Would you like to react to this message? Create an account in a few clicks or log in to continue.

Go down
Posts : 174
Reputation : 226
Join date : 2019-11-19

2023 TBC Analysis Empty 2023 TBC Analysis

Tue Jun 20, 2023 12:40 pm
Initial Thoughts:

Tahj Burnett, Northwestern (Second Chair: Ben Swedberg, Coach: Nat Warner):
TBC isn't easy. Sometimes, even the best competitors struggle to translate their extraordinary skills to the absurd format and short prep time. But some skills are universal, and some people have all the pieces to make the switch look effortless. We think one of those people is Tahj Burnett. Strong likability, presence, and a really good voice are all things that won't be hurt by a one day prep period, and might allow him to shine against the rest of the field. He also brings a broader skill set than many of the competitors here. In a year with an unusually high number of openers at TBC, Burnett might just be the hardest of them to out-perform. He's been opening for Northwestern's A team since fall 2020 and is known for a performative, well-paced, and incredibly charismatic storytelling style. He's got both an All-National and an All-American award as an opener. On the other side, Burnett is not just a truly compelling witness, but a strikingly well-rounded one: he's awarded as an expert, a character, and a cryer, including winning his 2023 AA as Robin Skye. We're not sure if it means anything that Burnett has the exact same attorney/witness award breakdown as Travis Harper, but we certainly won't take it as a bad sign. If Burnett has a weakness, it's the double edge of one of his greatest strengths: he's occasionally performative to a fault, and leans on his presentation skills to support his substance and content. We'll be watching to see how a matchup with one of the more clean and technical competitors here plays out: Burnett could win on dynamics and magnetism, or lose on precision and substance. We're also not sure how much closing experience he has, and against a field like this one, one check could swing a lot of ballots. Burnett is joined by coach-of-an-indeterminate-number-of-programs Nat Warner, who cut his teeth on TBC prep a year ago working with Burnett's old teammate Ruby Scanlon. Warner will bring a strong foundation of writing experience and the team cohesion of having coached Burnett since 2019. Rounding out the Northwestern squad is Ben Swedberg, a longtime NU A middle attorney known for smart content. His technical knowledge, clean benchwork, and ability to write natural-sounding scripts will all complement Burnett's talents well. We don't envy whoever draws Burnett next weekend, but we're confident his rounds will make for some fantastic mock trial.

Michael Chandler, Brown (Second Chair: Kiara Moon, Coach: Michael D’Ippolito):
We told you Michael Chandler was the most exciting attorney in the play-in field, and boy did he deliver. His rapport with the jury, his indignation on cross, and his flashy closings were out in full force, so in 2023, for the first time in TBC history, Brown University Mock Trial will be represented at Trial by Combat. This is a year of breakthroughs for the program: for the first time in years, they didn’t pack up their documents and hang up their suits after ORCS; for the first time in years, they walked away from New Rochelle with a trophy and a bid to Memphis; and for the first time in years, they heard their name called at a Nationals award ceremony. And through it all, Chandler was there: as the only senior (ish, whatever it’s called when you graduate in the winter of your fifth year), as the double closer, and as the foot-stomping, hand-waving, dramatic anchor of an otherwise surgically precise bench. His fire, contrasted with Kiara Moon’s businesslike openings and Aniyah Nelson’s clean-cut, never-messes-up middle attorney, was exactly the combination they needed to finally make their way onto the Nationals podium. Now, some over-the-top attorneys need their co-counsel to temper their style, but we expect he won’t run into this issue in the one-on-one format. While his style was distinct from Moon’s, and her’s from Nelson’s, and so on, they shared a…cadence. That’s right: Stanford doesn’t own it anymore, folks, we’ve got classic mock voice coming at you straight from Providence, Rhode Island. You know it, you’ve heard it, hell, you’ve probably done it before. We joke, but the classic cadence can be a talented attorney’s downfall when faced with grouchy judges. However, in the play-in tournament, on his own, Chandler’s tone was less evident, and his natural charisma and penchant for drama shone: he was able to best two-time All-American Jackson Kunde in the final. It’s no secret that Brown made it work in Memphis this year, and in no small part thanks to Chandler, so we’re optimistic about his chances.  In the play-in, All-American, All-National, sophomore expert witness Alex Lee joined him as his second chair. For the main event, Lee was swapped out for another member of this year's breakout Nationals team: opener extraordinaire Kiara Moon. Moon’s status as a veteran opener will help Chandler round out his statement chops, and their experience on a bench together will streamline the writing process. Above all, what really makes the difference in this competition is how smoothly you prepare—how quickly you write and how easily you memorize. This pair, riding the coattails of their Nationals success, should complement each other perfectly in the preparation process, and they’ve clearly got enough experience together to work well in round. Coaching the pair is AMTA board member, Felder case-writer, Brown coach, and former Duke competitor, Michael D’Ippolito. Notably, nobody on this squad has ever competed or coached at TBC, a concern for much of the field this year. But they do have experience with short prep: they won the play in tournament just a few weeks ago. Whether he’s decimating a witness on cross or casually weaving a complex story-metaphor on closing, Chandler is sure to impress, excite, and prove a tough match for anybody in the Philly crowd.

