Marvin Wotring Sr.
For many of us, the sight of the Mountaineer running onto the field with the rifle held high in the air is one of the great WVU traditions.
What most don’t know is that there is a man behind the Mountaineer. His name is Marvin Wotring Sr. of Morgantown, and he has been preserving the tradition of the mascot for nearly 30 years – nearly half of the 70-year history of the Mountaineer.
Wotring’s role in the long history of the Mountaineer started innocently enough. In the mid-1970s, he decided to take classes from the local vocational school in Preston County to learn more about building rifles and muzzleloaders. From there, he honed his craft and it wasn’t long before people started to take notice. After appearing at the Buckwheat Festival clad in gorgeous handmade buckskins, along with a rifle, he was approached by onlookers asking about his skins. Word got out.
“Rick Poling, who at the time was serving as the alternate Mountaineer, heard about the buckskins and approached me about making him a set of buckskins,” explains Wotring.
He worked his magic and soon Poling had a new set of buckskins which he also wore the following year when he was selected as the Mountaineer mascot in 1978. The rest is history.
Wotring, a 1965 WVU graduate of the Davis College of Agriculture, Forestry and Consumer Science, made the buckskins and rifle for the Mountaineer mascot from 1978 to the late 1980s. Today, he continues to make the rifle for the Mountaineer and has handcrafted eight rifles for the mascots during the past 27 years. Each rifle, crafted from West Virginia curly maple, is unique and takes about 65-70 hours to make. In the spring of 2006, Mountaineer mascot Brady Campbell received a new rifle from the NCAC Chapter of the WVU Alumni Association that was hand-crafted by Wotring.
His son, Marvin “Gene” Wotring Jr., also a WVU graduate, and his grandchildren have shown an interest in the craft, and he hopes that they will carry on this tradition into the future.
Wotring served as parade marshal for the 2006 WVU Homecoming parade and was honored during halftime of the WVU-Syracuse game. When his name was announced, Wotring was surprised to hear the sounds of rifles being fired by the former Mountaineers in celebration of his award.
“I can’t think of anyone who has done more to preserve one of WVU’s most beloved traditions than Marvin Wotring,” adds Steve Douglas, president and chief executive officer, WVU Alumni Association. “In a history that has spanned 70 years, Marvin has been involved in preserving the Mountaineer mascot for nearly one-third of that history. It was wonderful to honor him for his years of service during our 2006 Homecoming festivities.”
Mr. Wotring retired in 1994 as a district director for the United State Department of Agriculture. In addition to his commitment to preserving the Mountaineer tradition, Wotring proudly supports the WVU Rifle Team/Club by crafting a rifle each year that is used as part of a fund raiser for the team.