Battle at the Badlandz, the 2021 ICPL Windy City Classic!
Written by Quinn Nadu, Iconic PB | ICPL Paintball
Photo courtesy of PaintballPhotography.com | Gary Baum
The ICPL is preparing to host its final event of the season and the stakes are high. With more than 60 10-Man teams all fighting for the first place trophy, the event hosted at Badlandz Paintball in Chicago should be an exciting finish to the classic paintball season. From October 1st and through the weekend, professional and amateur players will battle it out over the course of two days in a series of preliminary games. The top teams will move on to the coveted finals day, simply known to veteran players as “Sunday”.
This event features 24 of the best professional Classic Paintball teams in the world and some of the best individual paintball players in the game's history. It also will host more than 40 amateur teams all fighting to win the season title, and with it, a pro division spot for 2022. Teams like Infamous and Kapp Factory certainly look like some of the favorites in the pro division, but if dark horse teams like Image, the Misfits, Ground Zero Gold and Farside have their way, the pro division could shake out much differently than expected.
THE LEGENDARY BADLANDZ VENUE
Photo courtesy of PaintballPhotography.com | Gary Baum
The epicenter of elite Midwest paintball, The Badlandz paintball field has been home to some of the best paintball programs in the history of the game. Teams like Aftershock and Farside have called this place home for nearly 30 years, and during that time won dozens of pro events and multiple World Championships. The field has some of the most interesting playing fields in the country like the Zipper Field and Ponderosa. The fields themselves become a test of will and endurance for any paintball player and those who pass the test may earn the right to call themselves the best classic team in the world. But, until the winner is crowned, the tough and unforgiving fields should provide fans and players an incredibly unique experience.
THE BEST PRO DIVISION WE HAVE EVER SEEN IN CLASSIC PAINTBALL?
Across the entire pro division, the high level of talent is becoming more and more evident. Top pro paintball players from around the world have been joining into the International Classic Paintball League all with hopes of winning the season title. With elite programs like Infamous, Kapp Factory, and Adrenaline all featuring top NXL pros, it can appear to the casual viewer that they would be a shoe-in to win the event. However; lurking in the pro division are some of the greatest players to ever play the game. Legends of the game like Rocky Cagnoni, John Dresser, and Billy Ceranki all look to lead their respective teams to the podium and will prove to be huge challenges for any team looking to win the event.
Photo of Los Angeles Infamous courtesy of PaintballPhotography.com | Gary Baum
Photo of ADRENALINE courtesy of PaintballPhotography.com | Gary Baum
PRO TEAMS TO WATCH :
Los Angeles Infamous
Infamous is dominant, pure and simple. Their roster is loaded, top to bottom, with not only the best players in the ICPL, but the entire professional paintball world. Cody Mickowski, Billy Bernacchia, and Harrison Frye are some of the top players in the NXL and they bring a level of poise and intensity to the veteran Infamous roster that is critical to winning an event. Travis Lemanski has proven, year after year, that he is an elite leader and is one of the most talented team builders in the sport. He combines with Ryan Brand to create the strongest coaching duo in the entire ICPL. This team has very few weaknesses and it appears they are the team that the first place trophy runs through. However, this isn’t the NXL field, and with the unique and challenging fields at Badlandz, will Infamous be able to fend off the onslaught of teams all looking to make their mark on the classic paintball world? Heavy is the head that wears the crown.
From the lore of paintball history, KAPP Factory re-emerged back into the pro paintball world just two seasons ago. In that time, Dave Bains has rebuilt the roster into one of the premiere teams of the ICPL. KAPP has a style that overwhelms opponents on the field; their relentless attack combined with the elite backline made of players like Tyler Harmon, Dave Bains, and Matty Marshall is a difficult combination to overcome. Featuring players from all over the NXL league from teams like Houston Heat and San Antonio XFactor, they certainly check off all the boxes needed to win an event. Tyler Harmon is arguably the best paintball player in the world, and he will be focused on asserting his will on the pro division. The main question is; can KAPP go the distance and have gas left in the tank to win the finals?
The Saints came into the 2021 ICPL season with a short resume and were a relatively unknown program. But, they quickly proved that they are one of the best teams in the league. Their style of play results in very few mistakes, and with former pro Robbie Goldsmith and Columbus LVL star Sam Silberg they have the poise and experience needed to win. Look for the Saints to grind down opponents and counter-punch at any opportunity. The one field that may present a problem for the Saints will be the legendary zipper field of Badlandz, but if they can find a way to generate a consistent attack, they may just be able to win this event. Kevin Fillers may be one of the most under-the-radar guys in the ICPL, and his more than decade-long experience in the pro league will be crucial to the Saints when closing out games. It takes a lot of experience and willpower to overcome the pressure of the pro league, will this relatively new program be able to do what it takes to raise the trophy?
