More than 70 teams from throughout the Midwest and Southern United States participated July 8-9 in the MSXL Mid-Ohio Regional tournament held at the LVL Up Sports Paintball park in Grove City.
"This is kind of the culmination of a dream come true," said Dave Pando, one of the park's owners. "This tournament is helping put central Ohio on the map in paintball. Tournaments like this don't come to Ohio."
Pando believes hosting this regional tournament, with 1,000 participants, is just the beginning.
"I'm hoping we can host a national tournament next year and have 200 teams with 2,000 participants," he said.
At the same time the tournament was taking place on LVL UP's own tournament field plus two temporary fields set up by the MSXL, Pando estimated at least 200 people were participating in the open play in the park's wooded area, which is one portion of its 20-acre layout.
"Out there, they're playing just for the fun of it," Pando said as he pointed toward the wooded area. "For the guys playing in tournaments, it's all about the competition and playing to win. It's pretty intense."
Tournament teams participated in one of several divisions on a 150-by-120-foot field with dozens of inflatable bunkers players could use for cover. Each match is a best of seven games.
"You win by knocking out as many players on the opposing side as you can and getting to and hitting one of the buzzers located on either end of the field," Pando said. "The players are using guns that shoot paintballs 300 feet a second, or about 200 miles an hour. The action is furious."
A team advancing through a full component of matches will shoot more than 100,000 paintballs in one day, he said.
A player is knocked out of a game when a paintball that strikes them splatters paint on their body, Pando said.
"The balls are designed so that if they just graze you, they will explode," he said.
There is only a two-minute break between games during a match.
"Players use that time to clean themselves off, reload and check their equipment and talk strategy with their teammates," Pando said. "It's like a pit stop during an auto race. You have a short amount of time to take care of things before you have to get back out on the field."
Teams develop codes to communicate with each other during the competition, he said.
The competition is "exhilarating," said Marc Schulte, a Perrysburg resident who has been playing in national and regional tournaments since 2006.
"I'm a competitive person and the play in a paintball tournament is so intense," he said. "It's got a faster pace than a lot of sports. Athleticism is important, but you also have to be able to think and react in an instant."
Schulte was serving as a coach rather than playing at the Mid-Ohio tournament.
"I'm injured, so I can't be out there playing today, and it's frustrating," he said.
Columbus resident Paul Brennan began playing competitively on Akron University's paintball club.
"I started playing paintball just for fun with my dad when I was 15, and it just led me to want to take it to the next level," he said.
"When you're out there playing in a tournament, it's an incredible feeling," Brennan said. "Your adrenaline's pumping because it's five on five shooting balls going 300 feet per second.
"It takes a little bit of luck not to get knocked out, but there's definitely a set of skills you have to develop. It's all about learning how to shoot moving targets while you're moving yourself," he said.