TOMAHAWK, Wis. -- There’s now a second father-and-son duo set to compete in the STIHL® TIMBERSPORTS® U.S. Championship, after Matt Cogar chopped and sawed to the highest overall score at the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Midwest Pro Qualifier presented by Ram Trucks.
Matt Cogar joins his father, Paul, along with father-and-son matchup Matt and Mike Slingerland in the championship June 1-3 at the Smoky Mountain Lumberjack Feud in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
There was never any doubt that Cogar, 26, would miss the cut. His overall score of 44 was 5 points ahead of Carson Bosworth, who joins him at the championship. Warrick Hallett and Rob Waibel are also headed for the championship.
“I was a nervous wreck, really,” said Cogar, but not because Paul was on hand as a spectator. “It was because this was only my second event of the year, and there’s no replacing practice for the real thing.
“Overall, I was OK with the day. I just played to my strengths and for me those are the chopping events.”
Cogar came on strong from the start, leading off with a time of 62 seconds for the springboard. By comparison, it took Bosworth 75 seconds to lop the block.
The springboard would be a confidence-builder and harbinger of things to come. After slipping to fourth in the stock saw, Cogar won the standing block in 17 seconds, besting Bosworth’s time by 5 ticks. Cogar then went on to win the single buck and underhand chop. He dropped to fourth in the hot saw, his weakest event.
“We’ll work on that together,” said Paul, also his practice partner. “I thought he did well and it’ll be good to work out with him once we get back.”
“It was actually good to have him here,” quipped Matt, just after finishing the competition. “He’s already given me some advice and we haven’t even left for West Virginia.”
That’s where a conclave of legendary lumberjacks lives. Diana, W.Va., and the surrounding area is home to the Cogar clan, including defending U.S. champion Arden, the cousin to Matt and Paul. Also in town is Mel Lentz, respectfully called “King of the Lumberjacks.”
Matt credits them all for putting him in contention to become a top lumberjack.
“I’ve been really fortunate to have them behind me,” said Matt, who made his STIHL TIMBERSPORTS debut in 2009.
Cogar also is fortunate to have been mentored by Jim Alexander. The former world champion from Australia also trained Paul, Arden and Lentz. Collectively, the group has been a collective force of STIHL TIMBERSPORTS since its inception in 1985.
Rainey Johnson and Larisa Swanson finished on top in the double buck saw, a special event held during the collegiate competition. The lumberjills from the Southern Illinois University-Carbondale finished with an impressive time of 18 seconds.
Cogar wasn’t alone in his dominating performance at the Midwest qualifier held at Treehaven, the natural resources education center for the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. The school’s Ben Hansen scored 7s in all four disciplines to rack up a perfect score of 28 points. Hansen advances to the U.S. Collegiate Championship held during the Pro event in June.
Next came Brandon Knopf, who represented the University of Minnesota with 21 points. Other participating schools included Iowa State University, the University of Missouri, Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, Purdue University and Three Rivers Community College, in Norwich, Conn.
Besides Cogar’s feat, the biggest storyline came from the performance of Waibel, 46, of Sweet Home, Ore. The fourth-place overall finisher endured the competition with bruised ribs and an abdominal injury he suffered just two weeks earlier. The injuries apparently happened while the high school forestry instructor was playing a pickup basketball game with some students.
Waibel staged a valiant comeback with 25 overall points to claim the last berth, his first championship appearance. He was on the brink of falling out of the cutoff going into the underhand chop, the fifth of six disciplines. Cogar won it in 16 seconds and Waibel finished second in 20 seconds.
Fans can watch a sound bite with Waibel when coverage of the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Midwest Pro Qualifier airs Sunday, May 6, at 4 p.m. EDT on Outdoor Channel.
The next event in the STIHL® TIMBERSPORTS® Series is the Mid-Atlantic Qualifier at Montgomery Community College in Troy, N.C, on April 22.