We are proud to introduce StrongArm’s first ever sponsored athlete, Ben Kniceley. Ben is an Industrial Athlete in every sense of the word.
During the day, Ben works as an equipment operator for an environmental restoration company, rebuilding ponds, streams and other features around North Carolina. Outside of this, alongside starting a family with his wife Kelly and hunting in his free time, Ben is a professional timbersports athlete, ranking among the best in the sport in North America.
Ben competes in a number of exhibitions, such as the STIHL U.S. Champions Trophy (a STIHL-sponsored endurance event featuring the top twelve ranked lumberjacks in the United States), as well as local events around North Carolina to show off his skills. But his primary goal is to win the coveted STIHL Championship.
In Cherry Valley, NY on June 17, Ben competed in the U.S. Northeast Qualifier, finishing 4th overall and earning a trip to the U.S. Championship in July in Little Rock, Arkansas. We’re so excited to support Ben in his pursuit of the trophy!
Partnering with Ben is an exciting step for StrongArm. Moving forward, we hope to sponsor more athletes like Ben as a sign of our support towards and commitment to protecting Industrial Athletes around the world. For Ben, our partnership is a demonstration of our dedication to championing him – a nod that we, literally and figuratively, have his back.
To help you get to know him a little better, we asked Ben some questions:
How did you get into Woodsmen Competitions?
My first year in college, I was actually rooming next to the captain of our woodsman team. He talked me into coming with him and watching a practice or two, and honestly I fell in love with it that first week.
I had never even heard of it before that point; I had never seen it on TV or anything like that. After that, I was looking it up, learning all the guys, and showing up to practice every day. It was a much bigger deal in college than I ever thought.
How do you train?
I actually have a little concrete pad in my backyard. I had some stands fabricated up that I bolted down to the concrete, and I have some property about an hour and a half from the house, so I’ll go cut down some trees and bring them back to the house for training wood.
Then, all the guys that compete in the STIHL series, or the Timbersports world, they all train together too. So we’ll go to each other’s houses and provide wood, and we’ll hang out and make a day out of it.
How has the sport evolved since you’ve been participating?
It’s evolved a little bit. As our younger competitors start getting older and better, they start adding new competitions. Somebody knows somebody wants to have a competition at a local brewery or something like that, and then a new competition gets added.
Other than that, the sport really hasn’t changed that much. Especially the STIHL series. It’s always been the ‘STIHL Six,’ which are the six events. The three axe disciplines; Springboard, Underhand Chop and Standing Block Chop. And the three sawing disciplines; Single Buck, Stock Saw and Hot Saw.
It’s always been that way for the men. For the women, on the other hand, their sport is evolving quickly. They started out with just three events; Underhand, Single Buck and Stock Saw. This past year, though, they’ve added Standing Block to theirs, so they’re catching up fast.
What’s your favorite event to participate in?
Probably the Springboard. It’s the most technical event, and there’s a lot that goes into it. And then, at the end of it, you’re six feet off the ground, on a nine foot pole, chopping a tree down. So there’s the danger and fear and all that stuff that plays into it. It’s fun.
What does being an Industrial Athlete mean to you?
It’s pretty cool to work in the blue collar world and do this. When you think about a lumberjack, you don’t usually think about an athlete. They’re usually considered blue collar workers.
So to take that work and turn it into an athletic event, where an athlete can do it, is pretty cool.
Could you explain how the tournaments work? Which ones have you competed in so far? What’s the ultimate goal of them?
The STIHL series starts out with a qualifier, which was this past weekend (June 17-18) for me. There’s five different qualifiers, with eight guys in each qualifier. And then of those eight, only the top four move on to the semi finals based on how they perform in the six events.
They’ll do one qualifier every weekend until the final 20 guys are set to go to the semi finals. And then in the semi finals, only twelve of those guys move to the finals.
We follow the German point system, since STIHL is based in Germany, which means points are doubled after so many events and then tripled when we go to the finals. And whoever has the most points at the end of the finals wins.
When/Where is the Championship?
The World Championship is happening in October in Sweden, where the US only sends their top guy.
The United States finals is July 22-23 in Little Rock, Arkansas.
STIHL also does a team event in Sweden, which they haven’t done that past few years because of COVID, but they’re doing this year. With that, they take the top four times from the chopping and sawing events and make a team of four guys and send them over.
It’s essentially a trophy race, but instead of one guy doing all four events, you’re in a team doing a relay. So the top four will move on to that as well.
What does the StrongArm sponsorship mean to you?
It’s huge, man. To be able to represent y’all is the best. To have a company like StrongArm, and the thousands of Industrial Athletes behind them, supporting me, that means a lot.
And I think it’s good for STIHL to be shown alongside a brand that champions and protects Industrial Athletes. It’s something that a lot of guys get really excited about, too.