Block by block

(Jump to Part II)

It was Jason Wynyard who best summed up the 25th anniversary season of the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Series, which he said, of course, after winning his ninth U.S. title and second in a row.

"The competition gets better every year," he said. "This was the most talented group I've competed against, and the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Series really does bring out the best in the world."

The part he couldn't figure out was how he won by almost 20 points ... but we'll get to that. For this column, I'm looking to paint the entire picture, which means going back to the beginning -- all the way back to 2009.

September 26, 2009

Why wait for 2010 when you can start the new season in 2009? As has been the custom (but will not be the case in 2011), the Midwest Collegiate qualifier was held in the fall before the new year.

In true anniversary form, the weather was horrible and created lines like this in the recap: "Using the driest of his three axes in the underhand chop, Gollnick took the early lead."

Andrew Gollnick and his wet ax lost the lead in the end, giving way Kory Garrie, a senior this year at SIU-Carbondale, who planned to celebrate his victory not by hitting the wood or the books, but with "a little bit of deer hunting. Deer season opens up next Thursday. Then I'll jump right back onto training for STIHL come January."

March 19, 2010

After a six-month wait, it was time for the second event of the 2011 STIHL TIMBERSPORTS season, the West collegiate qualifier at Colorado State University.

Once again the weather gods marked their calendar and dumped a foot of snow on the competitors (and film crew, and talent, and crazy people) on the day of the event. ESPNU announcers Dave Jewett and Kevin Holtz stood huddled together on a couple wood cookies as they called David Green's single buck, which decided the championship.

It was one of the few moments this year where noone really knew what the call would be. Green pushed a little too hard at the bottom of his cut and there was a chance he hadn't cut a full cookie.

"I thought it was good, but when you're staring at it, waiting ..." Green said. "My heart was beating a thousand times a minute."

It was good, and Green, one the better collegiate competitors the last couple years, was into the final.

March 25, 2010

This should be deemed Logan Scarborough day in Monticello, Ark.

The South region champion was never in question. Scarborough dominated in a fashion that left you thinking, "Is the south that bad or is he that good?"

It would be another five months before we found out for sure.

April 17, 2010

There were only five guys competing in the Mid-Atlantic region, and really only two had a legitimate shot at winning. But when the two performances match the level of Tim Benedict and Daniel Jones, it makes for high drama.

First it was Jones, then it was Benedict, then Jones, then a tie and a saw-off. They finished 1-2 in every event, but it was Benedict who won the stock saw (for the second time) in the saw-off and earned the title of champion.

"It was intense," said Benedict. "It was head-to-head, which is what it's all about."

April 24, 2010

As it turned out, the final collegiate competition would decide the final two spots in the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Collegiate Championship presented by Carhartt.

Complete with commentary from his mom and dad, Jon Preston bested eventual wild card Tyler White for the Northeastern championship at Paul Smith's College. It was a nice day for Preston, but didn't show the dominance the region has had in the past.

"I know there's a lot of great competition out there," Preston said. "I have to get better."

May 3, 2010

Tyler White is announced as the collegiate wild card and the six-man final is set. Watching all five competitions, Scarborough seemed to have the edge, but it was hard to believe anyone from the South region could win it all.

But don't tell that to Logan "Gargantuan" Scarborough. At 6-foot-3, 235 pounds, he certainly looks the part. He also said he was planning on spending some of the summer with Mike and Matt Slingerland, both professional lumberjacks in their own right, so the effort was certainly there.

With all the parts, pieces and qualifications set, it would be more than three months before ax hit wood in an STS competition.

It was worth the wait.

August 27, 2010

There's just a different feel when the big boys come to town. Watching a standing block log be cut in 25 seconds (David Green, West collegiate) is impressive until you see one chopped in 18 seconds (Shane Jordan, professional championship, round one).

And even as you watched the bottom 16 seeded pros battle for eight spots in the second round, you knew the best was yet to compete at the Oregon State Fair in Salem, Ore.

