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Lumberjack Chops Down Pop

Matt Slingerland says he won't let his dad, Mike, live it down

By: Mike Suchan, OutdoorChannel.com

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Expect Matt Slingerland to give his father plenty of grief. After all, it was the first time he’s beaten his father in a lumberjack competition.

“It’s the first ever I beat him in points. It will be awesome to give him crap,” said Matt, who will turn 21 in April. “I’m just going to have to hassle him all year. He will never live it down.”

Yet Matt and Mike Slingerland were smiling after the first event of the 2012 STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Series presented by Ram Trucks -- both qualified for the Championships.

As part of the 55th annual Association of Southern Forestry Clubs Conclave hosted by North Carolina State, the Professional and Collegiate Series Southern Qualifiers were held March 16 in front of a vocal crowd of about 500, who cheered their home-school favorite Victor Wassack to a sudden-death victory in the Collegiate Qualifier.

In the pro qualifier, Mel Lentz, the King of the Lumberjacks, topped the eight competitors with 35 points, based on 8 points for first place down to 1 for eighth place. Paul Cogar finished second with 32 points, Matt Slingerland was third with 31 and Mike Slingerland was five points behind his son with 26.

Mike, who has been competing since 1979 and is known as “His Awesomeness,” had this to say about his son finally beating him.

“He sucks,” said Mike, quick with humorous comments throughout the event. “On Facebook, my prediction was he would be beat me in the manual events -- the three chops and the single buck – but I would have more points.

“And what happened was, I won two events, he won two events. And he was one point ahead of me.”

Then Mike was disqualified in the final event, the hot saw, while Matt set the final margin by taking fourth.

“I won’t live it down. The important thing is Tennessee,” Mike said in reference to the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Series Championship host by The Great Smoky Mountain Lumberjack Feud in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., June 1-3. “In Tennessee, I’m not DQing myself.”

Topping his father was big day for Matt, who started on the lumberjack path when he was 8 and first competed at 10. 

“He taught me everything I know,” Matt said. “I’ve been trying to catch up to him ever since. That’s been my goal all along ever since I was a little kid. He doesn’t even know it.

“He’s 100 percent the best coach in the world right now. He goes across the sea to teach everybody. I just appreciate everything he’s done for me. I wouldn’t be where I’m at without him. I don’t think anyone can teach better.”

Mike said his son has the patience to listen to him, follow his lead and now take it a step further.

“A lot of kids, they get tired of hearing the old man talk. Matty has always been an excellent student,” Mike said. “There are times when he knows more than I do about things, and it’s more give and take. Still, we work together to improve.”

Mike, who stands 5-8 and weighs 230 pounds, opened the event with a victory in the springboard, with Matt fourth. Mike and Matt then took last and second to last in the stock saw. Mike rebounded with a win in the standing block and Matt took fifth to fall behind his dad 17-11.

Matt rallied, taking consecutive victories in the underhand and the single buck to go up 27-26 on Mike, who went seventh and second, respectively. Matt’s hot saw finish sealed the deal, but Mike thinks Matt, a 6-1, 215-pounder, has room for improvement.

“You did have the worst day you could have and you still go,” he said, putting his arm around his son. “Congratulations.”

The Collegiate Qualifier went down to a sudden-death showdown between Wassack, of hosting school N.C. State, and Scooter Cogar of Virginia Tech. Cogar recorded a two-point victory over Wassack last year in the qualifier, and the two again went 1-2 in all four events to tie and force a tie-breaking race in the stock saw.

Wassack opened the four competitions with a win in the stock saw. Cogar tied it by winning the standing block. Wassack, who trained with Logan Scarborough, a former college champ and N.C. State alum, went back on top as he finished first in the underhand. Cogar tied it up in the single buck, setting up the stock saw showdown.

Cogar competed first, and the times weren’t shown on the clocks. When emcee Arden Cogar Jr., announced the times, 11.55 and 11.12, and revealed that Wassack was the Southern Qualifier champion, the crowd went to raucous levels.

“Hard work pays off,” Wassack said. “I got a lot of people to thank, the Lord, Logan (Scarborough). The home crowd, I love it. They were loud, real loud. It helps out a bunch, too.”

The next event in the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Series is the Western Qualifier at the McAlexander Field on the Oregon State University campus in Corvallis, Ore., on March 30.

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