WVU’s Mascot: Bring on the Boom!

troy clemons, 2016

MORGANTOWN — You can’t think about West Virginia University without envisioning the school’s mascot, the Mountaineer.

Since its creation in 1934, 64 men and two women have worn the buckskins and carried the musket as the Mountaineer for West Virginia University.

In 1934, Lawson Hill was the first official Mountaineer, although several men had filled the position unofficially in the years before his appointment.

In 1990, Natalie Tennant became the first female Mountaineer and was followed by Rebecca Durst in 2009.

Tennant, who went on to serve as West Virginia’s secretary of state for two terms, said her interest in being the Mountaineer started in high school, where she was “Superdog,” the mascot for the Huskies of North Marion High School.

She would do tricks and skits in her mascot costume and said she liked using humor to get the crowds involved and cheering. She was also the first female to portray “Superdog” at her high school.

Tennant went on to attend WVU for five years and during her final year decided to apply for and try out to be the Mountaineer. She was one of two finalists and as their final audition, both cheered for half of a basketball game against Temple University. During that game, there was a vocal contingent who cheered against her and against the idea of a female mascot, but she didn’t let it affect her.

“I just had to carry on, carry the gun and cheer,” she said.

While she met with opposition, Tennant said she received a lot of support from all types of people. Like Mountaineers before and since, she traveled around the state and beyond for appearances and speaking engagements. When Durst became the second female Mountaineer in 2009, she remembered there being some boos at the time of the announcement but could also tell that attitudes had improved since her own time.

“I wouldn’t exchange that experience for anything, I loved being Mountaineer,” Tennant said, adding her experiences helped shape how she has done everything in her life since that time.

“I just take such pride,” she said.

Another of those who put on the buckskins was Rock Wilson, originally of Harrisville and now living in Williamstown. He became the Mountaineer in 1991 and served three consecutive years through 1994.

Wilson graduated from Harrisville High School in 1983, attended what was then called Parkersburg Community College (now West Virginia University at Parkersburg) and Fairmont State College (now Fairmont State University), then attended WVU to earn a master’s degree and a law degree.

In high school, Wilson said he worked for a local farmer whose son was the Mountaineer and he became interested in trying out for the position while attending WVU. There was always a lot of interest in the mascot position and Wilson said he competed with over 20 others some years.

In fact, Wilson said he didn’t get the position the first three years he tried out.

“It was amazing, it was just so fun,” Wilson said of his time as Mountaineer, with a lot of traveling on his own and a lot of traveling with the WVU teams.

During one period of 365 days, Wilson said he made 310 appearances at different events. Wilson took his nephew, Brock Burwell, also of Ritchie County, to some of the games in Morgantown and had a miniature Mountaineer suit made for him. Burwell later became Mountaineer himself for two years, in 2010 and 2011.

Between the two periods when he and his nephew served as mascot, Wilson said the position of Mountaineer became more constrained and his nephew couldn’t quite do as much as he did during his own years.

“He didn’t have quite as much liberty as I did. I was kind of my own boss” as Mountaineer, Wilson said.

Despite that, Wilson said the role hasn’t changed much over the years. While the Mountaineer is intended as an ambassador for WVU, it also serves in many people’s eyes as an ambassador for the state of West Virginia as well. “I did lots of parades, lots of appearances, lots of festivals. Everybody liked to see the Mountaineer,” he said.

Wilson said he made a lot of connections and formed a lot of friendships. He still meets people who remember him from his time as Mountaineer. Past Mountaineers stay in touch with each other, with reunions every five years, including this fall during WVU’s Homecoming Week, he said.

The Mountaineers

Clay Crouse, 1927

Burdette “Irish” Crow, 1932

Bill Fahey, 1933

Lawson Hill, 1934-35

William “Buckwheat” Jackson, 1936

Boyd H. “Slim” Arnold, 1937-39

Julius W. Singleton Jr., 1940-41

William F. Gott, 1942-43

1944 – No mascot due to WW II.

Robert L. Carr, 1945

James G. Coughlin, 1946

Sidney H. Gillis, 1947

Matthew W. Harrison Jr., 1948

John Russel, 1949

Thomas A. Deveny III, 1950

James Almond, 1951

Dan D. Fleming, 1952

Dan R. Oliker, 1953

John Coyner, 1954

Fred S. Pattison, 1955

Larry Reppert, 1956

James L. McCoy, 1957

Robert L. Allen, 1958

David Ellis, 1959

William McPherson, 1960

Jerry S. Sturm, 1961

William D. Thompson, 1962

William W. “Buck” Rogers Jr., 1963

Edward S. Pritchard, 1964-65

Kenneth B. Fonville, 1966

Louis A. Garvin, 1967

Frederick G. Reel, 1968-69

Douglas F. Townshend, 1969-70

Robert S. Lowe, 1971-72

Mark Lothes, 1972-73

Stuart Wolpert, 1973-74

Junior Russell Taylor, 1975

Jerome E. Scherer, 1976

Bruce D. Heisler, 1977

Richard D. Poling, 1978

James P. Campbell, 1979

Cecil C. Graham, 1980

Andy M. Mergler, 1981

Edward R. Cokeley, 1981

Robert E. Richardson, 1982

Michael G. Russell, 1983

Mark Boggs, 1984

Tim S. Nilan, 1985

Matthew P. Zervos, 1986

Thomas E. Dulaney Jr., 1987

Dan C. Pearson, 1988

Benjamin F. White, 1989

Natalie E. Tennant, 1990

Rock S. Wilson, 1991-93

John R. Stemple, 1994-95

Andy R. Cogar, 1996-97

Brandon S. Flower, 1998-99

Scott W. Moore, 2000-01

Trey Hinrichs, 2002-03

Derek Fincham, 2004-05

Brady Campbell, 2006-07

Michael Squires, 2008

Rebecca Durst, 2009

Brock Burwell, 2010-11

Jonathan Kimble, 2012-13

Michael Garcia, 2014-15

Troy Clemons, 2016-17