By Beatrice Forman, The Philadelphia Inquirer
PHILADELPHIA — America’s most well-regarded mullet sits on the head of a 6-year-old slugger from Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.
Rory Ehrlich — the soon-to-be first grader from West Pottsgrove who asked his parents for permission to compete in the USA Mullet Championships — won the kid’s division this week by nearly 6,900 votes.
Ehrlich, who is referred to as the jorts-loving “Cheddar Whiz” on his mullet profile, earned more than 16,000 votes to clinch the top spot, according to competition founder and Michigan-based barber Kevin Begola. He beat out Ezekiel “Mr. Aloha Mullet” Arita of Hawaii and Luzerne County’s Kamden Cunningham, whose curly mullet was the result of an impromptu haircut from his older brother.
“I feel famous,” Rory told The Inquirer after waking up from a nap on Wednesday. “I’m never going to cut my hair off.”
Begola started the mullet championships in 2020 after watching beard competitions take off. In the kid’s division, Begola said Rory competed against around 900 children over four rounds to become America’s favorite pint-sized mullet.
Contestants are judged on the number of votes they receive, money raised for former Minnesota Viking defensive end Jared Allen’s charity Homes 4 Wounded Warriors, and style points awarded by judges. Fan votes are weighed the most, Begola said.
Rory’s mullet has “great flow,” said Begola, 43, who is part of the juding panel. “If Rory was older I could see him playing for an NFL team and taking off his helmet and whipping around. It’s cool.”
Rory’s mom, Airen Ehrlich, previously told The Inquirer that her son’s commitment to the “business in the front, party in the back” lifestyle likely comes from his devotion to the Phillies. He asked his parents about the haircut after seeing video of pitchers such as Austin “Big Fudge” Davis and Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams throw strikes (and balls) with long tresses flowing out of their caps.
Ever since, Rory has been going to Sal’s Barbershop in Boyertown to maintain his mullet.
When Ehrlich and her son found out they won the contest on Tuesday, they ran around the kitchen screaming, but the news still feels a bit surreal.
“I don’t think it’s really sunk in for us,” Ehrlich, 33, said on Wednesday. “I know that sounds crazy because we’re talking about a mullet competition.
Begola said the mullet champions win $5,000 dollars and a pair of sunglasses. Many also go on to spend their crowning year making appearances at sporting events. Some winners have gone on to throw out first pitches or receive custom NHL jerseys, according to Begola.
Rory said he hoped to parlay his award-winning tresses into Flyers tickets or a meet-and-greet with ultra-bearded Phillie Brandon Marsh.
As for the money, it’s going to an alpaca for his 7-year-old sister Emmaline.
“I’m going to name it Chelsea,” Emmaline said.
A mullet for the people
Ehrlich said that Rory’s bid for best mullet on a youngster has rallied the community in unforeseen ways.
“Some people just aren’t open to mullets, so when we pushed out [the news], we were expecting it to be relatively negative,” Ehrlich. “It’s actually been so the opposite.”
The West Pottsgrove School District sent out an announcement about the voting, Ehrlich said, and Rory’s teachers have been excited for him. Philly’s overlapping sports fandoms have also been a surprising source of support, per Ehrlich: When she began posting about Rory’s mullet competition journey in Eagles and Phillies Facebook groups, fans were overwhelmingly receptive.
Since making it to the final round, Ehrlich said Rory has been recognized in public a few times, but his sister has been quick to humble him.
“To be actually famous, you need $2,000 and to know a lot of people,” is Emmaline’s common refrain, according to Ehrlich.
Begola said that Rory would receive an automatic bid to the top 25 if he chooses to defend his title next year, but competition is stiff: 2022 champion Emmitt Bailey came in twelfth.
Rory, however, isn’t too keen on returning. Why?
“I don’t want to do this many interviews again,” he said.
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