With a Brazil-nut crunching grip, collegiate timbersports king, David Green, shook my hand, then recoiled suddenly."Sorry, I'm just used to being around lumberjacks," he said.
Tucking one bruised hand (and ego) back into my notebook, I sat down for coffee with the amiable 23-year-old Sisters resident and recent COCC graduate.
This summer, Green will mount the stage, axe in hand, as the STIHL Timbersports Collegiate Series celebrates its 25th year with a silver anniversary event at the Oregon State Fair. That same weekend, college athletes will join international pros competing for the world finals. He still ranks as a college athlete due to his June graduation during the current running season.
An intoxicating aroma of chainsaw gas and woodchips will perfume the Salem air for three days of feverish hacking, sawing and slicing from August 27-29. The competition pits five regional collegiate champions and a wildcard pick against one another in four disciplines: single buck, standing block chop, stock saw and underhand chop. That probably doesn't mean anything to most of you - don't worry, I'll explain later. The top contender earns the title of 2010 Collegiate Series champ and wins an automatic ticket to the 2011 STIHL Timbersports Series. ESPN crews will capture the steel and sweat for a December telecast.
Green earned the right to compete for the crown by repeating as champion this past March at the STIHL Western Collegiate Challenge in snowy Fort Collins, Colorado. There, Green was pitted against familiar foes, including Colorado State's favorite son and former western champion, the mustachioed Adrian Flygt.
"He's a madman, but we're good friends," Green joked. "That makes it hard, because it's easier to dislike the guy you're trying to beat."
Flygt struggled this spring due to an eye injury, while Green was in prime shape, beefed up by way of the Thai cooking his new wife, Thanittha, provided and brutal hours in the gym, dominating with a fusion of laser focus and grit. He says that maintaining fitness levels to compete with the best is a strenuous process and one that takes him throughout the region.
"Last week I went to Darby Logger Days in Montana, then drove back to Portland and competed at West Linn," said Green. "It's a paid exhibition logging show during a carnival. These events are primers to keep me mentally and physically prepared for the big show in late August. I want to make sure I don't peak too early and burn out."
The single buck is a ball-busting event and one of Green's favorites. Nicknamed the "misery whip," it harkens back to times when a pair of woolen lumberjacks ate through massive tree trunks while pumping away at opposite ends of an eight-foot crosscut saw. Modern competitors use a more manageable, six-foot, single-man saw to mutilate 19 inches of solid white pine.
The stock saw discipline utilizes an MS-660 STIHL chainsaw, a 15-pound machine that is similar to what you might find in any garage or shed around Central Oregon.
"That's small compared to the monstrous 80-pound hot saws the pros wield," Green explained, "They're wicked. Some use Honda motorcycle engines."
He and his two brothers grew up watching timbersports in its infancy on ESPN. "We loved it and thought it was the coolest thing," Green recalled. "My sophomore year in college a friend did a geography speech on the sport and its history, then told everyone about the school's new timbersports team. I was ready to sign up that second."
Not to be labeled a One-Trick Pony, this student lumberjack is also a "below-scratch" golfer who was 3A state high school golf champion in 2003. He measures up with a "plus-two" handicap, including tournament play. Love of the links runs deep in the Green family blood.
"My other brother, Jonathan, was the high school state golf champion in '01 and my identical twin brother, Christian, is headed down to compete in the Gateway Tour and try to qualify for the PGA Tour in September," Green says.
For the state fair jamboree, Green will be chopping on his home turf and that has him pumped and primed for a stellar performance.
"I'm so excited for my dad to finally watch me compete. He's got a bad back and it's hard for him to travel, but this is a short hop over Santiam Pass. I have friends and family showing up so there'll be lots of support. It's going to be a blast," he says.