Harold Colston and Mark Grieco have been good friends for 14 years but when they light their grills at the Great Lenexa BBQ Battle they’re competitors, albeit friendly ones.
When Colston, who lives in Olathe, won the Grand Championship Saturday, the first call he had was from Grieco. “He told me, ‘You stole my championship,’” Colston said with a hearty laugh.
Grieco said he couldn’t resist. “The awards ceremony was cancelled because of the rain and I didn’t know Harold won until I got home and read about it. So I just had to call and accuse him of robbing me.”
The final tally was probably closer than either had anticipated.
Colston’s team, Hot Meat Smokers, won the Grand Championship and $2,500 with 683.954 total points. Griecio’s Four Men and a Pig team total of 677.68 points was good for the Reserve Grand Championship and a second place prize of $1,250.
“Actually, I think I was more excited for Harold and his Grand Championship than I was for myself,” said Grieco, who lives in Stilwell. “That’s the way we are. We root for each other and appreciate a friend’s success.”
This was the first Grand Championship in the Lenxa contest for Colston’s team — down from four members nine years ago to just Colston and his wife, Linda, today. “We usually do pretty well but this is our first big win since we won the Reserve Grand championship the first time we entered the contest back in the ’90s,” he said.
“I thought we might have a chance when we placed 20th in the chicken category, then 10th in ribs, fifth in pork and 24th in brisket. Linda had a better feeling about it than I did. You just never know. It’s all up to the judges,” Colston, who lives in Olathe, said. “I will say I thought I cooked about as good as I can cook. Everything I tasted was good. Sometimes nothing tastes good.”
Grieco, meanwhile, thought his team might have a good shot as the judging proceeded.
“We placed 10th in brisket, 12th in ribs, 30th in chicken and 32nd in pork. But you never know how you’re doing until it’s all over,” Grieco said. “You’re at the mercy of the judges. You can’t control that. Maybe we got lucky. I like to win but I’ll take second place any time.”
The Lenexa event keeps getting tougher, Grieco said. “We have to make little changes as we go along to keep up with the competition. Just little tweaks here and there, nothing too big.”
Grieco and his team, now down to himself and his girlfriend Carrie Jones, won the Grand Championship at Lenexa in 2005.
Third place and $750 in prize money went to Jason Crees and his Jaestar BBQ from Adel, Iowa.
Chris Cox of Shawnee won first place in both of this year’s new categories: $750 for potato salad and $900 in McCormick’s Grill Mates sponsored by McCormick’s Seasoning.
The 33rd annual Great Lenexa BBQ Battle drew 185 teams and 240 judges last weekend in Sar-Ko-Par Trails Park in Lenexa. The two-day event featured entertainment on Friday night with judging starting at noon Saturday. The awards ceremony, usually around 4 p.m., was cancelled because of rain and winners picked up their prizes later.
Winners of these individual categories at the 33rd annual Great Lenexa BBQ Battle each won $500.
Chicken: Martz Madness Half Sauced BBQ, Jim Martz of Overland Park
Pork ribs: Coach’s Decision, Ryan Fuger of Kansas City
Pork: Brownie’s BBQ, Chris Brown of Kansas City
Brisket: Social Smokers, Nick Reddell of Merriam
Sausage: Smitty’s BBQ, Brian Smith of Lenexa
Miscellaneous: Legacy BBQ, Tim Lawrence of Lenexa
Whole animal: B&C Smokers, Cortney Drake of Olathe