- At the Lumberjack World Championships on July 21, 2022, in Hayward, one woman and three men from Lake Country secured podium finishes in professional divisions.
- John Hallett introduced log rolling to Lake Country after moving from Connecticut to Oconomowoc.
- For the world championships, you regularly see competitors joining from far-away places such as Japan, New Zealand, or Australia.
Logrolling is a unique niche you’d only see on entertainment TV or social media. However, the YMCA at Pabst Farms in Oconomowoc is home to world champions in the sport.
The 115,000-square-foot YMCA center offers various programs for all age groups and a Child Care Center. Many consider the state-of-the-art YMCA to be the anchor of the community at Pabst Farms.
At the Lumberjack World Championships on July 21, 2022, in Hayward, one woman and three men from Lake Country secured podium finishes in professional divisions.
The mother of several log rollers from Hartland, Susie Polentini, commented about logrolling, “It’s a bizarre, weird niche sport, but it is a lot of fun. The whole logrolling community is fun to be a part of.” Anthony Polentini, her oldest child, was crowned champion this year with about 12 years of experience in the sport. Anthony stated, “It’s pretty cool to say you’re the best in the world.”
He added, “Lumberjacking was centered around the upper Midwest in its heyday, but it’s cool being in the Milwaukee area, which is not what people would say is a forestry or lumberjack area. It’s cool to see college kids and others doing the sport and going to college, working for regular companies, and in the summer, we do this crazy sport called log rolling. It’s pretty cool.”
John Hallett Introduces Log Rolling to Lake Country
John Hallett moved to Wisconsin in 98′, settling in Oconomowoc to open his veterinary practice Hallett Veterinary Hospital. After spending years of his life in Connecticut, he yearned for a log rolling community in his new hometown.
It all began at City Beach with a few logs Hallett received from the city’s parks and recreation dept. The YMCA opened shortly after and agreed to let Hallet’s program practice on carpeted logs.
The new champion, Anthony Polentini, and his family first experienced logrolling at a festival in Stoughton. The professionals even encouraged local youth to try it out after they finished up. Susie Polentini reminisced about the family fun, “The kids had so much fun falling off the log and getting back in line. We took them home thinking it was a great day and a fun experience they’ll always remember. That was it.”
Susie quickly realized her children were not done with log rolling after the festival. Months down the line, Anthony was taking swim lessons at the YMCA. He recalls looking across the pool and seeing logrollers practicing, and he quickly asked his mom to sign him up.
Accidently finding logrolling seems to be a familiar pattern. Brian Joas, president of the US Log Rolling Association, discovered Hallett’s program at the YMCA while living in Oconomowoc. Growing up in Green Bay, he reported seeing log rolling events on ESPN 2 and knew of the sport but was shocked and excited to see it at his local YMCA center. He commented, “My stepdaughter, who was 12 at the time, and I said we have to sign up. That was it. That’s all it took.”
John Hallett encourages youth to get into log rolling, as he explains that getting the hang of it is easier when you are smaller. Children who start as young as six and have rolled for a decade or more are ready to challenge pros like the Polentinis or Hallett’s son, Tanner, who took second place at the 2022 Lumberjack World Championships.
The coach’s son Tanner stated, “This team has been a fantastic part of my life. I have a bunch of my best friends on the team, and they’re all super good rollers, and we push each other really hard, and it’s a real privilege to be able to roll here.”
Hallett says, “The whole objective is athletic development and having fun. It’s a great group of people and a great way to meet people from around the state, the country, or the world.” Log rolling has been a great outlet for local youth in Lake Country to put their energy and skills to good use, even if they aren’t participating in rolling to become champions.
Lake Country Log Rolling Success
Susie Polentini stated, “For many kids, it’s fun for a while, but they realize this sport doesn’t come with instant success; it can be frustrating. We are lucky to have a coach who is such a calming force and gives them small yet achievable goals. It’s never about winning. It’s looking for them to stay up for a certain time and then more the next time or getting one fall on their competitor. He also teaches them to coach each other, and they motivate each other. It’s incredible.”
Athletes and their parents unanimously agree that John Hallett is the special ingredient to Lake Country’s success in log rolling. Anthony adds to the praise of Coach Hallet, “It’s all John. It’s a winning culture. What I mean by that is he doesn’t focus on winning much. He builds a good environment and wants you to have fun. You’re responsible for your own success and failures, but we work together to improve as a team and as individuals. What he has done for this group and this sport, it’s immeasurable.”
John Hallett has over 40 years of coaching experience, plus years of traveling with a lumberjack show earlier in life. He brings immense knowledge, passion, and coaching ability to the table. His drive and motivation to see youth adopt this sport is what is developing world champions.
He’s also successfully built a log rolling community in Oconomowoc, bringing together log rollers from all corners of the world. Each summer, competitions take place across the upper Midwest. For the world championships, you regularly see competitors joining from far-away places such as Japan, New Zealand, or Australia.
In summer, Hallett’s group regularly practices on Upper Oconomowoc Lake, where red cedar logs of varying sizes, both carpeted and uncarpeted, are available for anyone to use. Hallett welcomes anyone (6+) to give logrolling a chance.
In addition, he hosts practice sessions during the school year at the YMCA, typically at 6:30 PM on Thursdays and 2:30 PM on Sundays. He says he gets all sorts of interest, from those wanting to have some fun to individuals who wish to take it on professionally or who want to use it as an athletic practice to improve their skills in other sports.
The Lake Country group also hosts two events annually, one in May and one in October. This year, the Rock N Roll Log Rolling contest is set for October 2. It will be held at the YMCA and will begin at 10:30 AM. Amateurs and pros will face off, and the opportunity is open for anyone who may want to try participating in the sport.
For more info on Lake Country logrolling, visit uslogrolling.com/home. You can also find “Oconomowoc log rolling” on Facebook, or call the YMCA at Pabst Farms at 262-567-7251
Dawson, Drew. “Lake Country logrolling program sweeps Lumberjack World Championships podium” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Aug 25. Lake Country logrolling program sweeps Lumberjack World Championships (jsonline.com). Accessed 29 August 2022.