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50 days before college football resumes, some Hawkeyes stand out in Solon Beef Days Hay Bale Toss
Environment for hay bale toss felt ‘kind of like Kinnick for the first time’
SOLON — At first glance, the competition Iowa football players partook in Friday night looked nothing like a game at Kinnick Stadium.
The playing surface wasn’t Kinnick’s artificial turf, but rather Solon’s two-lane Main Street. The closest thing to a grandstand was the porch of a nearby two-story, 108-year-old building.
The steak dinner served — consisting of an eight-ounce rib-eye, mashed potatoes with gravy, a roll and a drink for $15 — surely offered more value than any meal at a college football stadium.
The most obvious difference? It was a hay bale toss, not a football game.
But it felt, according to Iowa defensive lineman Yahya Black, “kind of like Kinnick for the first time.” The environment in Solon had “a lot of eyes on me,” he said, from seemingly every direction as hundreds watched.
“I won’t lie,” Black said. “I was really nervous about it.”
Iowa offensive lineman Gennings Dunker was the winner of Solon Beef Days’ 2022 hay bale toss after successfully clearing a 12-foot, 6-inch bar with a hay bale.
Dunker said there never was a point where he felt like he was ahead of the competition.
“I was kind of stressed the whole time,” Dunker said.
Dunker wasn’t going to let one of the Hawkeyes from different position groups one-up him or the other offensive linemen.
“No shot, no,” Dunker said. “I’d rather die.”
Two others from the 25-man field, including Iowa offensive lineman Tyler Elsbury, cleared the 12-foot bar, but they failed in two attempts in the next round.
Three Iowa linemen — Black and offensive linemen Logan Jones and Connor Colby — came up short at 12 feet.
“I didn’t want to be the first one out, but all three of us went out at one time, so I’m not disappointed in my efforts,” Black said.
One other unsuspecting Hawkeye reached the 12-foot round, too — Riley Moss. The 6-foot-1, 193-pound cornerback heaved hay bales with success in the first six rounds despite the obvious size disadvantage.
“That was impressive,” Elsbury said. “Did better than last year, that’s for sure. … He’s an explosive guy.”
Dunker won Friday’s competition while sporting a look one might expect to see at a hay bale toss rather than a football game — cutoff jean shorts that he bought at Goodwill and a plaid, button-up shirt without any sleeves on it.
“I thought it’d be a great look,” Dunker said. “I was like, ‘Why not try it?’”
Not that his appearance showed it, but Dunker and others weren’t exactly in midseason hay-baling form. Dunker hadn’t touched a hay bale in a year, nor had Elsbury. Black had never competed in a hay bale toss.
There’s an art to a successful hay bale toss, as Black discovered on the fly.
“I think it’s all in the hay bale,” Black said. “You’ve got to find a light one. … Not stiff, but a little flimsy.”
The Hawkeyes had some competition from some non-football players. One non-football player — organizer Matt Kroul quickly gave him the nickname “Big Jay” — hung with the Division I athletes for a while before eventually coming up short in one of the final rounds.
The Hawkeye football players’ extracurricular strength activity happened the same day as a morning workout at the football facility.
“I’ll definitely be tired in the morning,” Black said.
Elsbury isn’t expecting any post-hay-bale-toss reprieve from strength coach Raimond Braithwaite.
“We’ll be back at it on Monday,” Elsbury said.
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