Ria Debnath, UCLA (Second Chair: Drew Ashlock, Coach: Elizabeth Smiley):
What a year it’s been for the Bruins. All the way back last summer, a UCLA team went to the Rookie Rumble final, they had a near perfect winter season, an insurmountable 11 ballot finish in the Pohlman division, all en route to hoisting the Calkins trophy after defeating the reigning national champs in one of the best final rounds in recent memory. One common denominator? Ria Debnath. Debnath has been a powerhouse on the west coast for a long time, but this year she exploded onto the national scene. Perhaps the scariest part of it all? She seems to do well in every facet of trial that she faces. Whether it be impassioned expert and defendant crosses that leave witnesses speechless and judges in awe, or her extreme professionalism and creativity when dealing with party witnesses, Debnath will find a way to shine regardless of her role. We do have some lingering questions, though. This past year, Debnath has closed. Clever arguments on carefully crafted facts along with her fiery closing style are highlights that make her performances special. However, up until this year, she opened with some success, but definitely not as much as this past year. We wonder whether Debnath will be able to scale back some of that argumentation for opens to keep up with some of the incredible openers in this field. And while Debnath has some experience as an expert witness, she might not be as versatile there as some other competitors. Traveling to Philadelphia to help her on those fronts will be her Rookie Rumble co-counsel Drew Ashlock. We’ve heard enough about “equal exchanges” to know that those two are dynamite co-counsel. Also traveling to Philly to be at the controls for the Bruins will be a phenomenal coach and one of the best mock trial minds in the activity in Elizabeth Smiley. Debnath walks into the TBC courtroom with the confidence of a national champ, and the target on her back that comes with it. Anyone she lines up against will be bringing their best to take her down. But let’s not forget that it was only two years ago that the Bruins took home the sword with Audrey Shepard’s victory. Debnath has the skill and her team has the experience. That’s a recipe for success when it comes to TBC. Let’s see if she can etch her name in the AMTA history books by becoming the first advocate to win a national championship and Bernstein’s coveted sword in the same year.

Marra Edwards, Furman (Second Chair: Lilly Meyer, Coach: Spencer Richardson):
Once upon a time, in a far off Kingdom known as Greenville, South Carolina—a land known for fake politeness and mock voice—there lived a fake attorney named Marra Edwards. Back then, Edwards’ life was not all that different from any other mocker in the nation’s Southeast—an award here and there, some promising matchups with the Georgia Tech and Duke powerhouses of the area, and a history of not-quite-close-enough finishes at ORCS. But everything changed overnight for Edwards, as she transformed her previously ORCS-bubble Furman program into members of the top-48, left Lancaster Nationals with two shining glass All-Americans, and rode off happily-ever-after into her senior season after being hailed the fourth-best attorney in the nation. If you didn’t know Marra Edwards, you should: she’s AMTA’s very own mock trial Cinderella. But unlike her Disney counterpart, Edwards didn’t just have to enlist a rodent army and gather a magical gourd to get to where she is now as the fan-favorite of this field. Edwards’ talent comes from a lot of mocking—11 years, in fact. Anyone who’s hit her in trial can tell you that when the crocs come off and the heels go on, she is an indomitable force. Why? There’s a few things that set Edwards apart from the pack. She’s an undeniably compelling speaker. Edwards reaches a passion in her closings where a weaker attorney might sound frantic—but delivers it with a gravitas and a captivating nature that makes her sound powerful. But maybe most importantly (at the risk of sounding like a preschool teacher) she knows how to be herself. No one on the AMTA circuit is as good at letting their own personality shine through as Marra Edwards. But what does the magic mirror foretell about Marra’s prospects in Drexel this June? (we know we’re mixing our fairytale metaphors–cut us some slack) The good news is we have evidence of Edwards learning from her past mistakes from her already pretty stellar fourth-place run last year. Last year Edwards suffered most on witnessing. Unfortunately for everyone she’ll be competing against, Edwards put in some hours on polishing up her witnessing chops this year, and left with a handful of witness awards to show from it. We’ll see if her recent success with witnessing on the AMTA circuit translates to witnessing checkmarks at TBC. Marra will be coached by her own fairy godmothers: the team that took her to LA last year. This is a dream team that came together at the last minute for Edwards—readers who pay close attention to our posts will notice Richardson stepped in after Lawrence Hinton became unavailable. That’s an even better sign for Edwards this time around: if Richardson and Meyer can make magic happen for Edwards on short notice, who knows what they’ll be able to do with a more well-established summer prep dynamic. Anticipate that this group will be able to hit the ground running because they’ll know what they need from each other. One thing is for sure in this mock trial fairytale… Marra Edwards has a very good chance at a happily ever after.

