Over the course of the last few seasons, professional paintball has seen a new youth movement emerge. With the average age of an event winning player at just 32 years old, the league is getting younger. The newest influx of top level talent under the age of 30 is pushing forward the next great wave of superstar players; we decided to look at the entire pro division and determine the top players in the World under 30 years old with this years Iconic Paintball 30 under 30.
This list is meant to highlight the high level talent of the leagues young stars and uses the roster age of players as of World Cup 2022, while giving insight into future potential of each of these talented individuals. This is not a ranking, just a presentation of the NXL's rising young stars.
1) Jacob Edwards, Tampa Bay Damage, 27 Years Old
One of the best gunfighters in the entire pro division, Jacob is a disruptive and versatile force on the field. Lauded for his clutch closing ability, keen sense of timing, and elite break-shooting, Jacob is our pick as the best player in the World under 30. At just 27 years old, Jacob already has more than a decade of pro experience and has learned under his older brother Jason, one of the best pure gunfighters in the games history. He was a critical piece to the event win Damage earned in 2022, and he will continue to be the critical centerpiece of the Damage roster for years to come.
2) Stephen Omara, Baltimore Revo, 29 Years Old
The versatility that Stephen Omara has displayed on the pro field over the last decade has been elite. His talent in playing the blind spots on the field and having a knack for finding unconventional moves makes Stephen incredibly challenging to get off the field. Every paintball player strives to be able to play any spot on the field; Omara is that guy. He is never out of position, and always ready to make game breaking moves.
3) Demetrius Ninios, San Antonio XFactor, 29 Years Old
Arguably one of the brightest paintball minds on this list, Meter has always had a strong talent in rapidly identifying the opponents advantage and quickly reacting to nullify their position. A highly dangerous break-shooter, Meter has a feared gun on the field and excels in his ability to adjust throughout a match for the best shot placement possible. One of the core pieces of XFactor, Meter is just 29 years old with his best years in the sport ahead of him.
Brandon Cornell, Edmonton Impact. 26 Years Old.
Brandon Cornell has been one of the sports most dynamic dorito side attackers on one of the best teams of the last decade. His aggressive and sometimes unorthodox style has earned him a reputation as one of the best island players in the world on the dorito side of the field, and he can often take the entire side of the field down by himself. At just 26 years old, it is hard to believe that Brandon is still just entering the prime of his career, and he will be the a core piece of Edmonton for a long time.
4) Leonid Smotrov, Red Legion, 24 Years Old
One of the most experienced players on this list, Smotrov has been an athletic and offensively talented dynamo for the Red Legion since he joined the team at just age 15. It’s rare a player comes along with such high offensive talent backed by such a refined mental tenacity at an age this young. But for Smotrov, it has been a skillset nearly a decade in the making behind the elite coaching of the Red Legion focused on high offensive output based on elite timing and not purely risk aversion. Smotrov will likely be one of the true stars of the NXL over the next 10 years as the next wave of talented young pros takes over.
5) Axel Gaudin, Edmonton Impact, 29 Years Old
It’s almost insane that Gaudin is just 29 years old; becoming a bona fide pro at the age of 17, Axel has been a snake-side force in both the US and EU professional paintball divisions for more than a decade. Refining his game under the watchful eyes of his father and the TonTons coaching staff, Axel has become a master at the ultra aggressive offensive style he is now famous for. Playing for teams like Red Legion and Art Chaos, Gaudin was able to notch multiple US event wins before he turned 20 years old. Since then, he has become one of the most sought after players in all of Europe, so much so that Impact signed him at the start of the 2022 season where he helped secure two event wins in 2022.
6) Mike Zuppa, Edmonton Impact, 28 Years Old
From humble beginnings with former pro team CEP, Mike Zuppa quickly found a role as a snake side attacker and really began to develop his game with Baltimore Revo during the 2021 season that led to his dominant year for Impact in 2022. Zuppa is one of many talented young snake players on this list, and arguably one of the best when it comes to his timing based style of attack. Zuppa is near-elite when it comes to reading zones and striking during the fractions of a second that his window of attack opens. He will likely be one of the top snake players in the league in the coming seasons and his style will fit fluidly with nearly any team.
