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New Drum Major and Feature Twirler set to continue Penn State traditions

Submitted by Charlie on April 12, 2010 – View Comments

It has been 18 years, but the Penn State Nittany Lions will be featuring a male twirler since 1992 when World Open Solo Baton Twirling Champion John Mitchell held the position. After a tough audition and interview process, the judges decided that Matthew Freeman will replace long-time fan favorite PJ Maierhofer.

Though the sport has been commonly associated with and dominated by females twirlers, Penn State actually has a brief but accomplished history of male feature twirlers. When Mitchell was selected in 1989, he marked the first male twirler in 85 years, dating all the way back to 1904. But in that time, he compiled numerous accolades including World Open Solo Baton Twirling Champion, the Junior World Championship for Young Men, and National Junior Champion among them. We can only hope Matthew Freeman will be just as successful and accomplished at the position.

If you have attended a homecoming game in recent years, chances are you will remember John Mitchell’s incredible acrobatic performances.

In addition to a brand new feature twirler, Penn State has also selected Ian Kenney to replace last year’s drum major, Matt Sabo. Renowned for their pre-game front flips, the drum major is in charge of leading the marching band out for their pre-game routines.

Some fans will have you believe that the Drum Major’s pre-game flip at Penn State is a predictor of the outcome on the football field. Between 1982 to 1986, Penn State’s drum major Greg Stock only missed 3 flips during the pre-game routine in those 4 years. Coincidently, Penn State lost all 3 games.

When asked about the daunting front flip audition, Kenney had this to say, “I wasn’t as nervous as I thought it would be because I prepared so hard for it.”

Richard Bundy, Penn State’s director of athletic bands had this to say about the new selections.

“It’s very difficult to make these decisions, I know all of the students, and I know how hard they’ve all worked.”

Although every candidate managed the front flip well, Ian Kenney set himself apart during the interview process.

“the candidates were picked because they each had the entire package — the personality, the skills, the pride.”

Congratulations are in order to both Matthew Freeman and Ian Kenney. We know they will represent the university well and look forward to watching them continue some of the greatest traditions in college football.

  • PSUMatt

    umm… why did they pick a guy to be the twirler…?

  • Charlie

    I'm sure it was because he was the best person for the job. Given that he won gold for the US at the world baton championships, guys got considerable talent. Check out the youtube links.

  • becablue

    Matt is actually a world champion. He has won a total of five gold medals and he is awesome and a great performer. He will be a great additon to the PSU Blue Band.

  • PSUMatt

    I watched the youtube video above. It is undeniable that he is extremely talented, and I'm sure he will do a great job. I'm just surprised they picked a guy because I think most people view the main twirler as a girl. It will be interesting to see fan's initial reactions after everyone was so used to PJ.

  • psudevon

    Seriously, that's my issue. If they segued this with some ugly chick, it would be okay, but you're going to get 80,000 people expecting PJ (who had “marry me” signs littered throughout the student section) and getting some flamboyant dude instead? Give me a hot chick who can't throw batons worth a damn, that's okay.

  • Charlie

    This wouldn't be the first time Penn State has had a male feature twirler and fans weren't any less receptive when John Mitchell held the position. In fact, John Mitchell annual return to Penn State as an alumni twirler is a highlight for the student section during homecoming.

    In fact, in addition to John Mitchell at Penn State, Michigan, West Virginia, Maryland all featured male twirlers among many others. A little research indicates that twirling was actually performed exclusively by men until 1930 when drum majors would spin mallets rather than the batons used today.

    If Richard Bundy awarded the job to Matt, it is simply because he is the best person (man or woman) for the position.

  • Pnst8916

    As a Class of 91 PSU’er, I remember John Mitchell’s twirling at the games. Had a few “negative” comments about a male twirling a baton until he began his routine. Damn he something to see!

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