Getting started in STIHL® TIMBERSPORTS® can be a challenge for some. Finding a college team, building an arena at home and chasing down the right gear before crisscrossing the country attending contests. For others, it’s not a choice or chance. The sawdust runs in their veins and TIMBERSPORTS is truly part of their DNA. A select few are born into lumberjack athlete families who grow up in the woods and start swinging an axe before they can legally drive. There are specific families who have been running saws and axes for generations. Stealing from Hank Williams Jr., “If I chop logs and race all night long, it’s a family tradition.”
Three families were prominently featured throughout the 2016 STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Series. Perhaps the most famous family being the Cogars. Reigning four-time champion Matt Cogar and previous champion Arden Cogar Jr. are cousins. This last name is responsible for 20+ fierce competitors in the sport, all originating from West Virginia. In addition to the Cogar cousins, two father-son pairings went head-to-head this year. Mel Lentz, who has been racing and winning for nearly 40 years, squared off against his insanely strong son, Jason. Jason advanced to the finals and went on to finish in the top half of the field, after a second-place finish at the 2015 U.S. Championship. Finally, Mike Slingerland and his son Matt Slingerland continued the family tradition in the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Series by sharing gear and cutting fast.
These three family trees are not the only ones in the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Series. In the West, Rob Waibel’s father, the Rhinestone Logger, introduced him to the sport. The story of following in dad’s footsteps is the same for Jeff Skirvin and David Moses Sr., who also taught their sons to compete. Mike Forrester, who followed his father into TIMBERSPORTS has also shared the sport with his sons. Many of these men started watching the sport because that is how the family spent the weekend. With access to gear and coaching, it wasn’t long before they were swinging an axe or pulling a saw instead of cheering.
Some of these families have a history with saws and axes that is older than STIHL TIMBERSPORTS itself. Many competitors come from a family tradition of lumberjacks working in the woods, while many in the new generation work white-collar jobs. They laid the groundwork for other lumberjack athletes and the sport by competing with the tools of the trade before there were racing rules and a crowd. The Cogars were earning a living in the woods before they could compete to bring home the bacon. David Moses Sr. was hand felling timber before he was waiting for the starting cadence. Before the Lentz family was beating people on the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS stage, they were, for generations, cutting timber and working in the woods like Mel does now when not competing.
Having a family member in the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Series is easier since they can teach you the techniques and you have access to good gear. Mix in a family tradition of not just competing, but making a living as a professional logger, and that is where these men get the drive to keep cutting faster and faster.