Sam Farnsworth, Chicago (Second Chair: Ali Alekri, Coach: Sam Jahangir):
Farnsworth enters TBC with a lot of institutional knowledge on his side. Now, we usually start by talking about the competitor and then move into the second chair and coach, but Farnsworth is unique. To start off, Chicago is now tied for the school to send the most competitors to TBC. In TBC’s 6 year existence, Farnsworth will be the 5th participant to represent Chicago. The only other programs to do that (Yale, UVA and Stanford), aren’t sending competitors this year. That makes Chicago the most experienced program in this field and it helps that long time coach Sam Jahangir has coached many a time before placing in two of those years. Add in a 2022 final round appearance, and Chicago’s resume alone makes Farnsworth a threat, but the institutional knowledge doesn’t stop with the program as a whole. The Farnsworth/Alekri/Jahangir team was the exact team that competed in LA last year when Farnsworth second chaired for his current second chair, Ali Alekri. While Alekri’s run didn’t match those of teammates in previous years, this team has essentially done this tournament before and knows what to expect. Alekri is the first TBC competitor to move to second chair the following year, which puts him in a unique and exciting position. This team knows how to prep, they know how to win and they know the process better than any team here. The variable here is Sam “Let’s Play Ball” Farnsworth himself. While he isn’t the most awarded competitor in the field, he’s an All-American, All-National and All-Regional attorney. Farnsworth is smart. When you watch a Farnsworth cross or close, you’re immediately impressed with the points he is making and the efficiency with which he makes them. And despite primarily being a closer, his openings might be better than his closings. He's good on his feet and is slow and easy to track with. He isn't going to run around the courtroom or get righteously angry like some other competitors in the field. He is just going to be right and make you realize he is right. The question is whether that style will work against some of the more flashy competitors. We’ll find out this weekend.

Travis Harper, Harvard (Second Chair: Jessica Alexander, Coach: Sarah Stebbins):
In the lead up to this year's Trial By Combat, there was one question on everyone's mind: Will Travis Harper be returning? For the spectators, that's a question that promises outstanding performances and electrifying rounds. For competitors, that's a question that summons a feeling of dread. Out of all the star power that will be competing at Drexel, "Harper" is the name you least want to see on that pairings sheet. And there’s a reason for that. His resume might be one of the scariest in AMTA history. This is his third year at TBC, his second NCT Final Round, and he now has five All Americans. He’s also one of just five people to place at TBC two years in a row—8th in 2022 and 3rd in 2023. And, this year, that experience might make the difference. Trial By Combat is a remarkably difficult competition and being one of two returning competitors will give Harper an advantage simply for knowing what to expect. For Harper, being forced to improvise is just strolling through home turf—anyone who's seen Harper perform knows that it's no script required. But it's this same comfort in performing off-the-cuff that could also prove a challenge. Harper goes big, whether that's movement about the well or the hand motions on "substantially more prejudicial than probative." His dynamism is captivating to watch—a room during a Travis Harper speech is electric. But when you're improvising at 100 miles an hour, it's always possible to slip up. Harper will be most challenged against the surgical attorney who's machined script doesn't have room for the offbeat pause. If they can make him seem less tidy, he'll lose checks. If he can bring more energy, he'll gain them back. We're not the betting type (that's a lie) but if we were, there'd be money on the latter. Rounding out the Harvard team are two competitors that are no strangers to the All-American. In 2021 and 2022, Harper worked with co-captain Stella Asmerom, but for the third time around, Asmerom will be stepping down to be replaced by two time Final Round opener and incisive cross-examiner Jessica Alexander. This season, Harper opened for Alexander through ORCS, lending the pair a chemistry that's nothing to scoff at. Rounding out the team is Georgia Tech (now UCLA law) competitor and four-time All American Sarah Stebbins—Harper's high school mentor and coach for the last two TBC runs, fresh off a law school National Championship. This year will mark her 5th appearance at Trial by Combat: Stebbins will have participated in more Trials by Combat (that’s the plural) than anyone else, ever. When you combine Stebbins’ four All Americans with Harper’s five All-Americans and Alexander’s two, that's a total of 11 All Americans, enough to make any seasoned competitor scared, jealous, or a little bit of both. Come June 24, you'll find Harper, suit and smile adorned, ready for a day of friendly (ruthless) competition. Through the small talk, it will be easy to forget that this is the man who lives in the final round, who double-threats effortlessly, and who has a pile of hardware so high you'd need a pen and paper just to count it all. Through the small talk, there might even be a point where you find yourself at ease. Don't be.

