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University of Nevada, Reno team wraps up season of top-10 finishes


There were no splashy headlines, cheering crowds waiting at the airport, or ticket-tape parades, but for the second season in a row, one University of Nevada, Reno team has brought home top-10 honors in the country.

Members of the University of Nevada, Reno debate team quietly brought home top-10 honors from the nation’s two major collegiate parliamentary debate championships a few weeks ago. And on Sunday, at the last tournament of the season, the Lincoln-Douglas Open Championship hosted by University of Central Missouri, senior and team captain Matt Hogan was crowned Top Speaker, while sophomore Travis Salley took Third Speaker.

It was one of many such honors capping off a very successful season for Hogan, who was previously nicknamed “Mumbly Matt,” before deciding to overcome his shyness in high school by enrolling in debate. Now, he has been named Top Speaker at several tournaments and was Fourth Speaker, out of 372 competitors, at the National Parliamentary Debate Association’s (NPDA) Championship Tournament last month, the first of the two major annual championships. He was also chosen as one of three college debaters in the country to represent the United States in the annual “United States versus Irish Debate” that kicks off that NPDA Championship Tournament each year.

During the regular part of the NPDA championship, which debate coach Phil Sharp describes as a “grueling, long, juggernaut of a tournament,” Hogan teamed up with fellow team-superstar Max Alderman, a sophomore, to take ninth place as a debate duo, out of 186 teams. Alderman was named Second Speaker of that tournament, and last year he and Nevada teammate David Pena teamed up to win that championship.

Just two weeks ago, Alderman and Hogan teamed up to take seventh place at this year’s other major national tournament, the National Parliamentary Tournament of Excellence, the invitational tournament featuring the 64 top-ranked teams in the nation – the “NCAA Tournament of debate,” so to speak. The ranking includes more than 1,000 teams, so just to make it into the tournament is an honor. Nevada teammates Salley and junior Elia Pirtle also qualified this year, and Alderman was named Eighth Speaker at the prestigious event. Last year, he and Pena teamed up to beat out the nation’s other top 63 duos to take first place.

While Alderman, who Sharp says many still consider to be the best collegiate debater in the country, will be back to compete for the Pack next year, Hogan will be graduating in May with his bachelor’s degree, majoring in political science. The first-generation college graduate has worked full-time while attending the University, still managing to maintain a 3.86 grade point average. The McNair Scholar plans to take a year off to work and save some money before going on to graduate school.

That’s good news for Nevada’s debate team, Sharp says, as Hogan plans to help coach the team as a volunteer next year.

“A lot of what I’ve learned that’s made me a better person and about life, I’ve learned through my participation in debate,” Hogan said. “There are a lot of improvements you can make through debate, and I just want to encourage that and help pass that on while I’m here.”

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