Paris resident Tucker Hofstetter will be throwing rocks to become a part of the best bantam curling team in Ontario next month.
The 16-year-old throws second on Team Wanless, which plays out of the Paris Curling Club. Hofstetter’s team earned a berth to the Ontario Curling Association’s provincial boys championship in Ottawa on Feb. 27.
“We know the eight other teams in it pretty well,” Hofstetter said of his team’s chances of winning a provincial title. “We’ve been neck and neck with them when we play.”
Aside from Hofstetter, Team Wanless includes skip Jeff Wanless of Aurora, with Pickering brothers Joseph Hart and David Hart throwing vice and lead.
Hofstetter, a Grade 11 student at Paris District High School, hooked up with the team through the website www.curlingrocks.com.
“It’s difficult to form a really competitive team that is all local,” Hofstetter said. “You usually have to travel a bit to find dedicated teammates.”
The team decided to play out of Hofstetter’s home club because it offered a shorter road to the championship.
“It’s super competitive in the Toronto area,” he said. “This zone is a little easier.”
The team captured the OCA’s Zone 15 championship on Jan. 13 at the Brant Curling Club, setting up a chance to capture one of two regional berths to the provincial tournament.
The regional championship was held at the Palmerston Curling Club on Jan. 19 and Jan. 20.
Team Wanless defeated Team Simonits from Dundas Valley and Team Mooibroek from Teeswater to set up a final against Team Anderson from Niagara Falls.
Hofstetter said his team wasn’t playing its best in the final.
“It was anybody’s game,” he said. “It went to an extra end and we missed our last shot by inches.”
But the team had another chance to advance to Ottawa in the consolation final with a rematch against Team Mooibroek.
The team didn’t miss its chance, dominating all five ends for a 12-0 win.
“We really click as a team,” Hofstetter said. “We never argue at all, which is big in curling.”
Hofstetter got his start in the sport early, with his parents taking him to the Paris Curling Club in his youth.
“They got me into curling when I was four years old,” he said. “And not the little training rocks – I was throwing the big rocks and they’d go halfway down the sheet.”
Hofstetter started playing in the adult recreational league every Sunday at the club as a 10-year-old.
He also skipped the PDHS Panthers curling team to the Central Western Ontario Secondary Schools Association tournament two years ago as a Grade 9 student.
“I was this little Grade 9 playing with Grade 12s and Grade 13s,” he said. “The team hadn’t been to the CWOSSA tournament since 1992.”
Hofstetter will age out of bantam level curling next season, but his teammates still have a couple of years left at that level.
Following this season, the team will discuss whether to all advance together and start playing in the junior ranks.
“We’ve all been playing above our age group for a while now,” Hofstetter said. “So it’s possible.”
The OCA provincial championship begins Feb. 27 at the RCN Curling Club in Ottawa.