Danielle Jacoby, Emory (Second Chair: Fiona Liu, Coach: Riya Lakkaraju):
The TBC sword. The most sought after individual award in all the land. It’s heavily shielded, protected by an empire’s worth of flash, rhetoric, and responsiveness in the form of 15 other competitors. But if you try to overwhelm the field with a frontal assault and fly in guns blazing, then you’re likely to realize—in the words of previous unsuccessful competitors—“it’s a trap”. So what if we were to tell you Bernstein’s battlestation of a competition has a weakness—a hidden port that might allow a single clean, clear, polished competitor to blow the whole competition wide open? We’ve seen it before. Peale and Durrani from UVA cracked 5th and 4th during their runs. Castleberry finished 3rd in 2021. And finally, the wise masters of the polish strategy: Johnson in 2019 and Crosby in 2022, whose only difference from another wise master of the galaxy is that they probably don't live in a swamp and their mock voice isn’t as bad. Every one of these competitors relied on clarity and composure to win their checks, and Emperor Bernstein’s judging pool ate it up. But if you think this trainwreck of an extended metaphor ends here, buckle up, because “we’re going in.” From her humble beginnings as an All-American on the backwater planet of Emory B, Danielle Jacoby has spent the past two years on the plucky, student-run Emory A team. She’s here now with her second All-American and arguably the best objections in the field. She's a natural closer, but actually opened a side this year. And throughout all of it—every question and statement and response—Jacoby is absolutely unflappable, precise and poised no matter what happens in round. You're not going to be able to throw her off her game. But the rebels of Emory A have had some setbacks. They spent 2021 as one of the best teams in the country, a glittering paradise of final round potential, only to have their planet-sized hopes vaporized by a big green laser or something, so Jacoby and her team have regrouped to plan her final attack. And no assault on Emperor Bernstein would be complete without a devil-may-care, antihero sidekick: Fiona Liu, who closed the other side of Emory A this year, brings a swagger and attack to content that complements Jacoby's clinical style. Finally, there's her coach, Riya Lakkaraju. Lakkaraju once stood where Jacoby did, battling against the forces of darkness and Ben Crosby in the TBC final. But there's no getting around what happened last June: Lakkaraju went to the dark side of mock trial, choking her co-counsel Sara Delacey with the jumper cables exhibit. Now, Jacoby's metaphorical father is back, to help her win it all. Will Jacoby prevail? All we know is that she’ll do it, or she will not. There is no try.

Josiah Jones, UC Irvine (Second Chair: Dylan Darwish, Coach: Emily Shaw):
Of all the awards we have listed in the chart below, the most important one is missing: SPAMTA. The award represents a lot more than just sportsmanship—it is also a good marker of who everyone wants to root for. So we figure if anyone is going to be getting the fan support come June, it will be none other than the man who brought home SPAMTA at Nats this year: Josiah Jones. Jones is quite possibly the nicest competitor, both in and out of the courtroom, that this field has to offer. But don’t let the charm fool you, Jones is an unwavering pillar of mock trial excellence. His openings are a masterclass in storytelling without heavy-handed drama. Those on the other side of a Josiah Jones cross feel the pressure of intense control without seeing even the slightest sign of frustration from him. If you want to crack the cool exterior, objections won’t do the trick either. Jones is collected and articulate on every argument. Competitors are going to have to throw everything they have if they want to get Jones off his relaxed, composed game. But that easy-going demeanor might play against Jones in this region. In the cutthroat land of Philadelphia, judges might be drawn to a more straight-laced, aggressive style. Jones will also have to learn how to shift away from the non-argumentative storytelling he’s gotten comfortable with on openings these past competitive seasons when it comes time for closings. While a weakness among so many mockers is to be over combative, we think Jones might have the opposite problem. Luckily, he’s got the right team to get him ready for game day. Emily Shaw knows Mock Trial. She’s guided UCI Mock Trial back to becoming a top team nationwide and we’re sure she can bring that same kind of magic to this competition. Joining Jones at counsel table will be none other than the Cowboy of Orange County: Dylan Darwish. After spending a season double witnessing for UCI A, Darwish can provide an insight to the two rounds in prelims that a lot of competitors in this field might overlook. Josiah Jones is a Gladiator, an All-National Attorney, and this year, his team secured 4th at Nats. Come June, we expect he’ll be looking to add one more accolade. He’s here to get a sword and win SPAMTA. And Bernstein isn’t giving out SPAMTA…

