Ultiworld’s Club Awards 2022: Breakout Player of the Year (Men’s)

The next stars of the club game.

Ultiworld’s 2022 Club Awards are presented by Breakmark; all opinions are those of the author. They have given away almost 1000 reversibles this year and want to get to 2500 and beyond. Find out how you can help and get yours at Breakmark.com!

Ultiworld is pleased to announce our annual Club Awards. While we consider both regular season and postseason performance, because of the nature of the Club Division, we weight success in the Series and at Nationals above all else. The Club Awards are voted on by Ultiworld reporters, contributors, and editors.

Our Breakout Player of the Year may be the hardest-to-define award that we dole out each year. We aim to recognize players typically 25 years old or younger who weren’t widely expected to have a major impact on the club season at the start of the year. While their teammates or local community may have known about their talent level, their performance in the 2022 season thrust them into the national consciousness in a way that raises expectations for their contributions for years to come. Without strict parameters around what constitutes “too well known” at the start of the year, our voters are given the opportunity to decide for themselves who best represented their definition of a true breakout season in the club division.

Player of the Year Award
All-Club First Team
All-Club Second Team
Offensive Player of the Year Award
Defensive Player of the Year Award
Breakout Player of the Year Award
Coach of the Year Award
Club Awards Voting Breakdown

2022 Breakout Player of the Year

Calvin Stoughton (Denver Johnny Bravo)

Denver Johnny Bravo’s Calvin Stoughton. Photo: Kevin Leclaire – Ultiphotos.com

It’s not like nobody saw Calvin Stoughton coming. He raised enough eyebrows in half of a freshman year at Colorado in 2020 that his emergence as one of Mamabird’s key playmakers in 2022 felt natural. A good run with Boulder Lotus in 2021 likewise seemed to foretell a productive club career somewhere down the road. As with a hot spot under the Earth’s crust, it was only a matter of time before Calvin Stoughton erupted into a starting lineup, something like the sixth or seventh island in an archipelago.

But like this? After a total college career of just under two seasons?!1 In his first tour of duty with an upper-crust program?!? No, Stoughton’s gasp-inducing leap to the division’s elite – quite literally, when you consider his stand-out moment in the final, pictured above – this season came well ahead of any pundit’s most optimistic timeline.

There were signs that Stoughton was putting together something special long before he skied the Player of the Year in front of a national audience, though. He locked horns with World Games star Grant Lindsley a few times back in the Pro Champs quarterfinal and emerged from the scrap with both his dignity and a couple of goals – not too shabby for a 21-year old. In the first game of Nationals, he made up ten yards of ground while running around a GOAT receiver’s line in about 1.5 seconds to make a run-through chase-down block to keep Bravo in the game. Sadly, both of those games took place in the farthest-flung corners of their respective complexes, well away from the cameras. The kid clearly had the moves: he just needed a stage.

That stage finally arrived for Bravo as they picked up steam through the bracket and Stoughton staked out a position at the center of it to give an iconic performance. Barreling into the end zone like a renegade bobsled, wearing out the air with a torrent of high point grabs, refusing to grant an inch of ground to the illustrious elders lined up opposite him, the precocious Stoughton has inked himself indelibly on the map.

Edward Stephens

First Runner-Up

Cole Wallin (Denver Johnny Bravo)

Denver Johnny Bravo’s Cole Wallin. Photo: Kevin Leclaire — Ultiphotos.com

Remember when Cole Wallin was a prototypical D-line cutter defender at Minnesota? Well, he’s managed a complete positional 180 and has become a bitingly effective O-line handler for the national champs. In an era full of squirrely small ball handlers who dink and dunk their way through tight spaces, Wallin stands out as a physically imposing backfield leader with a direct approach that made the best out of Johnny Bravo’s stable of athletic downfield threats.

That’s not to say he’s a standstill chucker: Wallin uses his strength and speed to put defenders on their heels and push the pace, using the windows his movement opens to slalom the disc down the break side of the field and past defenders who are now suddenly on an island. Bravo’s offense thrived on its ability to capitalize on momentum, and Wallin was often the one to start rolling the boulder downhill.

Patrick Stegemoeller

Second Runner-Up

Zach Slayton (Austin Doublewide)

Austin Doublewide’s Zach Slayton. Photo: Kevin Leclaire — UltiPhotos.com

As a society, the world is still working through the effects of COVID. As an ultimate community, one of the hidden effects is the sudden development of the generation of players who spent the year-plus while competitive ultimate was on hiatus leveling up. One such player is Zach Slayton. Doublewide’s backfield dynamo plays with confidence and composure beyond his years, leading a team of veterans through poaches, zones, wind, and whatever else Nationals-level defenses are throwing at him. While he garnered a bit of attention leading Texas TUFF’s offense in the college season, Slayton proved this season that he can perform against the best of the best, drawing praise from teammates and opponents alike all season long.

Alex Rubin

  1. A full 2022 and the combined rump years of 2020 and 2021 

  1. Ultiworld

    Ultiworld is the premier news media site dedicated to the sport of ultimate. This article includes the work of a number of our staff or contributors that have been identified within the piece.

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