DUBUQUE, Iowa — The 22nd year of the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Series started up at high noon on the banks of the Mississippi in Dubuque, Iowa. Perfect blue skies and a full house welcomed competitors from the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Switzerland as 32 lumberjacks compete for the 16 spots that will move on to the next round in Decatur, Alabama.
Pools A and B opened the Series with Pools C and D scheduled for tomorrow. After the day's events eight competitors earned their way to Decatur. Along with Jason Wynyard, David Bolstad, Mel Lentz and Mike Sullivan three other competitors who worked together in the off season will also make the trek south. Arden Cogar, Jr., Mike Slingerland and Mike Eash formed an alliance to study each other's films and offer each other work out advice over a net based system that was shared with five other lumberjack sports competitors.
The consortium training worked for the trio with Eash being the biggest surprise followed by Slingerland who also missed last year's second event in Decatur. "We have been working on it all winter," said Cogar. "We really can see in others what we we don't see in ourselves and it has really sharpened our technique."
Jason Wynyard picked up where he left off last year by capping the A Pool Springboard event. Even though the seven-time defending champ is the best in the series, he still has butterflies going into the competition.
"I was really nervous for some reason. Going first in the first event always serves up a little case of nerves, but I had a good top chop," said Wynyard who had a time of 47.61.
Hermann Schonbachler said he was exhausted but he was good enough for second place in the pool. Justin Beckett, Mike Eash and Mel Lentz were third through fifth while Gaston Duperre, Mark Jones and Jonathan Blais rounded out the event.
David Bolstad promises to be a force to be reckoned with this year. He's thirty pounds lighter and says he's in great shape. So far so good in his first event posting the best time in today's springboard at 44.96.
"I feel good" said Bolstad, "I had four hits in the bottom pocket and five in the top."
Arden Cogar, chopping against Bolstad, started out the event an even pace, but Cogar set back his time when he lost his footing jumping up to the second board. Mike Slingerland, Mike Sullivan, William Roberts and Mike Forrester followed not far behind placing third through sixth. First timer David Engasser beat out veteran Paul Pfenninger to close out the event.
The true test of woodsmanship at these events is the amount of expertise in the Stock Saw event. A veteran like Mel Lentz should know. He makes a living as a woodsman.
"I work every day with a MS 660 STIHL Magnum" chain saw, so I get used to listening to the RPM's of the saw to make sure I'm getting maximum efficiency. It's the same technique as we use here," said the former STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Series Champ.
Lentz won the A Pool event with a time of 11.47. Mike Eash finished a pleasing second followed by Jason Wynyard and Herman Schonbachler. Justin Beckett, Mark Jones Gaston Duperre and Jonathan Blais finished out the field.
David Bolstad so far has stayed true to his promise, and has proven he is one to beat. Remaining in the first place slot for Pool B, he stands strong with a finishing time of 11.51.
Third place finisher Mike Slingerland placed stronger in the Stock Saw then in last year's event said, "This event is all about listening to the motor, If the revs are too high, you're not pulling enough. If the sound is too deep, you've killed it, but if you don't hear it as much, you're not cutting fast which is a sign you're not going to win."
Paul Pfenninger sliced his way into second with the time of 12.19. Mike Slingerland, David Engasser, William Roberts, Mike Sullivan, and Mike Forrester took places third through sixth. Arden Cogar Jr. took last placed in this event due to a DQ from breaking the cookie.
Standing Block Chop
Jason Wynyard and Justin Beckett finished one and two showing why they are among the best in the world; but the developing story of the day is Mike Eash who has finished fourth in the Spring Board, second in the Stock Saw and third in the Standing Block.
"I have really worked hard in the off season. I knew I had to be really aggressive in everything this year to finish well," said Eash.
He's right, since the times in each event get better and better every year.
The rest of the field from fifth was Mel Lentz, Gaston Duperre, Mark Jones, Hermann Schonbachler and Jonathan Blais.
David Bolstad is soaring through Pool B in first place just as fast as the woodchips fly off his logs. Even though he claims this event time wasn't his personal best, the third time is still just as charming to the Dubuque STIHL TIMBERSPORTS crowd, as David holds the first place time of 17.35.
