There are few Americans as passionate as Greg Bice is about properly growing the sport of box lacrosse in the US.

There are even fewer that have put in the same amount of time, resources and energy as Bice, alongside his partner at Resolute Lacrosse, Anthony Kelly, into actually furthering the sport from the ground up.

A charter member of the US Box Lacrosse Association, the Columbus-based Resolute club recently hosted the fourth edition of the Midwest Classic, one of the biggest USBOXLA-sanctioned tournaments today. This year’s Classic, held back in February at the Resolute Athletic Complex, hosted clubs from Georgia, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, Virginia, Washington and even a split squad from Ontario. As you’ve probably gathered, the Midwest Classic has grown tremendously over the last four years, and yup, it’s become a pretty big deal.

Photos: Sherri Thomson

We sat down with Bice and hit rewind to review this year’s event (see full Midwest Classic All-Stars from every age group after the Q&A), plus talked about Team USBOXLA, the 2017 U18 #bctour, if Columbus could sustain a National Lacrosse League franchise, and why American youth need to be playing way more box lacrosse.

For anyone that was there, they probably know the answer, but how did this year’s Resolute Midwest Classic go?
It was amazing to watch in all honesty. The most rewarding thing about the event is seeing how much better everyone is getting at box lacrosse. The skill, the speed, the IQ… everything from all the teams is so much improved since this thing first started. I’m so excited to see how much these kids in the Midwest have improved.

Although the tournament had a good mix of local teams, clubs from states like Minnesota, Texas, Georgia, North Carolina and even Washington made the trip to Columbus this year.
Which is awesome. The game is growing and being played properly all over the country now, and we were honored that so many teams from so far outside of Ohio took part this year. I thought they all did a fantastic job. We had a really impressive group out of Rochester that had a mix of Americans and Canadians too. The competition level this year was so good.

“Box lacrosse needs to be a higher priority in the US.”

The other thing that really helped us make this year’s even great is the support and exposure we get through USBOXLA. Having our refs certified through USBOXLA is huge, and allows us to provide an ideal playing environment for everyone. Tim Cave, who leads the referee charge for us, is second to none when it comes to officiating and developing our refs here. Not only have the players gotten better at this event over the years, I think our officials definitely have too.

What kind of feedback have you received from this year’s competing clubs?
We’ve received a ton of positive feedback. Everyone loved the event, the venue, the level of competition, and so many teams were already talking about coming back next year. I seriously can’t wait for 2018 already. The Midwest Classic has really allowed teams to push one another and use this event as a measuring stick when evaluating their development from over the previous year. I can’t communicate enough how exciting it is to see how much players and teams have grown over the years. All these teams are pushing this box lacrosse wave to the next level, and I know it’s only going to get better.

How did Resolute do at the Classic?
I think we did very well. A lot of the players impressed enough to land spots on various Team USBOXLA rosters. And again, the improvement we saw across the board is just remarkable. Our Resolute kids love box lacrosse. A lot of our players would rather play box than field for the obvious reasons: the speed, the touches, the pace, just everything box provides. Our kids have totally bought into box lacrosse. I also think our kids truly understand what it means to play true box lacrosse versus any of the hybrid stuff out there. They’re playing box because they love the sport. The rest is just a bonus.

Our high school kids that competed this year are really some of the first players we started teaching box to years back. They are true pioneers in my opinion. There’s a feeling that what we and so many other USBOXLA clubs are doing, is bigger than any one individual or any one team. The kids playing box right now are the ones that are really paving the way for the sport in the US.

“They’re playing box because they love the sport. The rest is just a bonus.”

After the event, USBOXLA held a Team USBOXLA U18 ID Camp are the Resolute Athletic Complex. What did you see at the camp?
The level of skill, competition and improvement in the players at camp was tremendous. The talent and overall IQ at that age level is getting so much better. I’m really looking forward to seeing these kids compete against the Canadians on their tour this year. I think they’re going to be very successful.