7) Mike Urena, San Diego Dynasty, 27 Years Old
While many players on this list played and developed under their current team, the case is quite different for Mike Urena. He fought through the pro ranks with DMG and then earned his spot on Dynasty behind his bruising and bullying style of play. Now, as one of the prime attackers for San Diego, he has been a legitimate part of their historic three-peat season championships and World Cup victories. He has been at the forefront of the bruising, bullying snake player movement emerging in the NXL; when asked to play a more versatile and varied role in 2022, Urena answered with a high level of play off the bench for Dynasty at any position he was asked to. The future looks bright for San Diego with a player of Urena’s caliber on the roster.
8) Sam Silberg, Los Angeles Infamous, 29 Years Old
The ever present and in your face dorito attacker for LVL has been a revelation for the Columbus franchise. Over the last two seasons, Silberg has developed his game into a varied and creative level that puts constant pressure on the opposition. His gun skills as an offensive player are near elite and after a surprise departure from LVL to join Infamous, Sam will become one the key players for Los Angeles in 2023. He should be an immediate starter and brings even more offensive talent to an LA team building quite a potent offense.
9) Kyle Barry, MLKings, 28 Years Old
The ever talented Kyle Barry has been the unquestioned leader of the recent MLKings run of success. His clutch ability in big moments combined with his stout gunfighting and offensive presence has been the key piece of the MLKings growth into a top eight team over the last two seasons. At just 28 years old Barry has his entire career in front of him and has already become a well established, upper level pro with tons of star power. The MLKings have lost a few players this offseason, but with Barry at the core, they should continue to find growth and success moving forward.
10) Connor Kelley, Houston Heat, 20 Years Old
The biggest breakout player on this list, Kelley had a somewhat quiet rookie season in which he followed up with a dominant year in 2022. While many of the players on this list built their game around pure offensive presence, Kelley is much more rounded at all positions and able to play at all levels of the field effectively. Arguably one of the most important pieces behind the last two years of growth the MLKings franchise had, Kelley is maybe the top commodity in the NXL when it comes to players under 30. His value was highly sought after by Houston Heat, who signed Kelley for 2023. Conner will be an intriguing player on the veteran heavy Heat roster, but brings a dynamic style that will pair well with Tyler Harmon and Konstantin Fedorov.
11) TJ Danner, San Antonio XFactor, 29 Years Old
The ever poised TJ Danner has been around the Texas pro paintball scene for quite some time now and his calm demeanor on the field is his biggest attribute. His ability to play at nearly every position on the field has been a major piece behind Danner’s success since coming into pro in 2014 and later finding podium success with ac Dallas before joining XFactor. San Antonio is rapidly becoming a top defensive team this offseason and is building the roster around their talented young core; Danner is a key piece of that core and they will be a dangerous team over the next few seasons as they grow and mature into a top level program once again.
12) Ceelos Cortez, Baltimore Revo, 29 Years Old
On a list full of offensive talent, Ceelos Cortez is perhaps one of the most complete offensive players here. An incredibly high motor, huge offensive versatility, and a level of reckless abandon that you just can’t teach, Ceelos has been a weapon on every pro team he has been with. After becoming one of the core attackers for a rapidly rising Tampa Bay roster, Ceelos departed the team to join Baltimore Revo for the 2023 season. He brings a lot of intrigue for the Baltimore franchise under new ownership that has very ambitious goals in the coming years.
13) Pat Kraft, New York Xtreme, 29 Years Old
The blunt and abrasive star from New York has been at the center of the show stopping attitude that has made NYX one of the NXL’s favorite franchises. With his game built around disciplined gun skills, zone awareness, and timing, Pat Kraft has been a bright spot on the emerging program from New York. Now with news of Harris Hussain departing NYX, Pat Kraft is instantly going to be thrust into the leadership role of Xtreme and he is primed to have one of his best seasons ever. The youthful program is loaded with talent and could surprise behind Kraft’s play.
