1996 Player of the Year

This is always a tough call since there are so many worthy candidates. This year is no different. The criteria for this award is

1) Performance at Major Title Tournaments and
2) Consistency.
This year's candidates are:

Larry Imperiale, Randy Silvey, Bill Wright, David Lewis.
The obvious theme here is teammates.

Larry, Randy and Bill won the US Open and the FPA Co-op titles this year. Of that team, Larry Imperiale stands out for his veteran leadership and point of fact, he flat out shreds. His game is still pretty much the same.

Larry gets the nod for Player of the Year.
He still probably has trouble touching his toes let alone pointing them. But on the other hand, from a pure risk and excitement perspective he is better than ever. His performance this past year is nothing short of remarkable. "Laerbs" is now the all time leader in major titles with 15. That is testimony to his undying dedication to the sport and even more importantly, his consistency. Major Titles this last summer now on his trophy case were again, the US Open and the FPA Co-op.

But of course freestyle is after all a team game and this past year he had two great ones. Randy Silvey had enormous potential when I first met him in a gym in Sacramento right around 1979. He was unbelievably gifted back then. Slowly but surely, he began to improve only to totally drop out of the scene. Years later while working on a US Open routine with John Jewell at the rollercoasters in San Diego in 1988 he comes wandering up out of nowhere. He started checking us out and started to get motivated again. Now here it is 1996 and he has basically become some sort of shred-inducing-osis-wielding- turbo-fueled-gitis-flexing heavy weight champion of the whole world.

Bill Wright on the other hand has been-there -done-that oh so many times. He was kind of lurking about, sage like. Watching and doing trivial activities like hosting 20 tournaments a year kind of thing. This is the same old Bilbs that used to compete at a whippet thin 165 pounds now built more like Charles Barkley. But the old jammaster can still play with the best of them. One thing about Bilbs is his feel for the game is now and always has been carefully crafted. From concept to fruition I have been and always will be amazed.

Hardly least and never last, David Lewis has had a few curves in his career as well. I remember well how he would come up to Sonoma State for weekly lessons from Evan David and myself. We would try to show him some trick new combo we were working on and send him home to work on it. Every week he would show up and show us our move. Agape we would simply show him another move and after he'd leave we'd have to work hard just to stay ahead of him. He left to go to school at UCSB and out of the freestyle eye. All of a sudden he shows up to a Beach Bowl, to Dave Bailey's Redondo tourney and there he is, doing it all over again. I thoroughly admire his commitment to excellence. So much so that we have now given him the nickname of the "Specialist". We do not give nicknames lightly and his is well deserved. David Lewis is at the point right now that he is probably the hottest player on the planet. He is really that good. Look for him to be a familiar face at the awards ceremony for years to come.