The U18 team has six players from Ohio, five of which are Resolute athletes. What does that say about the talent level in Ohio today?
I think it’s a testament to the commitment level we’ve seen from players in our program. Like I said before, our kids have totally and completely bought in. They are dedicated to box training. Box lacrosse is something they take very seriously. They know what committing to box can do for them no matter what version of the sport they’re playing. The fact that six Ohio players cracked this year’s U18 roster indicates that not only are they talented, they also truly love the sport. If they didn’t love it to the level I see from them, they wouldn’t be as good as they are today.

On last year’s Team USBOXLA U18 roster, one player that really stood out during the entire #bctour was Resolute’s Landon Trout, who has since committed to Bellarmine.
First and foremost, Landon is just a fantastic kid. He’s a fierce competitor. He’s easily the best offensive box player to ever come out of our program. Funny story about Landon. He didn’t make our program the first couple of years. He worked really, really hard. He totally bought into box lacrosse, and his game improved so, so much. He was probably the first kid we had that said, “I want to be a really good box lacrosse player.” He put in time and worked, and worked, and worked. Through his development as a box player, he became a really fantastic field player too. Even if you’ve never watched a lacrosse game in your life, but then watched one of our games, you’d come away from that game knowing you just witnessed a pretty special player. He deserves all the praise that he gets.

So, the next Landon Trout might end up being one of these six Ohio kids representing the U18 team this year. Give us a quick scouting report on them. Dylan Comella.
He is a tough, tough kid that is super strong defensively and in transition. He’s so strong on loose balls too. I’m really looking forward to watching him compete in Canada this summer.

Jack Hannah.
Jack’s actually the one guy Ohio guy that is not in our program, but watching him at the ID Camp, I can tell you he is extremely athletic, has an explosive first step, really good stick skills, and obviously with him going to Denver to play for Matt Brown, you know he’s legit.

“Through his development as a box player, he became a really fantastic field player too.”

Goalie Matt Huizenga.
Matt is a great kid, that like Landon, has worked really hard to get to where he is. With Matt, he decided that not only did he want to be a good field goalie, he wanted to do it in box too. His side-to-side movement is really good, he’s a great communicator out there and an amazing leader. I know he really impressed the USBOXLA staff during the entire weekend. I think traditionally the stronger goalies over the years have been coming out of the West, but I think we’re going to start seeing more and more guys from here start developing into some outstanding goalies like Matt.

Adam Mather.
He’s a strong lefty shooter that can really stretch the other team’s defense and create chances out there. He has an absolute cannon, has a great handle, and he’s just an overall really, really good athlete.

Connor O’Brien.
Connor has really high box IQ, he’s very smart and he’s the type of player that makes everyone around him better. Great stick, good communicator, sets some really good picks and he does all the little things to make his team that much better.

Dylan Warner.
Dylan lives a couple hours out of town, but comes in every weekend to train with us. He has developed into a really good player. He plays with tremendous determination, he’s super slick and has a really high IQ, which is so impressive since he hasn’t been playing box for as long as a lot of our other players. I just love his level of commitment.

You coached the U18 group last year in Canada with Shaydon Santos, Ben Prepchuk and David Mather. What advice do you have for all the players that will rep the US on the 2017 #bctour?
I think there’s a few things. Make sure you enjoy it and take everything in. The U18 tour is such an awesome experience, so much happens on and off the floor. Make sure you’re mentally present for everything that week. Be proud that you were selected to represent the US in Canada while playing against some of the best players at that level. It’s an honor to be on this team and a very unique opportunity that not many get to experience. And finally, know that you deserve to be on this team. Know that you can compete and know that you can play. Be humble and respectful, but make sure you’re carrying a confidence knowing you belong. Have fun!

Resolute is one of USBOXLA’s longest standing and largest members. The interest level in box has never been bigger in Columbus than it is today. With the National Lacrosse League in expansion-seeking mode, could a return to Columbus work in your opinion? Note: The Columbus Landsharks played in the league from 2001 – 2003, later moving to Glendale, Arizona.
Absolutely I think it could work. Now that box is finally being coached and played the right way in the US through USBOXLA’s leadership, I can see firsthand here in Columbus how much people love the sport. Once box is done the right way, the sport really sells itself. The more lacrosse you have in your backyard, the easier it is to grow the sport properly. I think it’s important for our kids to be able to watch their local pro team and have role models on those teams that are doing good things in the community. Someone they can look up to, admire and want to follow in the footsteps of is definitely important for growth. If done right, 100% I think a team returning to Columbus could work.

