GREENVILLE – Pitchers from eight states including defending world champions competed in the 56th annual Ringer Classic horseshoe pitching tournament on Saturday and Sunday in Greenville.
The Ringer Classic is regarded as one of the world’s top tournaments and a warm up for the upcoming National Horseshoe Pitchers Association World Tournament Championships, which will be held from July 25-Aug. 6 in Montgomery, Alabama.
“This is well-known as probably the best horseshoe tournament outside of the world tournament,” Darke County Horseshoe Club President Brian Fisher said. “We have the best conditions, and we get the best competition. The competition is what the people come for.”
Among the competitors was Alan Francis, a 20-time world champion pitcher. Francis won the men’s A division championship at the Ringer Classic with a 5-0 record, recording a ringer percentage of 85 percent.
Francis, the defending world champion, said he’s been coming to Greenville for 20 years to compete in the Ringer Classic.
“This is a tradition to come down here in Greenville and play here at the tournament,” he said. “It’s a good time.”
Delbert Fourman from Arcanum finished third in the men’s A division with a 2-5 record and a 45.0 ringer percentage.
Tom Guill won the men’s B division with a 4-1 record and a 52.0 ringer percentage.
Jesse Rodriguez won the men’s C division with a 4-1 record and 37.0 ringer percentage. Fisher finished third in the division with a 3-2 record and a 28.5 ringer percentage.
Bob Meyer won the men’s D division as he had a 5-1 record and a 35.0 ringer percentage. Dan Homan of Greenville finished fourth in the division with a 3-3 record and 29.58 ringer percentage.
Dave Rose won the men’s E division with a 6-1 record and a 27.14 ringer percentage. Bradford’s Brett Dehart finished sixth with a 2-5 record and 14.29 ringer percentage while Arcanum’s Larry Fourman finished seventh with a 2-5 record and 4.64 ringer percentage.
Shawnda Dehart from Greenville won the mixed division with a perfect 4-0 record and a 29.78 ringer percentage.
Terry Beagle won the women’s A division as she had a 6-1 record and a 69.14 ringer percentage.
Sherrill Hambel won the women’s B division with a 4-0 record and a 44.35 ringer percentage. Dehart finished third with a 2-2 record and a 34.86 ringer percentage.
Greenville’s Austin Hill won the junior class with a 5-1 record and a 34.86 ringer percentage.
Virgil Rife won the elder A division as he had a 6-1 record and a 78.01 ringer percentage.
Leonard Conner won the elder B division with a 6-1 record and a 62.36 ringer percentage.
Ralph Fleckenstein won the elder C division as he had a 6-0 record and a 56.79 ringer percentage.
John Knapp Sr. won the elder D division with a 7-0 record and a 52.16 ringer percentage. Ray Beyke of Greenville finished eighth with a 2-5 record and a 27.58 ringer percentage.
Toby Young won the elder E division with a 6-0 record and a 53.18 ringer percentage.
The Darke County Horseshoe Club still has some big events coming up in 2016. The group will host several days of horseshoe pitching from Aug. 19-27 at the Great Darke County Fair and will host the Ohio Horseshoe Pitchers Association state tournament from Sept. 3-5 at the Greenville City Park.
Darke County also will send five or six pitchers to the world tournament, Fisher said. With approximately 65 pitchers, Ohio has the second most pitchers set to compete at the world tournament behind only Missouri, he said.
“Ohio has a really good chance to bring back four champions from four different divisions,” Fisher said.
Among the top contenders for world championships are Alan Francis in the men’s division,
Ruth Rife in the women’s division, Gary Roberts in the senior men division and Virgil Rife in the elders division – all of whom competed in the Ringer Classic.
“There’s a long tradition in Ohio, kind of a hotbed for horseshoe,” Francis said. “Horseshoe in general the population is dwindling a little bit. Our population of pitchers here in Ohio has gone down just like almost every other state, but it’s still strong. There’s still a lot of people excited about it, enjoy it.”
Kyle Shaner may be reached at 937-569-4316. Follow me on Twitter @KShanerAdvocate or get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.