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Otterbein physics junior Keegan Orr top yo-yo competitor

Otterbein physics junior Keegan Orr top yo-yo competitor

Keegan Orr has the whole world on a string. Well, maybe not the whole world, but at least the state of Ohio.

Orr, a junior physics major from Pickerington, Ohio, is one of the top competitive yo-yoers in the state, consistently finishing among the top five at the Ohio State Yo-Yo Contest over the last six years. His best finish, third, came in 2014.

Yo-yoing and physics go hand in hand for Orr, who plans to go to graduate school for a master’s degree in mechanical engineering or a Ph.D. in physics.

“A lot of yo-yoers are in the sciences, and are physicists or engineers,” Orr said. “It is very common. I do really like yo-yoing partially for physics. It’s just one of the most elegant and beautiful ways to demonstrate gyroscopic action and circular motion as a whole. It’s really pleasing when you can make physics look that good.”

It all started from a fast food kid’s meal, then grew from there.

“My first yo-yo was from a kid’s meal when I was about 9 or 10,” Orr said. “It was a cheap yo-yo from a fast food place. My dad taught me how to throw a yo-yo down, and taught me basic tricks like walk the dog. He gave me his old yo-yos from my grandparents’ house. I played with those for a while and I thought it was a lot of fun.”

Then things got a little more serious. Orr studied VHS tapes borrowed from the library to learn new tricks.

“That was still not the style of yo-yoing I do today,” Orr said. “Think of yo-yoing in the 1970’s.”

It wasn’t until Orr got on the internet and watched a video of four-time world yo-yo champion Hiroyuki Suzuki that he discovered how yo-yoing has advanced.

“Modern day yo-yoing is very, very different,” Orr said. “You use all-metal expensive yo-yos that will spin for extended periods of time and allow you to do complicated string tricks. They are called ‘unresponsive’ which means they do not come back up to your hand with a simple jerk of the wrist. You have to do what is called a bind to get the yo-yo back up into your hand. That allows for much more advanced play.”

Orr flourished under the modern style, and has competed in over 20 contests lifetime, including ones in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Indiana. In 2013, he placed in the top 60 at the U.S. National Yo-Yo Contest, and placed 89th in the preliminaries of the World Yo-Yo Contest, his only appearances at those two events. In addition, his skill has led to an appearance on Good Day Columbus, a talent show victory his senior year at Pickerington North High School, and numerous tips at Rule 3, an entertainment center in Pickerington, where he worked as a busboy in high school.

The endgame for many competitive yo-yoers, including Orr, is sponsorship, in which a company, like the Duncan Toys Company, adds you to its yo-yo team and pays for all of your competition expenses, including travel, hotel and contest registration fees. If you are good enough, you might find your name on one of Duncan’s yo-yos.

“That’s every yo-yoers dream,” Orr said about company sponsorship. “I came really close a couple of times. I may shoot for that again, but after school.”

Watch Keegan Orr in action from the 2014 Ohio State Yo-Yo competition on YouTube.

Learn more about Otterbein’s Department of Physics.