If the NLL were to come back to Columbus, does Anthony Kelly have the chops to make an expansion roster as early as next year?
For sure! He’s played and represented the US in box and has experience playing in the NLL. He’s physically fit, but Anthony also has that mental toughness you need too. He could play in any league, at any age. I’d have him on my roster.

Last year, you were really impressed with what you saw from the Canadian teams during the #bctour. What can we learn from our northern neighbors?
I think the systems and organization Canada has as far as developing youth is second to none. The way they are currently structured is a little bit, not necessarily more organized, but probably cleaner than it is on the US side. I think there is a lot we can learn from them on that end. Field lacrosse in the US still obviously comes first. What I really want to see is more American youth associations buy into box. I’d love to see the US make box more of a priority for our youth, and then backfill it with field lacrosse. Why? The skills you develop, the IQ, the constant touches, the accuracy, the toughness, and all of those other things box lacrosse delivers, helps so much with development no matter what version you’re playing. Box lacrosse needs to be a higher priority in the US. More youth playing box can only benefit the country. I see the advantages box lacrosse provides players on pretty much a daily basis. It’s a no-brainer.

2017 Midwest Classic All-Stars

Like Bice has said several times above, the talent level at this year’s Midwest Classic was the best the event has ever hosted. Below, check out the players named Midwest Classic All-Stars, and trust us, it won’t be the last time you hear about a ton of them.

High School A

Player Club State
Chase Altier Cleveland Demons Ohio
PJ Anderson Burning River Ohio
Hunter Bardo Resolute Ohio
Frank Blazer Lax Factory Maryland
Ross Buchinan PROMO Missouri
Liam Collins Lax Factory Maryland
Dylan Comella Resolute Ohio
Reid Davis Cleveland Demons Ohio
Jack Desantis Resolute Ohio
Andrew DiFrancesco TC Stars Minnesota
Cole Grindberg TC Stars Minnesota
Ben Gustafson TC Stars Minnesota
Bryce Hortzman PROMO Missouri
Quentin Matsui TC Stars Minnesota
Clay Miller Lax Factory Maryland
Derek Radke PROMO Missouri
Danny Saxon Cleveland Demons Ohio
Will Talbott Shere Burning River Ohio
Jordan Sawyer Lax Factory Maryland
Anthony Sparacino Lax Factory Maryland
Luke Swaddling Burning River Ohio
John Thomas Cleveland Demons Ohio
Landon Trout Resolute Ohio
Sam Turk Cleveland Demons Ohio
Skylar Wahlund Resolute Ohio
Harry Wellford PROMO Missouri
Jackson Zaugg TC Stars Minnesota

High School B

Player Club State
Jackson Alspaugh Bandits Michigan
Graham Bundy PROMO Missouri
Henry Carpenter PROMO Missouri
Jerry Castro Capital North Stars Virginia/D.C.
Nate Conry Burning River Ohio
George Curley Cleveland Demons Ohio
Isaias Delgado Bucktown North Carolina
Cooper Fabry Lax Factory Maryland
Ben Gleiter Ben Gleiter Bucktown
Andrew Guagenti Resolute Ohio
Jerry Haadsma Bandits Michigan
Chris Handy PROMO Missouri
Nick Harris Resolute Ohio
Griffen Imwalle Burning River Ohio
Travis Jaycox Roc City Warriors New York
Jack Jozwiak Lax Factory Maryland
Jason Jozwiak Lax Factory Maryland
Roman Larocco Lax Factory Maryland
Tucker Martinez Bandits Michigan
Matt McHale Roc City Warriors New York
Jack Moriarity Burning River Ohio
Thomas Neidringhaus PROMO Missouri
Matt Peters Roc City Warriors New York
Devin Patnaik Capital North Stars Virginia/D.C.
Connor Pirrung Bucktown North Carolina
Stuart Powell Capital North Stars Virginia/D.C.
Mason Prisk Cleveland Demons Ohio
Kevin Ritter Bucktown North Carolina
Stephen Russell Cleveland Demons Ohio
Andrew Schwartz Resolute Ohio
Keelan Seneca Bucktown North Carolina
Ben Starkey Burning River Ohio
Tyler Stieflier Roc City Warriors New York
Mason Sutherland Bandits Michigan
Noah Sweson Resolute Ohio
Ethan Tyack Resolute Ohio
Merrick Widdoes Cleveland Demons Ohio
Devin Wolover Bandits Michigan
Matt Wyzmiershi Cleveland Demons Ohio
Noah Young Roc City Warriors New York

