Recreation: Herrera honors Queen's request, becomes King of Cornhole

Caption
(Philip Marruffo/pmarruffo@saukvalley.com)
Isidro Herrera, of Sterling, throws bags Friday night at the Latin American Social Club. Herrera's friends threw a party for him after he won the American Cornhole Organization's King of Cornhole tournament in Tunica, Miss., last weekend.

Isidro Herrera was just doing the noble thing. After all, who turns down an invitation from the Queen?

Leading up to the seventh American Cornhole Organization World Championships in Tunica, Miss., last weekend, Herrera was out of practice. He took second place the year before but, without a doubles partner to justify entering the 3-day competition, he hadn’t planned on trying to get over the hump this time around.

But 3 weeks before the Jan. 10 singles qualifying, he got a text from the reigning Queen of Cornhole, Crystal Mann. She needed a partner.

“So I said, ‘Well, I’m in,’ “ Herrera said during a phone interview Friday afternoon.

Sadly, the power duo didn’t win the doubles title. But Herrera, the 59th seed out of 64 in the King of Cornhole bracket, won two out of three games over No. 4 Eric Zocklein, who swept him last January.

“We were tied 20-20 in the second game, and he gave me two chances to score 1 point. I didn’t take advantage of it,” Herrera recalls, thinking back to last year’s title bout. “Then, just one bad throw that I had, he scored his points on me, and that was the game.”

Seeds can be somewhat misleading, as players accrue points by playing monthly majors. The top 38 point-grabbers get free entry into the national tournament.

Herrera could only carve out time to play one event last June, in Ohio, Zocklein’s home state. Of course, he’d run into Zocklein in the final. Only, this time, Herrera beat him two out of three.

But in order to get a crack at Zocklein in the big fandango, Herrera had to emerge from a field of about 200 cornholers vying for the other 26 at-large spots for the field of 64.

As fate would have it, Herrera and Zocklein both reached the Sunday championship. After winning the opener 21-16, Herrera lost Game 2 21-14 and found himself down 20-12 in the finale.

“Honestly, I thought I was done,” Herrera said.

But he rallied to tie it at 20, and then edged Zocklein 21-20 for the crown as King of Cornhole.

“You play around here and go to little tournaments and you think everyone’s good. There’s a lot of good cornholers around here,” Herrera said. “But you get to the big tournaments, and they’re just incredible. Every little chance they get, they want to score on you every time. They’re aggressive.”

What’s the trick to beating them and being considered the best? If Herrera knows, he’s not telling.

“I don’t have any tricks for anyone,” Herrera said. “For a lot of people, the trick is to block the hole. Get the first bag, block the hole and make the other thrower think about it.”

Herrera’s not a blocker. Neither is Zocklein.

“If the hole’s open, I’m going for it,” Herrera said.

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