14) Trent Nitta, Los Angeles Ironmen, 19 Years Old
With maybe the most untapped potential on the list, Nitta has been on a path to professional paintball since age 14 when he packed his bags and moved to Texas alone to chase his paintball dreams. He has some of the more refined gunskills of anyone on the list and when paired with his offensive presence on the field, he has quickly become an effective option for Ironmen during his rookie campaign. Trent is an incredibly intense player and has the “it” factor when it comes to a winning drive on the field. The Ironmen secured perhaps one of the top players under 20 in the World after signing Nitta and he is on pace for a great career in the NXL.
15) Damian Vazquez, San Diego Dynasty, 26 Years Old
One of the few rookies on this list, Vazquez joined Dynasty from the semi-pro division Noobies at the start of 2022 and rapidly redefined his play style under the watchful eye of Marcello Margott and Ryan Greenspan. Vazquez brings a unique style of offensive play for a rookie, focused more on gun-skills, zone discipline, and survivability. While many young players rely on athleticism alone at the 1 position, Damian brings a different style of pacing to San Diego that will be a useful tool in the arsenal for San Diego behind their next wave of great young players. His patience at the snake and dorito attack positions will balance well in the future with Margott’s elite defense and Yarber’s offensive prowess.
16) Kyle Nicholaou, Los Angeles Ironmen, 28 Years Old
The Los Angeles Ironmen rookie came into the franchise mid-season and launched one of the most explosive rookie campaigns in recent memory. He immediately became a high-impact player for the Ironmen and was a big piece of their late season rally to save their season from relegation. Bringing the classic Northeast style to California, the talented young dorito side attacker will play a key role in the Ironmen finding success in 2023. With the coaching staff being built around legendary coach, Shane Pestana, Nicholaou is potentially a player who will punch his way into the 2023 Dorito Player of the Year conversation behind the best coaching he has ever had.
17) Ryan Hall, Los Angeles Infamous, 27 Years Old
A true talent both on and off the field, Ryan Hall has built a reputation as one of the league's top up and coming offensive players, as well as one of the industry’s most talented anodizers. With the departure of Harrison Frye to Dynasty, Ryan Hall will be thrust into an even bigger role offensively for Infamous. In the past, Hall has played both on the dorito side and in the center, but going into 2023, he will potentially become the top dorito side attacker for Los Angeles, and his highly reactive style should fit the new direction that Travis Lemanski is taking the Infamous roster during this rebuild.
18) Ben Challenger, Los Angeles Infamous, 26 Years Old
There are certain types of individuals that are just built for paintball; fast, athletic, and compact. Ben Challenger is perhaps the personification of that build in the NXL. His size allows him to play in spots and utilize bunker angles that most players just cannot accomplish because of their frame. Add in his high level of athleticism and Ben fits the mold of the prototypical front player in the modern era. After departing from the AC camp in the offseason, Ben gets a new start at Infamous where he should see a major boost in playing time and really shine on a highly offensive and youthful roster as a key player.
19) Mark Baginski, ac Diesel, 24 Years Old
It's hard to believe that Baginski is just 24 years old; he was a mainstay contributor in the ac camp, and was a big piece of the success the program found both on ac Dallas and ac Diesel. Now as one of the core members of the NXL’s newest superteams, Baginski will be a part of the main rotation of players highlighted by his extreme versatility across the field. His game is centered around pacing and a stout poise that always keeps him in the right position. Mark has been a staple of Texas paintball for more than a decade now, and the experience he brings at his age will make him a critical building block of an ac Diesel program on the cusp of greatness after their offseason rebuild.
20) Jerry Caro, New York Xtreme, 28 Years Old
Although he has struggled with a few injuries over the last few seasons, Jerry Caro is still an explosive offensive threat, and at just 28 years old, has his entire career ahead of him. His always-move-forward mentality in the snake is akin to the snake players of old, never fearing the next bump down the field. We have yet to really see a complete season from Caro over the last few years, however, the youth movement and strong offensive roster being built in New York will complement Jerry well, and he should be a major focal point for this program moving forward. He also brings a lot of experience to the franchise, with his pro division roots dating back to the early 2010’s.
