It’s been two years since young Axel Wenzel started growing his mullet – all because his uncle promised him an IROC-Z Camaro if he would grow it until he turned 16.
Little did the 5-year-old small-town Wisconsin boy know his luscious locks would land him in the national spotlight this week.
From spiky tops to patterns shaved on the sides, home-grown cuts belonging to three dozen minors across the country including Axel, have made it to the final round of the USA Mullet Championships.
Finalists from 16 states hope to take home the title of best mullet in the nation for their age divisions and a $2,500 cash prize.
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“I wanted to donate money,” Axel told USA TODAY on Wednesday after giggling when asked about why he entered the competition.
His mother, 34-year-old Jessica Wenzel, said if her son wins he plans to donate money to a homeless shelter near their home and to a reptile shelter in their hometown of Brillion, just 25 miles south of Green Bay.
To enter, kids from California to North Carolina and Florida to New York submitted photos of their haircuts to garner enough likes on Facebook to advance to the next round. Contestants submitted front, back and side images of their mullets as well as a name for their locks.
Nearly 700 original entries for the kids’ division was whittled down to the remaining group of 25. Eleven teens are competing in their category, down from 80 contest entrants.
The contest has already been making rounds on social media, with celebrities like J.J. Watt voicing their support for the mullet-laden youngsters.
Voting began Monday and is open until Friday for both divisions.
Here are photos of some of the top kid and teen finalists:
“Joe dirt? That you?” Mary Mittag-Youngblood commented on a photo of kid finalist Rowan Wesley of Arkansas.
“Bring it home to the 956. Texas baby!” Facebook userBrick Gonzalez commented on a photo posted online of kid finalist Epic La Joya of Texas.
Three rounds later
Axel’s mother said this is her son’s first year in the competition. His mullet is named “The Axel” since its his signature haircut now, she said.
“I feel like he was born to have this hairstyle,” Wenzel said. “He’s one of those kids that just does not care what anybody else thinks. He does what he wants to do when he wants to do it, without a question.”
His mom said when she learned some of the kids Axel was up against had parents with over 300,000 social media followers she wasn’t expecting him to make the final cut.
“I started to feel like defeated. I was kind of just like, ‘Well, it was fun while it lasted. This may be the end of it,’” she said.
But after three rounds of voting, she said, Axel made it into the top 25.
“Come Friday, we’re hoping he’s able to pull ahead,” Wenzel said. “If he doesn’t win, it’s been so much fun being able to meet all of these kids and parents within this.”
‘If girls can do it, I can do it’
Another Wisconsin boy who also made it to the top of his division is 11-year-old Max Weihbrecht.
Max’s mom, Katie Weihbrecht said her son came to her one day and asked if he could get a perm and a mullet.
“We kind of laughed about it and said, ‘No way,'” his mother said.
She later surprised him and allowed his hairdresser to give him the cut.
Max’s ‘do is named Bill Ray after one of the most famous mullet men around: Billy Ray Cyrus.
If he wins, Max plans put prize money toward a red, 1980s Chevy pickup truck.
He also said has no intentions of cutting it anytime soon.
If he still has hair, Max said he plans to keep the style until he’s 80.
“(If) girls can do it, I can do it,” he said.
Feeling left out, adults?
Don’t worry, adults. You’ve got until the end of August to enter in your age category.
The 2022 Men’s Open series contest is open for submissions. The winner gets $2500 in cash, the USA Mullet Championships Trophy and all the mullet fame they can take.
Register here to pay the $10 entry fee. The entry fee goes to Stop Soldier Suicide.
See the full list of kid’s division finalists and teen division finalists here.
Contributing: Danielle DuClos, Green Bay Press-Gazette; Camille Fine, USA TODAY.
Natalie Neysa Alund covers trending news for USA TODAY. Reach her at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @nataliealund.