“I felt like a swimming duck, calm on the surface but underneath there’s a lot going on.” This is how Nic Scott felt at the World Knife Throwing League World Championship long before he had played his first game. He knew he had a chance to beat any other thrower, but when you’re live on the throwing lane anything can happen.
Nic Scott is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a current amateur axe and knife-thrower. Nic is different from most active knife throwers thanks to his back, which Nic said “looks like an upside-down question mark” at the base. He has a 45-degree curve at the bottom of his back from a military training accident which left him 80% disabled. According to doctors, he should not do anything physical, let alone compete in a league where you throw things. Nic never let that stop him, and within two years of starting to throw knives competitively, he made it to the world championship. Nic didn’t expect to get a chance to compete at the world championship because he felt he was too new, but thanks to his high scores and ranking 36th in the country at the time he managed to get one of the 139 chances.
The eight-hour drive to Appleton, Wisconsin, was easily the most difficult for Nic, who can’t sit for too long without being in pain. Nic describes his pain as “being in pain every day, it varies in intensity but everything I do from sitting to moving will lead to more pain. The only thing keeping me going is the shots I get in my spine to numb some of the pain.” Fortunately, while he was at the world championships he had his girlfriend Natalie to help distract him. He was very excited to arrive as this was his first knife-throwing tournament.
Nic would end up spending three days in Appleton with the first day spent going around town. He found a local brewery from which he had been trying to acquire some bourbon, and after visiting a few more stores with Natalie they ended up going to the local axe-throwing venue, Appleton Axe, for a meet and greet. Pizza was served and everyone who attended got the chance to meet their potential competitors. “Everyone was so friendly in spite of the coming tournament; it was surprisingly friendly,” said Natalie.
On Nic’s second day in Appleton, everyone competing in the tournament went to the convention center where the tournament would be held to learn the rules and be told where they’d be going on the day. The tournament was a double elimination, where you get a second chance even if you lost a match. The A-bracket was where everyone started, and after a loss, the competitors were moved to the B-bracket. If the thrower lost there, they were out. The individual match setup was the best two-out-of-three games where everyone threw 10 times per game, five from beyond 10 feet and five from beyond 15 feet with a perfect score being 64. After leaving the venue, some people went to a local Denny’s to hang out and have dinner, and Nic joined them.
Nic’s third day was the day of the tournament. He started his day by picking up Bryan Hotz, another member of Nic’s local league who flew to Appleton and needed a ride. They were in different brackets but could see each other throw in their downtime. “Nic started very well from close range, it was the drops from long range that killed him,” said Bryan. Despite being in a relatively new environment, Nic had a lot of familiar faces that he’d seen at other axe-throwing tournaments. His long-time friend and current boss Kyle Rickenbaugh was also attending, and having him there definitely helped Nic to feel like part of the gang.
Greg Ward, Nic’s first opponent, and a very recent acquaintance thanks to the meet-up at Denny’s the day prior, was a tough match-up. Unfortunately for Nic, he didn’t win any of the games. He dropped five knives total across two games, sealing his fate and sending him to the B-bracket. Nic never expected to win, but even with his low expectations losing still hurt. “It was those damn drops, man, I was on pace with him but fell apart at the end both times,” said Nic.
In match two, which was his first in the B-bracket, Nic was keeping pace with his opponent Joe Divine until right at the end of each game, when he would fall slightly behind and end up losing. Overall, the last two games went slightly better, considering he only lost by a collective six points across the two games. Nic said about his losses, “It must have been the nerves man, my drop rate and overall play were solid this season but for some reason, I didn’t live up to my potential enough to secure a win. Taking one game would have made me feel better”
Despite losing his matches there was still some upside to his trip. After losing his second game, he joined some of the other people who went 0-2 for a little tournament at Appleton Axe. Having already been eliminated from the world championship Nic’s nerves were completely gone. “Once it didn’t matter anymore I was on fire,” Nic said. His nerves were so far gone that he completely swept that tournament, going undefeated and winning $75. A small compensation, but enough to make sure that the trip wasn’t a total loss.
Having accomplished this feat despite his difficulties functioning day-to-day, Nic is very proud of himself: “I made it to the worlds, man, how is that not cool in its own right? I don’t care that I didn’t win anything, the fact that I made it at all is enough for me” said Nic. This proves that no matter what you’re afflicted with or how physically able you are, if you set your mind to something you can make it a lot further than you think, especially if you have the toughness of a Marine.