21) Graham Arnold, Seattle Uprising, 29 Years Old
Graham has been the heart and soul of Seattle Uprising since they won a pro spot all the way back in 2015 during one of the best semi-pro season performances in NXL history. Now, 8 years later, Arnold has been a key component in keeping Uprising relevant in the pro ranks of the NXL. Over the course of the last few seasons, Arnold has really built a lot of nuance and variety into his style on the field, and provides Seattle with a highly poised and versatile weapon that they often rely on to close games out. With new ownership taking over the franchise for 2023, Arnold will be looked to as a leader for the program and could help guide Uprising to a new era of success, as most of the team is on the right side of 32.
22) George McClean, New York Xtreme, 23 Years Old
When he joined NYX, the relatively unknown player found a way to contribute almost immediately as one of Xtreme’s best attackers. After a few seasons with DMG, McClean rapidly made a name for himself as a reliable and aggressive player last year for NYX. His incredible athleticism has been a huge asset for the franchise and he looks to be one of the core members of the team following their new direction after parting ways with Haris Hussain. George is finding a way to be effective and as he continues to gain experience, he may very well become one of the more fearsome 1’s in the division over the next few seasons behind a stout work ethic.
23) Tim Stelzl, New York Xtreme, 23 Years Old
Tim Stelzl has been a bit enigmatic his first few years in the pro division. Spending time with both Impact and NYX, Stelzl is perhaps the most potential filled front player under 30 in the NXL right now, but we have yet to see him fully unleashed due to injuries or roster depth challenges. As NYX begins to start their next era with the departure of team founder Haris Hussain, we may finally get to see a heavy dosage of Stelzl on the field and in the snake, and he should produce almost immediately when given the chance for NYX.
24) Jonah Jamroz, Los Angeles Infamous, 24 Years Old
Joining the new wave of bully snake players emerging in the NXL, Jonah Jamroz came into the Infamous program in 2021 and immediately became a reliable source of bruising offense on the snake side of the field. Infamous is rapidly becoming one of the youngest teams in the NXL and Jamroz is a key piece of their youth movement that is building alongside Sam Silberg, Ryan Hall, and Joe Barrett. His bruising style complements the rapid Infamous offensive pacing, and with the new roster direction, Jamroz could become a key component of Infamous over the next few seasons. He has been exposed to learning from one of the best snake players to ever do it, Thomas Taylor, and that should rapidly build his emerging skillset.
25) Will Hennessy , New York Xtreme, 29 Years Old
Hennessy has been around the competitive paintball scene for a long time, and has been with NYX since helping them secure a pro spot back in 2017. Often taking the role as both a 1 and a 2 on the snake side, Hennessy has provided a steady presence off the break and a responsive style of play closing out games from the snake. His versatility paired alongside the aggressive style of Jerry Caro and Tim Stelzl should provide some potent pairings for NYX in 2023. Will is a glue guy for this program, and the consistency he brings will be a key element for NYX finding success this year.
26) Grayson Gladstone, San Diego Aftermath, 27 Years Old
The versatile offensive player out of Southern California, Grayson Gladstone, has been making a name for himself as an aggressive minded player over the last few seasons. After joining Dynasty in 2020, Grayson moved on to ac Diesel last season and spent time learning from master tactician Greg Pauley. At 27 years old, Gladstone is becoming one of the league's most intriguing young offensive prospects. His ability to play on both sides of the field has been a key driver in his recent rise in the pro ranks, and now after joining SD Aftermath for the 2023 season, he has a chance to become the premiere attacker for the youngest roster in the NXL.
27) Mark Frans, Austin Notorious, 21 Years Old
After building some pro experience early on in his career, Mark Frans led his Austin Notorious team into a pro spot of their own after securing multiple finals trips and a World Cup win in 2022. Now, as the unquestioned leader of the NXL’s newest professional franchise, Frans brings versatility and much needed experience to the relatively young roster. He has been a big gun off the break for Notorious and is often called upon to quarterback the team from the back line and generate offense in the center of the field. Like every rookie pro-team, they have a long road ahead, but the talent Frans brings will be a critical tool in building success for this young Texas squad.
