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Smash Summit voting season. Whether it’s eating a raw onion or rapping in a diss track, top Super Smash Bros. players will do just about anything to get voted into Beyond the Summit’s premier Melee invitational. At least, it’s usually just top players.

Smash Summit 11 is different. While the likes of Johnny “S2J” Kim and Avery “Ginger” Wilson failed to get in, a player with no offline top 100 wins to his name received more than 176,000 votes. That’s the most in Smash Summit history. This unexpected result left many in the Melee community asking one question.

Who is Nick Yingling?

Nick “yingling” Yingling is a full-time insurance salesman for State Farm. He also loves architecture and basketball. And, in his spare time, he’s one of the linchpins of the Arizona Super Smash Bros. Melee community.

Yingling is a “doc kid,” or someone who got into competitive Melee after watching Travis “Samox” Beauchamp’s “The Smash Brothers” documentary. Since moving to Arizona and joining their Smash scene in 2015, the Falco main has steadily improved, peaking at No. 7 on Arizona’s fall 2019 power rankings.

“I would describe myself as what every other person wants to be in the Melee scene,” yingling said. “I just want the excitement of beating people and playing on the stage.”

In addition to competing, yingling helps organize tournaments. He hosted his own event, Nick Yingling’s Dave & Buster’s Melee Experience, and he is one of the TOs for Smash Camp, Arizona’s biggest Melee tournament series. According to Mikey “The Cheat” Iosue, yingling’s friend and fellow Smash Camp TO, he has a knack for working with people and convincing them to come to events.

“There’s something about him that people just gravitate towards in a weird way,” The Cheat said. “He’s the kind of guy that’s going to have an impact on an individual level with people, to the point where they will want to be on board with what he’s doing. He’s the guy that’s on Facebook individually tagging people and being like, ‘Hey, are you coming to this thing?’”

Yingling posing with Beyond the Summit's Slippi frog.
Yingling poses with Beyond the Summit’s Slippi frog. | Provided by @BTSsmash via Twitter

Yet, even as a successful TO and a regionally-ranked competitor, yingling wants more. He’s been taking Melee lessons with William “Leffen” Hjelte in order to grow as a player. Even so, Smash Summit 11 presented yingling with his best potential improvement opportunity yet.

Taking Twitter by force

Yingling was eligible for Smash Summit 11 thanks to his 17th place finish at the Galint Melee Open. From the outset, he was confident that he could rally enough support to get into Summit.

“It wasn’t just a pipe dream,” yingling said. “I always felt like there was a chance. I felt like I had support from all of Arizona.”

It also helps that yingling is friends with Ludwig “Ludwig” Ahgren, a streamer with plenty of money to spend on votes. Still, yingling opted not to lean solely on Ludwig. Instead, he pursued a campaign strategy that would attract attention from all over the Melee community.

He brought on The Cheat as his campaign manager, along with a team consisting of Eric “Violence” Lee, Jack “Jackzilla” Harmening and Jake “Chroma” Robins. They gave away spots to the next Smash Camp, partnered with Frame1 to raffle off box-style controllers and orchestrated “spirit bombs,” or large numbers of votes submitted at once.

However, the most effective method was, perhaps, the meme campaign they ran on social media.

“The strategy was to take the timeline of Twitter by force and just shove Nick Yingling down everyone’s throat as much as possible,” yingling said.

They filmed a video of yingling dunking on The Cheat on an eight-foot basketball goal. The Cheat then added a voiceover saying, “You just got ratioed by air yingling.” The final product was used in response to any yingling dissidents, as well as to ratio a 2007 tweet from United States president Joe Biden.

In addition, yingling and The Cheat took advantage of other Smashers’ platforms to spread the gospel of Nick Yingling. Both of them talked to Kevin “PPMD” Nanney and Kris “Toph” Aldenderfer for the “Radio Melee” podcast. Meanwhile, The Cheat went on Jesse “cyfer003” Wall’s “Bottom of the Smash Mountain” and talked to Hugo “HugS” Gonzalez for a YouTube video on his channel.

