Campus Life

Penn State Woodsmen Team helps students 'branch out' in collegiate timber sports

The Penn State Woodsmen Team provides students of all majors the opportunity to learn collegiate timber sports skills. Credit: Penn State / Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — America has a deep-rooted logging history that goes back to the 1600s, and the tradition is being carried on by members of the Penn State Woodsmen Team.

"The team gives students a look into the yesteryear of logging history and how things were done," said Michael Powell, team adviser and senior research technologist in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences.

Olivia Richart of the Penn State Woodsmen Team practices her skills. Credit: Penn State / Penn StateCreative Commons

The Penn State Woodsmen Team provides students of all majors the opportunity to learn collegiate timber sports skills such as chopping, sawing, throwing and climbing, and then test their skills in several competitions. The group usually meets twice a week but sometimes meets three to four times a week during competition season.

During practices, the team performs various drills to prepare for competitions. Because there are no timber sport contests in Pennsylvania, the team attends events elsewhere in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic, such as Maryland and Virginia, and even in Canada.

One of the most recent competitions was the Finger Lakes Community College fall meet in Canandaigua, New York, where the team placed second out of nine teams. This performance made club president Aaron Sweger, a sophomore landscape contracting major from Carlisle, proud because, he said, "we have grown as a team and performed much better than in past competitions."

At every practice and competition, safety is paramount. The team is taught proper technique and must wear and use safety gear.

"We want them to have fun, but safety always comes first," Powell said.

In addition to competing, the team also gives demonstrations at various events, including the annual Ag Sciences Student Involvement Fair at Penn State and the Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg. Members also volunteer at college events.

While joining the team is a way to participate in competitions, it also offers a chance to learn valuable life lessons and form lasting friendships, according to Madelyn Bentz, a sophomore agricultural and extension education major from Epping, New Hampshire, who is the vice president and co-captain. She said members get together outside of practice and have formed a close bond.  

"The team has become like a family to me, and I've made some of my closest friends with the people on the team," said Bentz, who describes her teammates as passionate, hard-working and lively.

Team members also can learn skills that they can use in the post-graduation world.

"The team has impacted me in many ways," Sweger said. "It has taught me a sense of responsibility through managing my studies, tests and practice, as well as teaching me leadership skills."

Students who are interested in learning more about the team are encouraged to contact Bentz at or Sweger at

"Our group loves what we do," said Bentz. "We are always striving to do better than the last time and improve as individuals and as a team. There is never a dull moment."

Last Updated December 11, 2018