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Ten teams to advance to Bentonville after Region Three finals

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August 2, 2013

The Sam’s Club National BBQ Tour is heading in to one of its most anticipated weekends in 2013, outside of the championship final itself. This weekend, the tour is headed to Rockford, Ill. for the Region Three regional event. Historically, Region Three is a hot bed for high caliber competition teams, with both the 2011 and 2012 series champions coming from this region. The heat is on and the stakes are high for the Midwest this weekend! 

Dennis Truckenbrod, pitmaster for Pork Patrol, took home the Grand Champion title in the Des Moines local event and is gearing up for the showdown in Rockford in hopes of getting his ticket to Bentonville.

“We’ve never made it to Bentonville,” said Truckenbrod. “The first year, we were eighth overall when they took the top seven teams. Last year, they took the top six teams and we were seventh overall. But then this year, we took Grand Champion at the local.”

Though he doesn’t consider his team to be a full-time team, having only competed in eight contests so far this year, Truckenbrod is confident in Pork Patrol’s ability to handle the competition in Rockford. 

“These are all top ten or top 20 in the nation,” said Truckenbrod. “But this is who we’re competing against every time.” 

Smoke Hunters, who took Grand Champion at the Madison local, are similar to Pork Patrol in that they’re not a full-time competition team either.

“We don’t cook 30 or 40 contests a year, but we’re very successful with the ones we do cook,” said Rick Soliman, pitmaster for the Smoke Hunters. “We’re very consistent in our procedures. That benefits us when we can follow that protocol, even though we don’t compete every weekend.”

The Smoke Hunters took home ninth overall in last year’s Sam’s Club National BBQ Tour, and have high hopes at making it to Bentonville once again. But first, it’s getting through at Rockford.

“Competing in this Midwest area, you’re always up against the best,” said Soliman. “We’re going to do our best to stay focused and hopefully the meats will turn out the way we want them." 

Come awards time, you can bet you’ll find Soliman wearing his signature hunting hat.

Grand Champions from the Traverse City local event, QUAU, haven’t had any down time leading up to the Rockford event.

“We’ve cooked every weekend,” said Mike Wozniak, pitmaster for QUAU. “I think the lowest we’ve finished is eighth.” But even having competed every weekend in between, Wozniak still notes the highly competitive nature of the Rockford regional event.

“It’s a tough contest,” said Wozniak. “You’ve got last year’s Jack Daniel’s champion. You’ve got Tippy Canoe who won the first Sam’s. You’ve got Lucky’s Q who won last year. We took third last year. Grills Gone Wild was second. You’ve got all the heavy hitters just in this one regional so I’d say it is one of the toughest.”

Though taking home the Grand Champion title would be preferred, Wozniak says the main thing is getting in to the top ten and being able to make it to Bentonville. 

TippyCanoe BBQ Crew, the champion team of the inaugural Sam’s Club National BBQ Tour series, is looking forward to reclaiming some ground in the tour this year. 

“We took Grand Champion of the series two years ago,” said Joe Beland, pitmaster for TippyCanoe BBQ Crew. “Last year, we didn’t even advance out of the local, which was disappointing.”

When it comes down to a pivotal weekend such as this, “you just don’t want to screw anything up,” said Beland. “You know you can cook. But you kind of feel the pressure of really wanting to advance.”

As far as rituals go, Beland says he’s not superstitious, but believes in consistency. “My theory is, if I do the little things the same way, it’ll help me be consistent in everything else,” said Beland. That said, you’ll likely spot Beland wearing the same t-shirt on Friday and the same shirt to the awards ceremony as he has all year long.

Come Saturday, ten more teams will be welcomed to the final in Bentonville, joining the ten teams from Region Four who had their tickets punched in April. The competition is fierce, but as Rick Soliman of the Smoke Hunters said, it could be anyone’s day. Best of luck to all thirty teams competing!


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