Divya Kumar, Cincinnati (Second Chair: Cole Jorgensen, Coach: Austin LiPuma):
In the event that you found yourself examining the University of Cincinnati’s well-curated page of tournament results, you’d be hard-pressed to find a single tournament without the addendum of “*Divya Kumar, Outstanding Attorney.” As a mocker who competes in the less attention-grabbing midwest, Kumar might not appear to stand out in this field at a first glance. But Ohioan or not, a two-time All-American is nothing to scoff at—and that’s just one of many reasons it’d be a mistake to overlook Kumar’s debut in Drexel. For one, UC has a pretty compelling history at TBC. Divya Kumar is the third Bearcat to compete, preceded by Stephen Dooglus Johnson Jr. in 2018 and 2019 and Julia Greve in 2020. Her predecessors’ placement pattern reads like a graph of a sinusoidal curve: 2018: Stephen Johnson Jr. does not place. 2019: Stephen Johnson Jr. wins the whole thing. 2020: Julia Greve does not place. If we count those three data points as a trend (and patterns always hold true no matter what–it’s a tenet of analysis) then Kumar’s up for a win. Even if we take a slightly more cynical look at these numbers, at a minimum we can say she’ll be coming in with the institutional knowledge of one of the only five programs to take home a sword. But beyond the baseline training she’s got, we also know Divya Kumar is good at what she does. In a word, she’s compelling. Her statements, her presence, her well-timed 702 objections. Kumar’s no stranger to carrying most parts of trial. Last year, Kumar was a double-sided A-team closer, while this year, she split those statements with teammate Jessica Lorenzo which means she has both opening and closing experience. We’ve been quiet on one pretty major predictor of Kumar’s success here: her high level track record. There’s a reason for that–it isn’t terrific. The last time the Bearcats left NCT with a positive record (by half a ballot) was all the way back in 2010. This year, they left Memphis with a record of 2-9-1 against four teams who also failed to muster a positive record. The fact that Cinci sees these struggles at these high level, short prep competitions doesn’t serve well for Kumar’s prospects at TBC–the highest level, shortest prep competition there is. And at a competition comprised of almost entirely repeat nationals competitors, it might be an uphill battle for Divya Kumar. She’ll be facing off against competitors who are more ferocious than the ones she won her two All-Americans off of–and so we’re hesitant to promise her success will hold up. Still, there’s a lot of reasons to be cautiously optimistic for Kumar here. Lest we forget, the last time she competed in the Keystone state, she returned to Cincinnati with an All-American to show for it. If history tells us anything, it’s to not overlook Kumar. This bearcat’s got claws. Kumar will be joined by A team witness Cole Jorgensen making Kumar one of the few to be joined by a primary witness, not attorney. As a directing duo, they have the advantage of having worked together more closely than some other pairs, but Jorgensen might not be as comfortable writing crosses and statements. To pick up that slack Kumar, brings head coach Austin LiPuma who’s coached Cincinnati to multiple nationals appearances in his ten seasons coaching UC.

Arabella Loera, Dayton (Second Chair: Lydia Artz, Coach: Jade Smarda):
Regardless of where you compete, if you were on Mock Trial Confessions in the Spring of 2022, you were quickly made familiar with two hot-button topics on the northeastern mock trial circuit: Tufts A’s ‘underwhelming’ second-time second place finish, and the means of TBC selection. A flood of confessions decried Bernstein and Pasquarello’s selection process as ‘elitist,’ claiming that the status of being in the “top-16” was often given to competitors from high-tier, well-established programs at the expense of equally talented mockers from programs that don’t appear on the NCT podium. That kerfuffle is critical in understanding Loera’s place here. Because regardless of anything she does on June 24th, Loera is going to go down in the books as an l outlier. She’ll be the competitor with the lowest performing team (outside of alternates) in TBC’s six year history. But she also epitomizes the hypothetical that critics of the old selection system posited: Loera is a competitor so individually skilled that despite Dayton never mustering more than a 3-5 record at ORCS, she’s racked up a whopping 21 individual awards that we could find—eight of which are near-perfect ranks from the AMTA tournaments she’s attended throughout her career. It’s a set of qualifying criteria that make her almost incomparable to the rest of the field. On the one hand, she’s got more attorney awards than anyone else who’ll be at Drexel, but on the other hand, a lot of these are awards from the Huskie Cup, not GAMTI. Ultimately, if you care about the broad-strokes, theory-of-mock questions that the 2023 Trial By Combat will be answering, Loera is the competitor to watch. Not because she’ll be the last mocker at her experience level to be a part of the top fourteen (at least, not if changes like the play-in tournament stick), but because her weekend competing against the highest echelon will give us the best evaluation of what strengths and weaknesses an outstanding competitor from outside the top 100 teams truly has. Stylistically speaking, Loera’s arguments tend to be fact heavy rather than rhetoric or ethos heavy. If the prep period goes well for her, expect her to be one of the people who comes up with an interesting approach to the nitpicky details that are always there to mine in the TBC cases. Expect her to be the one that frames those facts in a way that just makes the judges see things differently. But we also worry that this fact heavy style may be harder to prep than a style that relies more on easily recyclable rhetoric. Loera is bringing Jade Smarda as her coach and Lydia Artz as her second chair. Artz has been on Dayton’s A team with Loera for the last few years and has experience as both an attorney and as an award winning witness. Smarda is one of the many Miami exodus alums who have defected from coaching their home program and gone on to significantly improve another Midwestern program. Smarda joined Dayton in 2015, and shortly thereafter Dayton became a ranked program. Let’s see if she can boost Dayton to a TBC ranked program, too.