Grade 7/8

Player Club State
Cole Argay Bucktown North Carolina
Carter Barco Resolute Ohio
Max Beuck Texas Box Lacrosse Texas
Adam Blind Resolute Ohio
Alexander Brody Texas Box Lacrosse Texas
Crawford Bundy PROMO Missouri
Parker Byrd Bucktown North Carolina
Cade Caggiano Carolina Cardinals North Carolina
Titan Case Resolute Ohio
Hunter Chauvette Cleveland Demons Ohio
Day Cornelius Bandits Michigan
Cam Curry PROMO Missouri
Ian Dean Resolute Ohio
Michael Dennis Atlanta Revolution Georgia
Ed Downey Atlanta Revolution Georgia
Ben Dreher Texas Box Lacrosse Texas
Ryan Dunn Cleveland Demons Ohio
Thomas Garvin Texas Box Lacrosse Texas
Jake Griffin Texas Box Lacrosse Texas
Justin Hartz Lax Factory Maryland
Christian Hechman Cleveland Demons Ohio
Owen Hegadorn Capital North Stars Virginia/D.C.
Carson Houck Lax Factory Maryland
Brennan Lamb Bandits Michigan
Keith Lapierre Lax Factory Maryland
Cameron Lennox Carolina Cardinals North Carolina
Will McCulloch Capital North Stars Virginia/D.C.
Nico McDonough Lax Factory Maryland
Ethan McKinley Texas Box Lacrosse Texas
Andrew Morin Capital North Stars Virginia/D.C.
Max Melton Texas Box Lacrosse Texas
Thomas Mencke Texas Box Lacrosse Texas
Adam Omstead Bandits Michigan
Trent Orr Bucktown North Carolina
Ethan Robinette Carolina Cardinals North Carolina
Josh Rhodes Atlanta Revolution Georgia
Jake Ridmar Cleveland Demons Ohio
Ryan Scanlon Carolina Cardinals North Carolina
Gunnar Schwarz Bucktown North Carolina
Kurt Schwarz Bucktown North Carolina
Chase Siewert PROMO Missouri
Jacob Smith Bandits Michigan
Alex Theuerkauf Resolute Ohio
Chris Thomas Bandits Michigan
Spencer Vandenberg Atlanta Revolution Georgia
Robbie Walker Atlanta Revolution Gerogia
Chase Weber Cleveland Demons Ohio
Brett Wexelblatt Texas Box Lacrosse Texas

Grade 5/6

Player Club State
Hayden Ausherman Atlanta Revolution Georgia
Reed Batemen Resolute Ohio
Michael Bartman Lax Factory Maryland
Owen Bunten Texas Box Lacrosse Texas
Danny Campbell PROMO Missouri
James Canipe FCA New York/Ontario
Charlie Carmouche Bucktown North Carolina
Preston Corin Bucktown North Carolina
Samson Desormeaux FCA New York/Ontario
Jeremy Fancett FCA New York/Ontario
Kyle Gardner Lax Factory Maryland
Cameron Kelley Bucktown North Carolina
Grant Kenley Resolute Ohio
Rocco LaPerna Resolute Ohio
Niky Lowe FCA New York/Ontario
Jack Manero Texas Box Lacrosse Texas
Cam Mesh FCA New York/Ontario
Owen McGee Resolute Ohio
Matt Nichols Lax Factory Maryland
Jake Olivo Atlanta Revolution Georgia
Anthony Panetti Lax Factory Maryland
Donny Scott Atlanta Revolution Georgia
Luke Sganga Texas Box Lacrosse Texas
Evan Suh Atlanta Revolution Georgia
Ian Williams Texas Box Lacrosse Texas
Conor Woods Atlanta Revolution Georgia
Bill Young Bucktown North Carolina