‘It’s Just You And The Log’: The Life And Philosophies Of A Champion Lumberjack


Martin Rickman

DIANA, W.V. – Everyone has an origin story. Matt Cogar’s took place here, off the main road, off the side road, off a trail that leads to a wooden cabin next to a creek.

Here is where Matt’s father Paul built a shed just off that trail to house his axes and cutting equipment. Here is where the chip pile sits full of logs ready to be stacked and chopped. Here is where Matt is training as he goes after his fourth-consecutive STIHL Timbersports U.S. Championship.

The day Matt took up an axe, he didn’t know he’d grow to be the size of an MLB first baseman. He didn’t know he’d pay for his college books using lumberjack competitions. He didn’t know he’d someday become a champion. He did know he liked how it felt. The weight in his hand. The power it could generate. The ripple effect of energy traveling from his body to the axe to the wood and back again after he struck a log.

He started at the Webster County Woodchopping Festival a few miles away when he was 12, and something sparked in him, tinder and kindling burning until he couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Cogars have worked with wood in this part of the country for about as long as there have been Cogars. If they weren’t chopping, they were hauling. They got their start with mules lugging logs over the hills. When there wasn’t much use for mules anymore, they found other ways to make a living through timber. Paul has competed for the better part of four decades. Matt’s uncle Arden Sr. (a practicing lawyer by day) is a former champion in his own right. As is Matt’s cousin Arden Jr.

But Matt might be the best of them all.

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