Charles Stock, Notre Dame (Second Chair: Theodora Ciobanu, Coach: Henry Leaman):
What’s really the point of TBC? Most will tell you that it’s to identify the best mock trial competitor in the country. A few might say it's to give camp icon Phil Pasquerello content for his renowned limited series WatchMock. But even fewer know the truth—that TBC is for the memes. Because between Bennett Demsky’s cabinets and Riya Lakkaraju getting choked out in the middle of a courtroom, this annual collection of AMTA’s crème de la crème has time and again given us some good laughs. So when we look a little closer™ at this year’s field we can’t help but get a tad bit giddy at the sight of confessions’ golden child Mr. Charles Stock. But make no mistake, we don’t just think that the power of Charlie at TBC could resurrect Mock Trial Memes for Salty Teams, we know he’s no joke when it comes to this competition. If you see everyone's favorite stalk-fed southern boy strut into your Philly courtroom you shouldn’t be laughing because he’s got everything he needs to take home the title this year. For starters, Stock is one of the most dynamic competitors in this field. He embodies your classic Stern-esque defense closer who seems to be fueled by pure audacity and desire to dazzle. Anyone who’s been in the sight line of those piercing blue eyes can tell you he’s effortlessly comfortable in the well, willing to react and adapt on a dime. Stock weaponizes momentum to his advantage to a degree we haven’t seen since the likes of Regina Campbell or… well, Travis Harper. That is to say that in a format where no one has time to polish he may be able to power through on raw presence. But all of this is what made Stock unlucky number seventeen last year as the TBC alternate. What’s pushed him into the field proper this year is his newfound role as one of the country’s most captivating openers and the real gag of last season—his witnessing chops. After racking up witness awards in this year's invite season and opening for Notre Dame all the way to a program best 9th place at NCT, Stock has an argument for being one of the most well-rounded competitors in this year’s field. The biggest question for how Stock will fare concerns how he’ll deal with the quick prep. While he may have been the alternate last year he hasn’t had to put any of his 24-hour turnaround content to the test. Joining Stock in Philadelphia to hopefully ease that process is Theodora Ciobanu, a rising star from Notre Dame B. While she hasn’t experienced quite the level of competition at play here, she has a tight grasp of the facts that’ll be important to grounding Stock’s off the walls sensibilities. And finally, the meme team wouldn’t be complete without everyone’s favorite photographer extraordinaire Henry Leaman, who, while also new to TBC, might be able to draw on some of the love and honor of his alma mater Miami for some experience. At the very least, he’ll give us some great pictures to add to our meme pantheon, whether that’s Stock with the sword or a snapshot of the moment the Stock market comes crashing down.

Margaret Veglahn, Tufts (Second Chair: Ian Carson, Coach: Bennett Demsky):
Margaret Veglahn is a unique phenomenon: the first Tufts competitor in recent memory whose name comes with the slightest possibility of being one you might not already know. Of course, this has nothing to do with her courtroom acumen. If you’ve looked at practically any tab summary over the past three months, you know Margaret Veglahn. And if you’ve had the absolute misfortune to stand up and give an opening statement after she’s left the well, Margaret Veglahn isn’t just a name you know—it’s a name that haunts your nightmares. But since the maddening horde of mock trial confessions didn’t latch on to her the way they did to Demsky, Veglahn doesn’t have quite the media omnipresence of her predecessor, and the fact is that it’s a shame Veglahn is as underrated as she is, because by about any metric you can find, she’s damn good. Veglahn comes off as a more realistic portrayal of an excellent trial attorney than the competitor that Tufts typically produces—or the large majority of attorneys in this field. She’s consistently hyper-clean, undeniably polished, and approaches every cross, statement, and objection with a clinical and near-surgical technical skill and evident professional confidence. She won’t be flashy—she never has been. She spent the formative years of her career on Tufts A, sharing benches with the great-grandfather of mock-voice in Will Wilson, a 6’7” ginger man, and the pink, red, and baby blue suited Fatima Lawan—not to mention Demsky. Trying to add more flair to a lineup like that is like trying to sprinkle glitter on a firecracker, so instead of becoming explosive, Veglahn settled into being the counterweight of the bench: even-keel and eternally palatable. Will her style put up the same results when it’s not contrasted with chaos? It’s tough to say. On the one hand, this past NCT did not go well for Veglahn’s Tufts team. After two years in a row finishing second in their division, this year saw Tufts A fail to place at all. On the other hand, Veglahn has assembled a pretty stellar trophy cabinet this season, including a shiny double All-National award. And historically, wide ranging appeal combined with technical precision has scored well with the law school heavy TBC judging pool. See: Crosby, Benjamin. Coaching Veglahn is Bennett Demsky, one of a select few to place twice at TBC, coming in 2nd in 2021 and 8th in 2022, where Veglahn was his second chair. Rounding out the team is second chair Ian Carson, who is notable for the empty jug of milk he brings around to every single tournament and a calm and collected demeanor that is reminiscent of Veglahn’s. Believe us, we know how absurd it is to tell you a competitor from Tufts is underrated. We expect by the end of the weekend, you’ll know the name Margaret Veglahn.