THE DARK HORSE
Lurking in the shadows of the major pro programs is one of the ICPL’s newest pro teams. But, this squad is no stranger to professional paintball, as they were one of the great pro teams of the 1990s. After easily winning the amateur division at the ICPL Old Bay Classic, Image was offered a spot in the pro division and jumped at the chance. Led by the legendary Richie and Tommy Maliszewski, this team is loaded with the type of talent needed to win a pro event. Will we see that classic reckless attack from the Image of old, or will they play the more methodical and measured style we watched them play during their dominate win in Maryland? Justin Kim and Mike Mrok bring a high level of skill and the ability to push the game's tempo for Image, which will be crucial in the woods. The real question is, do they have enough firepower on their relatively new roster to overcome the stalwarts of the division?
THE NEW LOOK OF THE PRO DIVISION
Following the Old Bay Classic event in Maryland, the ICPL made the decision to fill the now vacant pro spots left by the relegated Saberwolves and the defunct RC Seadogs. It was a simple decision for Tom Cole and the ICPL team to give the spots to Mutiny and Image. Both of these programs have been historically strong teams and exemplify all the desirable attributes of a burgeoning professional organization. Their strong team leadership and consistent excellence in Classic events over the last few seasons should help propel them right into the mix of pro teams looking to make their mark.
AN AMATEUR DIVISION THAT IS ANYTHING BUT
It might be easy to see the word “Amateur” and think that this division is a bunch of beginners; however, that couldn’t be further from the truth. The amatuer division of the ICPL is loaded with talent and oozing with the ambition and dreams of hopeful-pro.. These players are all playing for the coveted season title and a chance to go pro, and that is all the motivation needed to provide the wild exciting paintball fans have come to love in the amateur division. More than a few ex-pro players are looking for a chance at redemption and a chance to prove that they still belong among the game’s elite.
AMATEUR TEAMS TO WATCH :
In a shocking move to start the year, the Saberwolves elected to forego the season opener at the Old Bay Classic in Maryland. This caused them to lose their eligibility as a professional team and they were relegated to the amateur division. That is all the motivation that this team will need to win. They are one of the most aggressive and efficient classic paintball teams in the world and they should dominate this event and potentially earn their way back to the pro division. Team owner Justin Owen is taking no chances either, adding the legendary Brandon Mayo and NXL Pro Christian Collins into the mix to help secure their spot. It's hard to imagine any other team in this division beating the Saberwolves; they are poised, experienced, and hungry, a very dangerous combination. However, when the game slows down on Sunday, can they pull back the reins and do what it takes to win?
The entire roster of Thunderhorse plays with purpose, and the level of synergy among this team is the key to their recent success. Over the last few seasons, they have managed top finishes at the Iron City Classic, as well as finishing in the top 6 of every ICPL event they have played thus far. They bring perhaps the best mix of styles in the amateur division and are incredibly versatile on the field. Featuring players from the fan favorite of the early 2000’s, Tippmann Effect, as well as talented Xball players from all over the Midwest, they should provide a staunch challenge to any amateur teams they encounter. Does this team have what it takes to win an event though? We have seen them place highly but their ambition for a first place finish still eludes them.
Anthony Call has always been able to put together phenomenal rosters loaded with talent. From his days leading Brimstone Smoke in the NPPL and all the way to the current iteration, the Smoke roster has featured strong mixes of talented and aggressive players. They have been a mainstay of the ICPL amateur division and have consistently placed highly at every event they have played. Their roster is arguably the best in the divsion, and features legendary retired pros like Cody Szmik of Dynasty and Mark Ireland of Rage. From top to bottom, this roster is built to win and Smoke should put up a strong fight after losing a close game to Image in Maryland and taking home the silver trophy. They have struggled a bit in the high pressure situations in the past, can they come into the Windy City and prove they are the best amateur team in the World?
Photo courtesy of PaintballPhotography.com | Gary Baum
The final event of the Classic season is less than a week away, and with so many questions still left unanswered, the ICPL Windy City Classic should provide some of the most exciting games of the year. The professional division should be a fierce battle to the end, and the unforgiving fields at The Badlandz will offer a unique challenge that has been the right of passage for many of the best players in the game's history. The amateur division is still in a fiercely contested battle for the season title and a pro spot, and we will provide updates all weekend long to keep fans right in the middle of the action.