"I am a little disappointed in this performance, the axe I used wasn't the most suitable" said Bolstad. "I didn't cut as well as I liked, the wood was a little dry so the axe tends to run. I was two seconds over then I should have been."
In the last leg David Bolstad and Arden Cogar Jr. went head-to-head having the quickest heat placing Arden Cogar Jr. in second place. Other finishers were Mike Slingerland, Mike Forrester, Will Roberts, Mike Sullivan, Paul Pfenninger and David Engasser.
Even though Jason Wynyard is one of the best in the business, he never fails to realize that is up against the world's best competition at the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Series.
After finishing first in the pool he said, "You always have to be on top of your game here. With the level of competition here, there is no let up."
Wynyard bested his close friend Justin Beckett. Mike Eash continues to a surprise third finish, followed by Mel Lentz Gaston Duperre, Mark Jones, Jonathan Blais and Hermann Schonbachler
Putting a stop to David Bolstad's first place streak, Arden Cogar Jr. swift Underhand Chop broke the pattern. The two proved how exciting this event can be by their neck and neck performances, with finishing times of 15 seconds flat and 15.41.
With a change for the better in his Underhand chop performance Arden Cogar Jr. explained how he has made his transition. "It is all how I have positioned my body when the axe hits the wood. I've learned how to position my feet and weight so its my whole body behind the blow."
David Bolstad placed second for the first time so far in this competition, followed by Will Roberts in third. Mike Slingerland, Mike Sullivan, Mike Forrester, David Engasser, and Paul Pfenninger round ding out the rest of the field.
Jason Wynyard continued his dominance in the pool scoring 38 out of 40 points through the first five events. He owned the Single Buck event using a new saw the he "wasn't quite used to yet."
"I've got a shorter saw that weighs less and I need to get comfortable with the adjustment," said Wynyard who posted an 11.5 second time besting Justin Beckett, Hermann Schonbachler and Mel Lentz.
Other finishers were Gaston Duperre, Mark Jones, Mel Lentz and Jonathan Blais.
The old guard of Bolstad, Sullivan, Forrester, Cogar and Slingerland proved this event is an experience-based contest and all posted good times. David Bolstad had a slight hang up in the beginning and it put him in fourth place.
Mike Forrester knew he needed two good finishes and picked up one by winning the event. "I've got to pick up the pace and I need some help if I want to make it Decatur."
Arden Cogar, Jr finished second and Mike Sullivan grabbed fourth. All four times were in the 13-second range.
Mike Slingerland was fifth, followed by David Engasser, Will Roberts and Paul Pfenninger
It may seem like every one of these reports have featured Jason Wynyard, and for good reason. He showed that is at the top of the competition, and possibly en route to his eighth STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Series Championship.
"I've been doing a little work on my Hot Saw and its good. You always worry about a bloody mechanical problem," said the Kiwi.
Gaston Duperre posted a second place finish followed by Hermann Schonbachler, Justin Beckett and Mike Eash. Rounding out the field were Mark Jones, Mel Lentz, and Jonathan Blais.
For Mike Forester, Will Roberts and Mike Sullivan the Hot Saw was the make or break point for them in today's competition to advance to Decatur. After a bobble by Forrester and a stall by Roberts, Sullivan knew all he needed to do was make three good cuts, not worrying about time.
"I knew that all I had to do was finish, now I'm concerned that it might affect my rankings for next year."
David Bolstad took the final event by storm finishing with a lighting time of 5.75.
Mike Sullivan took second place insuring his spot in the top four advancing to Decatur.. Arden Cogar Jr. posted a third place standing followed by Mike Forrester, Mike Slingerland, Paul Pfenninger, and Will Roberts.
In the A Pool, moving on to the next round in Decatur Alabama is Jason Wynyard, Justin Beckett, Mike Eash and Mel Lentz.
In the B Pool, moving on to the next round in Decatur is David Bolstad, Arden Cogar Jr., Mike Slingerland and Mike Sullivan.
Also benefiting from the days events was the Eastern Iowa Disaster Relief fund to assist recent Iowa tornado victims. Local radio personality, Tim Larry at KDTH will accept the money raised on behalf of the Red Cross. Winners of the raffle were Bryan Genter of Ames, Iowa and Kevin Green of Galena, Illinois.