Bryan Walker, Georgia (Second Chair: Justin Xu, Coach: Daniel MacDonald):
When’s the last time a story truly made you feel transported into its world? Maybe it was a good book you fell into or a tall-tale told on the long drive back from competition, but those privileged enough to compete against Bryan Walker get to experience the joy of being transported every time they set foot in the courtroom with him. You see, Walker has an unprecedented ability to weave story and narrative through all he does. Whether it involves whisking jurors away during a statement, painting a brutally realistic scene during a pointed cross, or gently sprinkling in background details and flavor during a direct, by the end of trial, Walker has penned an expertly composed novel that would keep any reader hurriedly turning pages in hopes of reaching the satisfying conclusion earlier. But don’t be fooled, under the gilded facade of storytelling excellence lies a foundation even more beautiful than the adorned surface. Walker knows his stuff. Not only will he make you feel like you’re sitting within the cockpit of a spiraling aircraft or witnessing a blazing inferno at a local bar, he’ll underpin it with a legal argument that’ll leave jurors with no other option but to find in his favor. Walker finds ways to continue his saga in every opportunity he can, including wrapping in theme and theory to his objection arguments. As a Georgia native, Walker’s natural colloquialism allows for effortless explanation of judicial concepts, and his southern charm flourishes in the courtroom. The question with Walker will be if his content can match the rest of the field. Georgia is known for outlandish theories and taking risks and in TBC, that’s risky. It could be the thing that sets him apart from the rest, or the mistake that others will quickly exploit. If successful, Walker is nearly guaranteed a solid run in the game, but even if not, rest assured he will be an absolute pleasure to watch alongside his second chair, Justin Xu. Having spent the last two seasons on the same counsel table, Walker and Xu’s chemistry should come effortlessly. Walker and Xu are two sides of the same coin: intelligent, charismatic, and calculated. While Bryan will lean more into a charismatic approach, Xu’s relaxed, clever angles on cross examination will help to provide variety from this duo’s bench and is sure to connect with jury members of varied preference. Not to mention these two are led by their familiar coach Daniel MacDonald who captained UGA to an astounding Nationals record of 9-3 in 2022. Having served as UGA’s tournament director this past year and recently ascending to the presidency for his final year of competition, Walker is ready to send a message coming into the fall: Georgia is here to play. Coming off a four-award season including an All-National as well as an All-American from 2022, Bryan is looking to take even more hardware home to Athens, and nothing looks better in a trophy case than a sword.

Ben Wallace, South Carolina (Second Chair: Gabrielle Worshek, Coach: Chance Sturup)
You tell a TBC competitor that they’re facing someone who didn’t compete at Nats this year, they might not be scared. You tell them they won the play-in, they might start to tremble. You tell them it’s Ben Wallace, and they might go “The Old Youtube guy from UVA?” But then you tell them it’s Ben Wallace from South Carolina, and they’ll realize they’re in danger. Wallace and the rest of the Gamecocks might have missed their NCT run this year, but Wallace reminded us during the play-in tournament that he wasn’t letting his senior season end on a low note. After two electric rounds, Wallace secured his spot in Philly and reminded the world that there’s still a fire in his heart and, according to Mock Confessions, a divot on his head. With a whopping 19 career awards, Ben Wallace is no stranger to making himself an in-round standout. How does he do it? Simple: unbridled charisma paired with an off the charts Mock IQ. Let’s start with that first one. Wallace’s energy levels during a trial run inhumanely high. He’s going to be swinging his arms. He’s going to use the well. He’s going to nip at your heels on cross. Competitors are going to have a hard time moving the spotlight back to them once Wallace gets going on his content. But it’s not just flash that he brings to the table. Wallace and his team are going to have great content. He’s joined by second chair Gabrielle Worshek and coach Chance Sturup. Worshek—like everyone else on the South Carolina A roster—was a top performer this season, while Sturup—a fixture on the southern coaching circuit—brings an important historical perspective after decades of experience coaching the Gamecocks. We’re willing to bet they find an angle on these TBC crosses that other people don’t see, and that his closings are also going to approach this case from a perspective that’s fresh. So after four years of mock trial conquest, Wallace’s path to victory is actually quite predictable. He’ll steamroll on cross, weave an easy to follow narrative on direct, and charm the judges on close: the human manifestation of “all gas, no brakes”. But Wallace’s fast paced style could bring stumbles too: our main concern for Wallace is whether or not he’ll give himself a second to breathe between all of that, especially against competitors who remain relaxed during objection arguments and take the time to let their points sink on exams. Only time will tell if Wallace’s speed zooms him to first or causes engine damage that leads to a plane crash.

