Selected Cast Biographies
Here you will find biographies
from a selection of debaters
and coaches featured
in Debate Team.
Will Repko is the heart and soul of the Michigan State University Squad. In the mid-90s he coached his sister Biza Repko to debate-superstardom and a national championship. A decade later he continues to be referred to as the best young coach in the country, having won the 2000 College Coach of the Year award, and as the architect of MSU’s two national championships occurring the last four years. Repko is the founder of the Spartan Debate Institute, at Michigan State, one of the premiere summer debate camps for high school students in the country.
Aaron Hardy, a debater for Michigan State University, rose to the semifinal round at the 2004 National Debate Tournament, defeating the then-legendary Harvard A-Team, “Klinger and Tarloff” in the quarterfinals. During the filming of this documentary, he and his partner Shaun VanHorn had one of, if not the best records on the circuit for defeating both Critique teams as well as, top-10 contenders. Hardy now coaches debate at Northwestern University, considered by some to be the most successful American debate program in history.
A the end of the season of their final year, Shaun VanHorn and his partner Aaron Hardy from Michigan State University were ranked by the National Debate Tournament as the 4th best team in the country. VanHorn was a star in debate early on, self-described as a "savant" of rhetoric. He was also credited for putting a human face on the holier than thou Michigan State debate machine. After college, VanHorn matriculated to New York University School of Law where he won the school's 2008 Moot Court Competition. He now practices law in Chicago at mega-firm Jenner & Block.
While debating for Michigan State, Dave Strauss, along with his partner Greta Stahl, was part of one of the most successful two-person debate teams in history, and the only team in the entire history of the National Debate Tournament to advance to elimination rounds four times (once each year) as an intact pair. Straus won four tournaments in 2004, including the National Title. He is currently an assistant coach at Michigan State University.
Greta Stahl was part of one of the most successful two-person debate teams in history, winning, in 2004 alone, a Top Speaker trophy at three tournaments and and outright victories at four more, including the National Debate Tournament. On a Marshall Scholarship for International Study, she earned a Masters in Philosophy from the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. She now works for as a Senior Content Developer at Duarte, a public relations firm.
Some have described Michael Klinger as possibly the most naturally talented debater the activity has ever seen. Klinger won national titles both in high school (paired with Stacey Nathan) and in college. Representing Harvard University, he took the 2005 National Debate Tournament's Top Speaker Award. The next year he won that tournament's Copeland Award, given to the season's overall best debate team. He then went on to take the CEDA National Championship. During the year in which this documentary was filmed, Klinger and his partner, Elliot Tarloff, were treated more like rock stars than debaters, finding themselves featured in a cable network reality TV show, as well as the focus of a multi-part newspaper article published by their college paper, the Harvard Crimson. After graduating from law school, Klinger clerked at the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. He now practices law in Chicago at Shook Hardy & Bacon LLP.
Over the course of his college debate career, Elliot Tarloff and his partner (and former high school rival) Mike Klinger were regularly ranked among the top ten speakers of any given tournament. Tarloff won five major tournament titles, and in 2005 was ranked the number one debate team for the majority of the season by the Bruschke Ranking Index. Tarloff, however was not all work. His peers described him as an "unlikely womanizer" and "ladies' man." After college, Tarloff spent two years as a research assistant to Vice President Al Gore. He graduated magna cum laude from law school having served as an Executive Editor of the NYU Law Review. Tarloff now practices law in the Washington D.C. office of Jenner & Block.
James Thomas is the grand jester of debate. Best known for clowning the competition until they pee blood, he and his partner, Joe Koehle, have dressed up like George Bush and Dick Cheney, have reenacted mock funerals in round, posed as Mexican wresters, spouted zen koans, humped the opposition, and defecated in plastic bags in order to make a point about renewable energy. Over the course of his debate career Thomas qualified for the National Debate Tournament all 4 years, earning a first-round bid as a senior. In law school, representing Emory University School of Law, Thomas won first place at the William T. Daniel National Invitational Mock Trial Competition. Thomas is currently a criminal defense lawyer for the Public Defender for DeKalb County in Decatur Georgia.
Craig Wickersham was successful in collegiate debate from the beginning of his career, reaching elimination rounds at the National Debate Tournament every year in college, including defeating Harvard in the elimination rounds his freshman year. As a junior, Craig, along with Stacey Nathan, was a part of the only team in the history of debate to win the CEDA National Tournament and reach the final round of the National Debate Tournament in the same year. In his senior year, Wickersham was the runner-up to the Copeland Award (making his the second best overall team for the entire season), won several national tournaments, and was a top 5 speaker at almost every major tournament he attended. After graduating from Harvard Law school, Wickersham worked at mega-firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP in San Francisco. He is currently Senior Legal Counsel at Yahoo! in Sunnyvale California.
Stacey Nathan debated at Glenbrook North High School in Northbrook, Illinois winning first place at both major national championships for high school students: the National Tournament of Champions and the National Forensic League Tournament. As a debater for UC Berkeley, Nathan achieved success almost never seen. She and her partner, Craig Wickersham, were only the second team in the history of the activity to make it to the final round in both the CEDA National Tournament and the National Debate Tournament in the same year. She won a national championship at the former and took second at the later. Even more remarkable, Nathan is one of only two people in the entire history of collegiate policy debate to finish in the top ten for four consecutive years. After college, Nathan graduated with honors from the University of Chicago Law School, as member of the Law Review, and was elected to the Order of the Coif. She practiced law at the D.C. offices of Sidley Austin LLP.
During his tenure at Michigan State, Calum Matheson was one of the most successful and charismatic debaters on the circuit. He won top speaker awards at nine different tournaments, including the National Tournament in 2002. Matheson was selected as the Most Preferred Critic at the 2004 National Tournament. Matheson holds a PhD in Communication Studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has served as a Debate Coach at the University of North Texas, Harvard College, and is currently an Assistant Professor for Civic Life and Public Deliberation at the University of Pittsburgh.
Michael Miller is arguably one of the most successful debaters of all time. Over his debate career he won a total of 22 tournaments. In the 1968-69 season alone he and his partner had achieved something that no other team had accomplished before or since: they reached the final round of every single tournament they attended, winning 9 first place trophies and coming in second at four more. He won the top speaker award at the National Debate Tournament in 1970. Miller practiced law in California for approximately 20 years until his recent retirement. He now coaches debate at Glendale College in Glendale California.