28) Brandon Trujillo, San Diego Aftermath, 18 Years Old
The youngest player to appear on this list, Brandon Trujillo is the dynamic and aggressive attacker for the youngest team in the division, San Diego Aftermath. With the team going a new direction in 2023 after Mike Hinman has stepped back from coaching SDA, the youth movement is in full effect in San Diego. Trujillo has been on the radar for a few years now and built a reputation as one of the premiere U18 players in the World; his time spent as one of the leaders with the U19 Team USA on the international stage provided valuable big-game experience. He should slowly begin to step into a larger role with Aftermath, and have plenty of time to continue to develop his game.
29) Chris Caputo, Brooklyn Bears, 24 Years Old
Aggressive, precise, and disciplined, Caputo has been the main offensive threat for New Jersey Leverage during a three year run in which they have won five tournaments and made nine finals trips. After helping lead Leverage to two NXL wins in 2022, Chris was signed to the Brooklyn Bears to make his rookie debut in the NXL pro division. His extreme dedication to drilling nearly every day should help him quickly become a top offensive player for Brooklyn, and find a role as a legitimate snake attacker in the pro division.
30) Jenn Fulk, Heroines, 29 Years Old
Perhaps the best player in the WNXL, Fulk has quickly built a reputation as a relentless offensive threat with elite gun-skills. The athletic 1 for the Heroines was the critical piece to their Season Championship in the inaugural season of the women’s pro division of the NXL. It’s easy to see that with Fulk leading the charge on Heroines, they may go on a Dynasty-level run of dominance over the next few years in the WNXL, especially with other talented players alongside her like Rozy McCurley and Alexis Lazer.
Divisional Players to Watch Under 30
1) Colt Luckau, PBFit Semi Pro, 23 Years Old.
The undisputed top-gun of the semi-pro division, the leader of PBFit had one of the most feared guns off the break in the 2022 divisional paintball league. With elite pro style communication, high level vision on the field, and best-in-class zone discipline, Luckau was the key component of the PBFit run that saw them secure an event win and three finals appearances in 2022. PBFit came within a single match of winning back their pro spot, and with Luckau at their core, they should be a favorite to win the spot in 2023.
2) Dominic Devivo, Noobies Semi Pro, 24 Years Old
The quiet and reserved Northeast player joined the semi-pro division a few seasons ago and has spent his time creating one of the most versatile styles in the division. Developing in a Noobies system built around gun discipline and timing, Devivo is a true flex player, with the ability to play at all levels of the field and make a big impact for his team. Playing nearly every point of the 2022 season for Noobies, Devivo will continue to make a name for himself as the Noobies look to win a pro spot in 2023.
3) Jackson Frey, Blast Camp Semi Pro, 21 Years Old
The leader of one of the most talented non-pro teams in the World, Jackson Frey has helped build and lead the midwest powerhouse Blast Camp to multiple event wins in the last few seasons. They narrowly missed a chance to win a pro spot in 2022, and after winning the Astra event against NXL pro teams behind Freys elite play, Jackson is on the verge of being the hottest young prospective pro in the country. Blast Camp is tooling up to win the 2023 spot, so we may finally see the young phenom make his pro debut sooner rather than later.
4) Ben Sloffer, Vegas Golden Misfits, 18 Years Old.
Ben is a player whose name has been around competitive paintball with Team USA over the last few years, and he has made a name for himself as one of the sport's up and coming young stars. Guided by one of the best players in the world, Marcello Margott, and even sometimes spotted practicing with San Diego Dynasty, Sloffer seems destined for a large role in the future of an NXL pro team. After helping lead Wrecking Crew to one of the best seasons in NXL divisional history in D3, he looks to continue to climb the ranks in his path to the pro division with the Vegas Golden Misfits.
5) John Schappaugh, Blast Camp Semi Pro, 26 Years Old
The steady and poised center player for Blast Camp went on a tear in 2022. Schappaugh has been one of the best players on one of the best divisional teams in paintball for a few seasons now and has a commanding presence on the field. One of the best performances of the divisional season was John’s three days of dominance at the Mid Atlantic Major, an event in which he controlled the center and commanded with elite communication during their event win. He will be key alongside teammate Jackson Frey in winning a spot for 2023.