43rd Robo-Pong St. Joseph Valley Open

March 21, 2007

Jason Cytacki

The sound of dozens of bouncing ping pong balls and the screeching of sneakers filled the SAC on March 17 and 18th. For the fourth consecutive year, the Annual St. Joseph Valley Open  Table Tennis tournament was hosted on the campus of IU South Bend.

Over the course of two days of ping pong battles, 231 participants will play.  According to Phil Schmucker, President of the South Bend Table Tennis Center, “This is the highest total we’ve had since we’ve been here.” 

Included is Mark Hazinski, a current U.S. Olympian and the number 1 player on the U.S. World Team.  Surprising to some, he like many others originated from the South Bend Table Tennis Club. 

South Bend has been a hotbed for ping pong players since the 1930’s. 

Originally conceived in 1935 at the YMCA downtown, the South Bend Club grew to levels of infamy across the nation.  “The whole country knew of South Bend through the South Bend Club” said Brad Balmer, director of the event.  While the club died out in the mid 60’s, a group of IUSB students helped the tradition continue on in the late 70’s. 

“We all met here at IUSB.  We met in the game room in Northside in the basement,” recalls Balmer.  “That was the spark to start the South Bend Club again.”

The club has been around ever since, shifting its location occasionally, as IUSB was one of the intermim locations.  The current club officially began in 1992 and has been going strong ever since. 

Also a part of the South Bend Club is Dan Semiller, who was recently named coach of the year. 

The future seems bright for the South Bend Club as well.  Joe Cochran, a 17 year old from the club is the current #1 player on the U.S. Junior team, and A.J. Brewer at 13 is the Men’s state champion on the junior cadet team.  “He’s a phenomenal player” said Schmucker. 


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