The pair would then search for yingling’s name on Twitter to find Smashers asking who he was. In response, they would share links to the podcasts they had visited. This opened up opportunities for them to encourage people who had never heard of yingling to vote him into Summit.

The Smash community responds to yingling’s call to action

By the end of the voting period, yingling became a phenomenon within the Smash community. Numerous players changed their names on Twitter to “I am Nicholas Yingling” and even adopted his profile picture; a screenshot of Norton the mailman from “SpongeBob SquarePants.” Yingling, himself, adopted the photo from professional basketball player Mikal Bridges. Bridges tweeted it after his team the Phoenix Suns defeated the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2021 NBA Playoffs in June.

Yingling’s early popularity clashed with the plans of Logan “LSD” Dunn, one of the high-level players campaigning for Summit. He initially thought yingling was running a joke campaign to highlight how Summit should have stricter eligibility requirements.

However, after getting into Summit himself, and seeing how much effort yingling and his team were putting into their campaign, LSD decided to support yingling.

“It was a very grassroots campaign and I really appreciated that,” LSD said. “I thought that was very, very, very in the spirit of the Melee community and I really respect that.”

The campaign’s final stretch

The final stretch of the campaign was difficult for yingling. He was in the process of moving and he didn’t have internet. The first two vote-in days came and went and he still hadn’t earned a spot at Summit. Going into the final day, he tempered his expectations.

“I was ready to be disappointed for a third time and I didn’t want to be even more upset about it,” yingling said.

But, yingling fans, old and new, came out in full force on that final day. Yingling kept his eyes glued to Smash.gg, using only the mediocre data connection on his phone. That’s when he learned he’d accomplished the dream of so many Melee players like him: He had been voted into Smash Summit 11.

“I remember just the overwhelming feeling of excitement that came to me,” yingling said. “I just kept walking around the house and being excited and screaming and being happy.”

Yingling takes on Smash Summit 11

The odds will be stacked against yingling as he competes in Smash Summit 11’s Singles event, which begins on July 16. Even so, yingling’s supporters are hopeful he can contribute to Summit’s content in a variety of meaningful ways.

“I think he’s going to lose all his matches, but I think he’s going to improve, and I think that’s the most important part,” LSD said. “Yingling is going to be really, really entertaining in all the side events too. I’m looking forward to seeing his skits and stuff.”

For his own part, yingling is gunning for an upset or two.

“I’m definitely going with the mindset of, ‘I can win any set,’” yingling said. “I never play a set and my mindset is just, ‘I’m going to lose.’ I’m going to definitely put all of my heart [and] soul into trying to beat anybody I play, even if it’s the best player there or the worst player there.”

Regardless of whether he wins a set, yingling getting into Summit was a victory in and of itself. Though he’s a relative newcomer to competitive Melee, yingling is proof that anyone can become an integral member of their Smash scene. He’s proof that a player’s hard work could potentially be rewarded with a spot at Melee’s most prestigious invitational.

“I think there’s a story to be told in terms of prospective community members who are staring down this idea of joining a community that has 20 years of established history and struggling to find a reason why now is a good time to be able to do that,” The Cheat said. “I think that the way that we kind of have to allay those fears is by showing them that you can come into the community and have it be a meaningful experience, and for you coming into the community to be able to have a meaningful impact once you’re there.”

So, that’s Nick Yingling. He’s a man who’s out of college and works full time. A man committed to TOing, competing and doing whatever else will help his local Smash scene flourish. A man who, about six years after joining the scene, has already made a meaningful mark on the national Melee community.

Yingling is quite different from many of the competitors who typically frequent Beyond the Summit’s studio. But, for the countless mid-level and up-and-coming players who never thought Smash Summit was an option for them until now, yingling is the very personification of what it means to be a Smasher.

“He’s kind of the everyman,” The Cheat said. “[Smash Summit is] a snapshot of what our community looks like at the moment. I think it’s hard to ignore the part of our community that looks like Nick Yingling.”