Editor's note: The 70 degree weather and smell of funnel cake was a decided upgrade from the 100 degree heat and Gatorade in Georgia the past couple years.

Big surprises were Matthew Cogar and Shane Jordan. Cogar -- a relative of top American lumberjack Arden Cogar -- had the field begging for mercy most the day. And when pros like Mike Slingerland are barely qualifying for the second round, it created a sense that up-and-comers are ready to make a move.

Oh yeah, and remember "Gargantuan" Scarborough? He lived up to his name by running over the collegiate field. His cause was helped when Green DQ'd in the stock saw, but I don't think it would have mattered too much in the end.

The collegiate competition was technically supposed to end on Sunday as the top-two in each discipline squared off for first and second place, but Scarborough had it mathematically wrapped up by Friday night. The South rose again.

August 28, 2010

The 24 remaining lumberjacks were broken up into three heats of 8, depending on their seed. The top four in each heat would advance to the 12-man final.

Most of the competitors seemed to be excited about the format because it offered four more spots in the final than they had in 2009.

It was clear early that we were dealing with the 24 best lumberjacks in the world. Everyone was a little less chatty back stage, the fans were a little more geared up and the wood was taking a new kind of beating. Roger Phelps explained it best as he was quoted in the daily blog: "Tension goes up each day with the competitors. It's fun to watch."

The second round only solidified the thought that this might be the year someone unseats Jason Wynyard or David Bolstad. As Wynyard said, the competition has never been better.

Wynyard was actually outside the qualifying cut after two events in his pool, giving way to American Arden Cogar Jr. Wynyard eventually recovered and won the group but the Cogar finished a close second. After two days, It looked like Salem might be Cogar town.

In fact, a handful of Americans looked really good in round two. Four eventually qualified for the finals, including former collegiate champion Will Roberts.

August 29, 2010

Remember all that talk and fuzzy feelings about equality, a talented field and the possible unseating of the Bolstad/Wynyard chopping monster. None of that mattered.

In fact, even Bolstad was left to watch as New Zealander Jason Wynyard took it to the field. He said afterward that he wasn't sure how he won by such a margin, but for those watching, it was pretty clear. A DQ by Bolstad in the hot saw made the gap wider than it should have been, but it doesn't take away from what Wynyard accomplished.

"This is very unusual for me, but I kind of planned ahead a little," Wynyard said after his victory. "I used to just train kind of week to week without a plan, but I can't do that stuff anymore at age 36. You can't be carrying nagging injuries into an event like this, and I was able to avoid that."

The king himself, Mel Lentz, won the U.S. championship, but honestly, it wasn't a good day for any of them as they finished in the bottom four spots. Even though Lentz won, it was Cogar who represented the U.S. in the World Championship a week later...

September 4, 2010

...And once again, Cogar and everybody else fell to Jason Wynyard. When Wynyard is in a zone like he was for these two weeks, it's best to just get out of the way. Cogar did finish fourth, just one spot out of the podium, which was a nice recovery from the U.S. competition.

Austria was as beautiful as advertised and welcomed STIHL TIMBERSPORTS with much fan fare. They also gave out some sweet medals for the podium finishers and a trophy for Wynyard.

September 5, 2010

The final day of the 25th anniversary season was country relay day at the world championships and the U.S. showed up big. A team of Arden Cogar, Mathew Cogar, Dave Jewett, Brandon Sirguy, and Will Roberts worked their way through a bracket system to face New Zealand in the finals.

They fell just short of the championship after running into the wall that is Bolstad and Wynyard, but it was an incredible competition. The time/points format of the pro series is tried and true, but is there anything better than a true bracket formula, team relays and country vs. country? Throw in a huge crowd and beautiful background and it became the perfect way to finish the celebration of 25 years.

Be sure and catch the championship show Oct. 10 at 1 p.m. ET on ESPN2.