When most little children misbehave, their parents put them in time out. Not Ethan Sampson. His parents would ask him if they needed to take away his curling broom. “No, Momma.” “Well then, you’d better stop what you’re doing.” He was three when they gave him his first broom. He literally slept with it.
Sampson must have been pretty well-behaved as a child, because now, at only age 17, he has competed in six USA Curling Junior National Championships, winning a bronze medal in 2017 at age 15, and most recently winning the silver medal in Two Harbors, Minn. a few weeks ago.
Sampson’s curling resume’ also includes winning the North Dakota U-14 title in 2012 (age 10), North Dakota U-18 in 2013 (age 11), and three North Dakota U-21 titles until the competition format changed to a regional in 2017. Since age 11, Sampson has only missed one USA Curling Junior National Championship. He has four more years of eligibility. He also participated in the newly inaugurated U-18 Nationals in 2018 as team North Dakota 2.
Not only is Sampson one of the most accomplished young curlers in the region and the US, he will be making his debut on the men’s level as an alternate for Team Strouse at the USA Curling Men’s National Championships February 9-17 in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Team Strouse’s first game will be against a formidable competitor, Team Shuster, the Olympic gold medalists from the most recent Winter Games.
Sampson’s most memorable and treasured achievement, however, was being awarded the Garland Legacie Spirit Of Curling Award last year at the U-18 Nationals. The award is voted on by the young competitors, choosing the curler they feel best represents the Spirit of Curling, an honor system that guides all curling events.
According the World Curling Federation, the “Spirit of Curling generally sees no player attempt to gain an advantage in the game through any malice, whether by breaking the rules, distracting opponents or acting in an unsporting manner, which would effectively disadvantage their opponents. It is expected that if a player should do so then they admit to their fault. While the main objective of the game is to determine the relative skills of the players, the Spirit of Curling demands good sportsmanship, kindly feeling and honorable conduct. This spirit should influence both the interpretation and application of the rules of the game and also the conduct of all participants on and off the ice. The Spirit of Curling plays a crucial role not only in professional curling but also in local curling. In most leagues across the world there are no referees or officials. Rules are based on the Spirit of Curling and every curler should adhere to this etiquette when playing.”
Garland Legacie was the official ice maker for the United States Curling Association and curled out of the Edmore and Lake Region Curling Clubs. Unfortunately, Legacie passed away from cancer in 2009. The Legacie family established the award at the U-18 to encourage young people to carry on the love that Garland had for curling. He was also a long-time friend of the Sampson family.
“Winning the award because my peers thought that much of me was an honor, but the fact that it was named for Garland was really humbling. My mom said he saw me throw my first rock at the club when I was four or five. My mom was crying. Jesa, Garland’s daughter and family friend, who gave me the award was crying. It was one of the proudest moments of my life,” Sampson shared.
Sampson’s love of curling stems from his family. His dad, Owen, played in the competitive circuit for several years, competing at Junior Nationals and Men’s Nationals several times before switching to the role of coach for Ethan’s junior teams. Sampson’s uncle, Ned Sampson, played with his brother for several years and is now involved with keeping the plant running and ice making at Lake Region Curling Club. Grandfather Clark was also an accomplished curler, competing at the ultimate level of World Championships in 1971, where his team finished in third place. Ethan’s sister Lauren and mom, Valerie, also enjoy playing at the recreational level, and Grandma Lou enjoyed curling as well.
“It’s neat to go to all these clubs where the older people know your grandpa. They curled against him, or they curled against your dad or your uncle. A lot of families curl together, so it’s always a friendly atmosphere,” Sampson said.
Sampson’s ultimate goal is to represent the USA at the Olympics someday.
“I watched Pete (Fenson) win the bronze in Turin, and that was all it took. I was four I think. Mom and Dad let me watch all the curling I wanted,” Sampson recalled. “They say I was glued to the TV. What’s so cool about curling is that we have the opportunity to not only meet our idols,but actually compete against them. I don’t know of any other sport where you’re able to do that.”
Sampson’s level of dedication to training is evident as his home club is Lake Region Curling Club, which is 40 miles away from his hometown of Edmore. He tries to get to the club two or three days a week to throw rocks or participate in league. He also spends a week in the summer at Camp Carruthers, a curling camp organized by Canadian curler Reid Carruthers. Carruthers staffs his camp with world level curlers, Sampson has been coached by Craig Savill, Jill Officer, Kaitlyn Lawes, Colin Hodgson, and Conner and Selena Njegovan. Sampson also participates in the USCA Developmental Program, a fitness and nutrition program developed by the USCA to help junior curlers improve.
On top of this, Sampson, a senior at Edmore High School, maintains a 3.96 GPA; is an accomplished musician on trombone, piano, and voice; and is also a strong baseball player for the Langdon Cardinals and Legion. His future plans include attending North Dakota State University in the fall, majoring in agriculture.
Live streaming of USA Curling Men’s Nationals can be found at www.TESN.us. Sampson’s team, Team Strouse, will be the feature game February 11 at 7 PM and February 13 at 7 PM. Game score updates can be found at www.curlingzone.com.