t need to be all just freestyle-practice, though. Much of my time is spent perfecting my tricks or finding ways to hit them more consistently for when I’m on stage.
Joseph Harris: Non-existent. I selected a freestyle song a week before the competition. I did a true “freestyle” on stage, meaning what the audience live at Chico, and watching online, saw was the first time I did a full run of my freestyle performance.
Alex Hattori: I didn’t really have a set practice schedule because I’ve been extremely busy with my rigorous high school curriculum, which includes marching band and robotics.
Zac Rubino: At home, I practiced 2-3 hours a day, and for those hours, I only practiced my freestyle. The way I went about it was to practice 30 min-1 hour at a time, a few times though out the day.
Tyler Severance: Don’t you ever say I just walked away, I will always want you.
What were some goals that you hoped to accomplish with your freestyle?
Zach Gormley: I had two goals for this freestyle. I wanted to improve my performance, as well as have a really dominant tech score. While I achieved the latter, my performance wasn’t where I wanted it to be. I think the mistakes I spent time correcting took up time I could have been looking at the crowd, yoyoing to the music, etc.
Joesph Harris: Have fun, and go clean. I would have ended my routine early if I felt like I did not have fun or go clean. 2 minutes in, I felt comfortable that I had accomplished both goals.
Alex Hattori: I really just hoped to show my best tricks and put on my best performance.
Zac Rubino: For this freestyle, my goal was to win a National or World title.
Tyler Severance: I came in like a wrecking ball. I never hit so hard in love.
In your opinion, what separated your freestyle from others that were presented on stage?
Zach Gormley: Lately, many yoyoers have caught on to trends that I’ve set in the past, so it can be hard to adjust my style or stay unique. Sometimes, I’m not too sure about what it is that sets me apart, but whatever it is seems to be working. I always try to do something different and bring new ideas to the table!
Joseph Harris: Swag. And the clothing line helped. It was hot that day, so the tank top my cousin gave me while we were celebrating his marriage in Vegas freed up some arm space. So, I could move around with ease and not feel so sluggish on stage. If you watched the others, you could tell that my wraps separated my freestyle from everyone else.
Alex Hattori: I think all of us 3A players are unique in our own way. Whether it’s bringing through some mind-boggling double Double or Nothing combo or by incorporating bangers, I think we all stand out from each other.
Zac Rubino: I think what sets me apart from other competitors is my tricks. I try to make tricks that are hard, flashy, and score high. My favorite type of trick is a “banger”. I love snags, regens, grinds, and just about anything that looks cool. I know my performance evaluation scores are my weakness, so I try to make up for that with big, risky tricks.
Tyler Severance: I never meant to start a war. I just wanted you to let me in. And instead of using force I guess I should’ve let you win.
What yoyo did you use in your freestyle?
Zach Gormley: I chose to use the Arctic Circle 2 in the Northern Lights colorway. Gotta represent CLYW! Best of the best.
Joseph Harris: My signature series yoyo, the YoYoJam Unleashed, which has been used to win back-to-back Nationals titles.
Alex Hattori: Duncan Barracudas, one red and one blue, with Dif-e-Yo Konkave bearings.
Zac Rubino: The yoyo that I used in my freestyle was the Duncan Skyhawk.
Tyler Severance: Buy Miley Cyrus – Bangerz on Amazon
Aside from yourself, who else would you have liked to see win?
Zach Gormley: Anthony Rojas has consistently placed top 3, and I would have loved to see him take the Nationals title. Gentry’s freestyle was top notch as always, and he definitely could have taken the title as well. It was also cool seeing Andrew Maider and Michael Kurti really step their game up.
Joseph Harris: Of the people not competing this year, I would have liked Ian Lawson, Patrick Mitchell, and Grant Johnson. For those that did compete, I would have loved it if Josh Yee won.
Alex Hattori: I would have liked to see the person who brought their best game take first. To tell you the truth, I really enjoy watching all 3A players.
Zac Rubino: The other person that I would have liked to see take first place is Ian Johnson. Ian is a good friend, and an amazing yoyo player.
Tyler Severance: All I wanted was to break your walls. All you ever did was wreck me.
What title do you plan on snagging next?
Zach Gormley: 44Clash and Las Vegas Open are right around the corner, and I’d love to win one of those! Potentially, even both would be cool! Next year, I have my eyes set on Worlds in Tokyo, but I’ll cross that bridge when it comes.
Joseph Harris: Chronologically, the next title would be the Las Vegas Open in Vegas which seeds the winners into semi-finals for Tokyo Worlds 2015. The big competition goal for me is to be World Champion before I retire from competing in two-handed.
Alex Hattori: I don’t usually plan my life according to upcoming competitions. Instead, I work on improving my technique or creating new tricks after I’m done with Nationals. Then, as time rolls along, I see if I’m able to attend any more competitions based on my school academic schedule.
Zac Rubino: The next contest I am looking to win is the 2015 World Yoyo Contest. When I started competing, there were 4 contests that I really wanted to win, which were Cal States, BAC, Nationals, and Worlds. This year, I won all of those contests except for Worlds. That is the last contest on my list, and the one I want to win the most.
Tyler Severance: Yeah, I just closed my eyes and swung. Left me crashing in a blazing fall.
What other non-contest related yoyo endeavors do you have planned for the near future?
Zach Gormley: Outside of competitions, I’d love to work on some new videos. Charles and I have been tossing around the idea of potentially getting me up to Canada to work on some Cabin Tutorials. While it is likely, nothing is set in stone yet.
Joseph Harris: The main non-contest related endeavor for me is to get yoyos mainstream! In my eyes, it starts with grassroots efforts, such as the two new yoyo clubs I am helping run here in the San Francisco Bay Area. New yoyoers, like hundreds to thousands of them, is the first step to making yoyos and the yoyo community more popular.
There will always be the next Gentry Stein, Zach Gormley, Anthony Rojas, Ahmad Karisma, Harrison Lee, Tessa Piccillo, Takeshi Matsuura’s of the yoyo world. My goal, as it has been since I was booted off America’s Got Talent Season 4, is to get the next generation of yoyoers to experience more positive exposure OUTSIDE of the yoyo community than the current yoyoers! Don’t YOU want yoyos to be mainstream???
Alex Hattori: Well, I’m always actively volunteering in my community with yoyoing, whether it’s teaching, or performing for charitable causes. I perform at schools, fundraisers, libraries, convalescent homes, and all sorts of charity events.
Zac Rubino: Besides contests, I have been filming a lot of videos with the Duncan crew. Be on the look out for those videos coming soon! Other than that, I don’t know what the up-coming year has in store for me.
Tyler Severance: All you ever did was wreck me. Yeah, you, you wreck me. Yeah, you, you wreck me.