Wake Forest Wins Third Annual Hochmuth Round Robin

At the end of January the William Pitt Debating Union hosted the third iteration of the Marie Hochmuth Round Robin. Drawing teams from locations as near as Baltimore, MD and Ann Arbor, MI and others more far flung like Lawrence, KS and Berkeley, CA, the WPDU sponsored 6 preliminary debates for 14 teams located in two "pods" of competition, followed by a final round between the winner of each pod.

The Hochmuth is named after pioneering female debater and communication scholar Marie Hochmuth Nichols. Nichols, who has a major award in her name awarded yearly by the National Communication Association, received both a BA and an MA from the University of Pittsburgh, and is widely regarded as one of the most important figures in the tradition of rhetorical criticism. The Pittsburgh coaching staff, with enthusiastic support from the department, dreamed up the Hochmuth as a way to not only honor her legacy but also as a means of providing more debates for highly competitive teams that routinely just miss being invited to other prestigious round robins like those hosted by Dartmouth University and the University of Kentucky. These extra debates not only serve to provide talented debaters with the special experience of debating at a round robin, they also produce more data useful for the nation's coaches who vote yearly on the sixteen teams to be awarded automatic bids to the National Debate Tournament (commonly referred to as First Rounds).

Each pod at the round robin included seven teams. In the one named "The Prowl" were teams from the University of California at Berkeley, the University of West Georgia, the University of Kentucky, Northwestern University, the University of Oklahoma, Wake Forest University and Wayne State. In "The Hunt" there were teams from the University of Kansas, the University of Michigan, University of Minnesota, University of Texas at Austin, Towson University, and an additional team each from Oklahoma and Wayne.

Despite wintry conditions due to the polar vortex, every team made it to the tournament intact. Rounds were hosted in the Cathedral of Learning's second floor, and many coaches and competitors remarked with surprise that the Cathedral was unlike almost any academic building they had ever encountered, save Hogwarts. Many also took the opportunity to go up to the very top floors of the Cathedral to try to glimpse a view of the snow covered city. 

This year's winner was the team of Joe LeDuc and Melvin Washington from Wake Forest University, who defeated a strong Minnesota team comprised of Cody Crunkelton and Miranda Ehrlich on a 2-1 decision. Wake LW went undefeated  whie Minnesota lost only one preliminary debate. To honor the legacy of Marie Hochmuth, the tournament endeavored to produce a final round panel that embodied the spirit of difference that can suffuse and make a community vibrant. Sarah Weiner of California at Berkeley, Ignacio Evans of Towson University, and Jishnu Guha from the University of Texas. 

In other team results, the Oklahoma team of George Lee and Rashid Campbell finished second in The Prowl, just ahead of the West Georgia team of Hakim Muhammed and Marquis Ard. In The Hunt, the University of Texas at Austin team of Flynn Makuch and Carl Fitz earned second place, while Ameena Ruffin and Korey Johnson from Towson University finished third.

In addition to rewarding team performance, each year the top speaker at the entire tournament is awarded a large pewter panther. Named "The Beastmode," the award commendates speaking superiority amongst elite competition. The top speaker at the round robin was junior Ameena Ruffin, from Towson University. Past winners include Mike Lacy from the University of Georgia and Ellis Allen from the University of Michigan. 

The WPDU congratulates all participants at the Hochmuth, and we were proud and happy to host everyone. We look forward to seeing more competitors next year in the Steel City for the fourth iteration of this event.