Birkholz makes first Tomah 'hook" a memorable one
National Truck and Tractor Pull something to ponder over the next few months.
Birkholz, 20, whose family farms near Wilton, competed in the 8,500 light pro stock class at the Tomah pull during the Friday afternoon session at Recreation Park.
It was the first time the class was offered at Tomah. As a matter of fact, it was the first time Birkholz pulled at Tomah.
Not only was the number of entries solid, Birkholz's performance was equally solid - he won the class atop his International 1456.
Pullers were given one hook onto the sled in the trial class.
Another Wilton area puller, Alan Cook, placed eighth driving an International 5488.
It may be hard to imagine, but Birkholz could be considered a veteran puller.
He started pulling in the hot farm stock class in local events when he was just 16 years old.
"I drove hot farm (a class with lesser horsepower) to learn how to get the feel of driving on a track," said Collin Birkholz.
Birkholz is the second generation in his family to become involved in the motorsport.
His father, Doug, was active in Wisconsin Tractor Pulling Association and Badger State pulls many years, but he conceded the driver's seat when Collin showed an interest. They primarily pull in WTPA and Badger State events.
Doug has not missed a Tomah pull as a spectator, but he has never competed at Recreation Park.
Collin was pleased the tractor performed well in front of his family, as mom (Dawn) and sister (Haley) were in the stands, along with some friends.
"We were ecstatic to pull here, " Collin said. "It was dream to be able to drive at Tomah. Winning is just icing on the cake."
Both Collin and Doug are involved in making sure the International hums during a pull, but they extend credit to technicians at Mondovi Tractor for keeping the engine at peak performance with their diagnostic touch, including family friend Randy Murdock.
"He knows dirt," Doug quips. "He knows how to read a track (for maximum tire traction). He takes that responsibility."
Down time is rare for the family. They operate a dairy farm.
Collin works full-time as a machinist in Oshkosh and both admit it takes a family to make competitive pulling work.
They hope it continues to work at Tomah in the future.
"Light pro stock is really big in Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania," Collin Birkholz concluded. "But it's growing in Wisconsin."
Fortunately for Birkholz and other pullers 8,500 light pro stock class, Friday was the lone day rain was not a threat.
The Thursday night session was cancelled due to rain, the Saturday afternoon session dodged soggy conditions and the Saturday night session had a 90-minute delay when a storm system passed through, forcing crews to rework the track to get the session.
Pulling ran into early Sunday morning, according to operations manager Shae Fox, who said the last puller on a sled finished at approximately 3:30 a.m.
The few spectators in the fans who stayed to view the late session witnessed one of the most harrowing pulls of the weekend.
Bill Pruess of Wilton was hooked onto the sled heading down the track, when the chassis on his tractor broke in pieces.
Accident video is trending heavy on social media.
A testimony to required safety equipment, Pruess, tucked in his roll cage, escaped serious injury.
The threat of more rain on Sunday forced an early 11 a.m. for the final session, which turned out to be a sound decision, as rain returned again by late afternoon.