Michael Wilson, Michigan (Second Chair: Gordy Gwilt, Coach: Tiffany Crews)
Michael Wilson enters TBC armed with two important things: a dangerous, compelling, slow-as-molasses Southern drawl, and an arsenal of awards both as an attorney and a witness. Anyone who has seen Wilson compete knows he can bring a witness to tears without raising his voice—and he’s the kind of closer that can bring an entire room to the edge of their seats, captivated by his rhetoric and wondering whether his accent is real. (Spoiler alert: he also sounds like that out of round). He managed a 25-rank All-American as an attorney (remember the qualifier) against a lineup that included Harvard. Whether he’s calmly controlling a character or demolishing an expert with a smile, Wilson will be easy-going, in control, and on top of his game. By our count, he has the third most individual awards of any other TBC competitor this year, coming in at 16 career pieces of hardware—behind Ben Wallace's 19 and Arabella Loera’s 21. However, Wilson has a special distinction to which Wallace and Loera can in no way lay claim: his awards are almost evenly split between attorney and witness. Remember that 25 rank attorney All-American? It wasn’t the only glass rectangle he walked away with that weekend. With 28 ranks on the defense, Wilson was one of the highest ranking All-American witnesses in Memphis. He’ll wipe the floor with the competition if Bernstein’s case gives him a cop or a detective or an investigator (the drawl again), but his witness should make competitors shudder regardless of the form. Joining him is fellow All-American and double-threat Gordy Gwilt as his second chair, and Tiffany Crews as his coach. Crews isn’t as well known as Gwilt or Wilson, but in 2021, when Michigan A (including both Wilson and Gwilt) fell short at ORCS, she was a part of the breakout Michigan B squad that made it out and went on to place 9th in their division. Everybody who knows Michigan (and fears them) knows that their monster reputation comes not from an always-excellent A team, but the sheer depth of their program: the ability of their unstacked teams to roar through invitationals and crush the dreams of competitive, stacked A teams. This mixed-team trio could do the same, if they manage to avoid stumbling in the novel short-prep TBC format. They don’t have the experience of competitors like Travis Harper who have succeeded at the tournament before, or the wisdom of a coach like Sam Jahangir who has coached at the tournament before, or even the slight edge of the play-in crowd who had to conquer short prep just a few months before the actual tournament. That lack of experience could prove fatal for Wilson—or he could harness the early-season talent of his program and this year’s Nationals momentum (hello, third place behind UCLA B and Harvard) and take the field by storm. He enters the stage with spades of talent. We’ll see if it adds up to ballots.

Aleyna Young, UC Santa Barbara (Second Chair: Madison Thomas, Coach: Maddie Whalen):
Like most competitors who make it to Trial By Combat, Aleyna Young can do everything. But unlike those other competitors, Aleyna Young can do it with style. Whether it be wearing matching hot pink cowboy boots with her team at Nationals or objecting out a meticulously crafted demo, you can count on Aleyna Young inside and outside of trial to captivate. She’s got the resume to prove it too: Young is one of only seven competitors who gets to brag on possessing plural All-American(s), but she’s also one of only three who can boast she’s picked up those All-Americans while both witnessing and attorneying. Avid mock historians might remember Young’s name from way back in 2021, when she took home her first All-American as a freshman playing an endearing down-south character witness bedbug exterminator. She followed that up this year with a near-perfect 27-rank All-American as an attorney. Add to that mix that she clopened USCB A this season (that’s when a competitor closes and opens—a new piece of jargon we’re pioneering), took home awards as an expert this fall, and sat in the defendant’s spot on bench for UCSB’s 2022 NCT run, and it’s safe to say Young is quite literally the girl that can do both. Even though Young hails from the flashier West Coast, we actually expect her style to play quite well in the mid-atlantic. She’s got a real mix of dynamism and down-to-earth realism to her that puts her right at the perfect balance of being entertaining without being polarizing. She’s sharp on objections and has excellent in-trial instincts, an asset that’ll serve her well when she has to make snap in-round judgements. Moreover, for a fresh face at TBC, Young also has a pretty substantial amount of short-prep experience. As a former Gladiator finalist, she’s familiar with being a pawn in Bernstein’s game, and she also appeared in Los Angeles last year as second chair to her now coach, Madelyn Whalen. In a year with only two returning TBC competitors, experience in the time crunch of the short prep format might be the extra asset that separates her from the competition. Is there anything Young can’t do? Well, maybe reach the top shelf at a grocery store. But that’s okay, she’s got the tallest of her former A team at a whopping 5’4, Madison Thomas, to assist her when needed. A first-class competitor in her own right, Thomas is an All-National attorney and has shared a bench with Young for the past three years. Leading this AMTA girl group is TBC alum and “taller than Young but shorter than Thomas”, Madelyn Whalen. Whalen's an All-American attorney and former TBC competitor herself. The biggest question left for Young is whether she’ll be the one to break UCSB’s streak of underwhelming finishes. While the Gauchos have been a program on the rise for a long time, and have had some real killer matchups: R1 of 2022’s NCT where they knocked Tufts out of the final round running and R4 of 2022’s TBC where Whalen went toe-to-toe with future finalist Riya Lakkaraju come to mind—they’re always somehow just short of the podium. We’ll see whether or not this Gaucho is the one to buck the trend, or if UCSB will ride off into the sunset empty-handed yet again.

Individual Award Breakdown
When possible, these numbers were taken from the website of each competitors’ respective team. When these records were unavailable, we used publicly-available AMTA tab summaries. If we missed any awards, we invite any competitor to message us or post below with a list of individual awards and we will update the table.

CompetitorCareer AwardsAttorneyWitnessAll American
Tahj Burnett151052
Michael Chandler8710
Ria Debnath111012
Marra Edwards131112
Sam Farnsworth8711
Travis Harper151055
Danielle Jacoby141402
Josiah Jones10820
Divya Kumar101002
Arabella Loera212100
Charles Stock131031
Margaret Veglahn7700
Bryan Walker8801
Ben Wallace191720
Michael Wilson161002
Aleyna Young121022
Back to top
Permissions in this forum:
You cannot reply to topics in this forum