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Army Vet Captures Cornhole Title

Practice makes perfect for business student Draven Sneed, who scores first in the college singles division at the American Cornhole League’s National College Cornhole Championships.

Draven Sneed throws a corn hole bean bag during a tournament

As the ESPN cameras went live last week in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, at the American Cornhole League’s National College Cornhole Championships, Draven Sneed was hardly nervous.

When you’ve stepped out of a perfectly good airplane as an Airborne Infantry Specialist during an eight-month tour at Camp Taji in Iraq, being on live television isn’t so bad.

When you’ve found your path to NC State because of a medical discharge from Fort Bragg’s 82nd Airborne Division because of a training jump gone wrong in Texas, throwing a beanbag at a slanted board with a hole in it isn’t so bad.

When you have to shake your smashed-up left foot – fused together by two plates, two screws and nine bolts – for a good 10 minutes every morning just to get out of bed and move around, a little fun and games not only isn’t so bad, it’s a welcomed change.

So Sneed, a junior in the Poole College of Management’s business administration program with a focus on finance, had no trouble with butterflies during the televised national finals last week, where he won the individual cornhole national championship and where he and playing partner Alex Lippard were second in doubles.

“I don’t think I played any better than I usually do,” says the Cherryville, North Carolina, native. “I just think everyone else played worse because of nerves. It was kind of nerve-wracking, but I think I might have been less nervous than everyone else.”

What’s amazing is that the 24-year-old college student and president of the NC State Student Veterans Association made it so far in competitive cornhole, a recreational activity that is often relegated to pregame tailgates, barroom table waits and backyard cookouts. He’s been playing in qualifiers and local tournaments for a little over a year and didn’t even consider going to the national event until he found a suitable double partner in Lippard.

Sneed poses for the media at the championship event in Myrtle Beach.
Sneed poses for the media at the championship event in Myrtle Beach.

“I went to my first tournament last year and I got my butt whooped, just got demolished,” Sneed says. “I was like, ‘Wait a minute, I don’t want to be this bad.’ I started playing more and more, playing against good competition and playing in tournaments all the time.”

He made his way into the 64-player individual bracket and he and Lippard qualified for the 32-team doubles bracket at the three-day national championship events, held Dec. 31 through Jan. 2 at the Myrtle Beach Sports Complex. He even got a beanbag equipment endorsement to help him pay for expenses.

The pair finished second in the doubles division to a team from Auburn and then Sneed won the individual championship in dramatic fashion, beating Blinn College’s Ryan Fillingam.

And it wasn’t all for fun: The ACL, which also has professional and open divisions, gave some $40,000 in scholarship money to the winners in the college division tournaments. Sneed is still waiting to hear exactly how much he earned to pay for future college expenses for his individual championship and second-place finish in doubles.

Sneed and tournament partner Alex Lippard celebrate second place in the college doubles category.
Sneed (left) and tournament partner Alex Lippard celebrate second place in the college doubles category.

For Sneed, competing in cornhole tournaments has been a good way to settle in at NC State. He visited here often while he was enlisted in the Army, even met his fiancée, education student Mary Catherine Dovner, while here on leave. But it’s not always easy to fit in as an older student on a young campus, so cornhole has been a way to make friends and stay involved.

He also does that with his work-study job at NC State’s Military and Veteran Services Office, a place he can hang out and meet friends with similar experiences.

“NC State has great resources for veterans and the staff is always there to help,” says Sneed, who is using that expertise to help get medical disability pay for his foot injury. “It’s a great place where we can all come together and kind of have something in common instead of just being the outsiders on campus.”

This post was originally published in NC State News.