How the West Was Won

MISSOULA, Mont. — Pushing aside his mop of unruly curly hair, Colorado State's Adrian Flygt (pronounced "flicked") took a few deep breaths and just let the moments following his win at the Western Conclave of the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Collegiate Challenge kind of happen.

Flygt, a 27-year-old philosophy major from the Centennial State, had just beaten nine other competitors in a day full of close calls and heartbreaking finishes. Pat Johnson, the challenger closest to Flygt's final point tally (and hometown favorite from the University of Montana), gave him a handshake and went on his way, having only lost because of a bobble against the University of Idaho's Rod Cochrane in the single buck competition.

Flygt, competing in his first-ever STIHL TIMBERSPORTS sponsored event, has only been competing since fall of 2006 and had only one question regarding his win and impending slot in the Collegiate World Championships in Columbus, Ga.: "I'd like to know where I'm going and when that's happening, because I've got some school to make up (for), because I was getting ready for today."

Flygt was visibly relieved after finding out that his shot at the Championship was in June, and let out a resounding "Glorious!" before hugging and talking with the Colorado State students that had made the trek with him to Missoula.

Nichole Bonnema, from the California Polytechnic State University, was the only woman thus far this season to compete in the Collegiate Challenges and finished last for the day, having competed in every heat against the much larger Flygt. Earlier in the day, she admitted her one goal was "to beat one guy in one single competition."

Falling short of that mark, she still left her fellow competitors impressed at her technique and willingness to tough out the exhausting competitions.

Flygt, when asked if competing head-to-head with a female made him more motivated to "not lose," commented that his mindset was on one thing — competing with himself.

Bosworth and Jewett, old hands at this TIMBERSPORTS game, were on the sidelines giving pointers if asked, along with Jewett's co-host of the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Collegiate Challenge TV show, airing on ESPNU, Kevin Holtz.

Holtz had talked to Flygt when the competitors were getting their logs ready for the underhand chop, moments before the day's competition began, and was expressing the importance of technique over speed in addition to what elements of the game made the West Coasters more of a threat for the title of Collegiate Champion.

"The timber that these guys from the West use is more akin to the timber used in the pro ranks. Big trees, big logs — and that forces accuracy. You can be fast all day long, and you'll get nowhere if you don't have the technique. Technique and power forces accuracy and once you have that, and are comfortable out there, the speed comes, and then you're a force to be reckoned with."

Elaborating on that statement, Holtz used the pro sizes as a reference: "These kids are chopping on anything from 12- to 15-inch logs. In the pros, they use 13-inch for the underhand, 12 for the standing chop, and 11 for the springboard. You learn to be accurate on that size because you have to be. On smaller wood, if you don't set a course well at the beginning, you can fix your cuts on the other side of the log, but on 14- or 15-inch logs, if you don't set course, you're screwed."

That said, Holtz brought up a good point about the East Coast competitors, namely Matt Slingerland from Montgomery Community College, winner of the Mid-Atlantic competition earlier this month, "That kid is all technique. His dad's had him working on the pro sizes for as long as he's been doing this. I think it'll be a good one, and a close one, when they all get on the stage together."

Flygt agreed with Holtz' view on technique over speed, stating he'd gone against a number of his competitors in the past namely University of Montana's Pat Johnson and Rory Cochrane from the University of Idaho, and they'd "got him every time" even though he is a self-described "big, hairy, manly dude" with technique.

Carson Bosworth, a STIHL TIMBERSPORTS pro, was on hand, giving out advice as well and had a special connection with Flygt — he'd mailed him several axes in the past and lives only a short distance from Flygt's parents in Wisconsin.

"This is the first time I've had the chance to meet Mr. Bosworth in person, but we've exchanged e-mails, and he's had pointers for me. I'm always ready to learn, and now I'm excited about going to Columbus. I'm hopeful, and I'm going to do the best that I can do."

That's a philosophy that just might win him the title in June.