Phi Sigma Kappa wins sole match of COVID-stricken TUGS


James Krause | Northern Star

Phi Sigma Kappa tugging against Alpha Sigma Phi, April 17, in their match outside the Yordon Center in DeKalb. Phi Sigma Kappa would go on to win the 2021 TUGS tournament.

By James Krause

DeKALB — As tuggers from Phi Sigma Kappa came out of the pit victorious following the opening match of a COVID-19 stricken TUGS tournament, Austin Peyton, coach and fraternity vice president, passed along the news to a mixed reaction.

The team scheduled to be in the finals, Phi Kappa Psi, had to pull out due to contact tracing. Phi Sigma Kappa had won the tournament by default of winning it’s only match.

“[Phi Kappa Psi] coaches passed along the news beforehand that the match was cancelled,” Peyton said. “We decided not to tell our tuggers because we didn’t want our tuggers to feel down or lose their confidence.”

Phi Sigma Kappa vice president Austin Peyton (center) coaches his tuggers, April 17, against Alpha Sigma Phi outside the Yordon Center in DeKalb. (James Krause | Northern Star)

Phi Sigma Kappa defeated Alpha Sigma Phi two ropes to none, winning both rounds in just under 10 minutes. No spectators were allowed, but the match was streamed for the first time in event history with the typical fan fare of music still present.

The tournament, like many sporting events in the past year have been, were affected by COVID-19 from the outset. Originally announced to include five teams and five matches, the opening contest scheduled for Tuesday was cancelled after a positive COVID-19 test. Thursday matches were also called off due to COVID-19 concerns by two fraternities. 

Delta Chi, Sigma Nu and the previously mentioned Phi Kappa Psi all pulled out of the tournament. 

Peyton said the commotion of the event didn’t phase his squad heading into the weekend contest.

“We just stay positive and stick together as a team,” Peyton said. “We stayed humble, stayed hydrated and stayed prepared.”

COVID-19 took Peyton out of his expected position of coach and made him a caller, whose job was to instruct tuggers when to enact certain strategies and maneuvers. Peyton said he had to learn the role in two days.

“It’s been crazy,” Peyton said. “Due to COVID guidelines, our callers got exposed to COVID and they weren’t allowed to be here today. I stepped up and I had to learn how to call in about 48 hours. It was a lot of preparation the last couple of weeks.”