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Apr 26, 2013 10:18 AM by Samantha Ptashkin

UA mascots revealed: Meet the students behind the suits

TUCSON - Their spirit fills Arizona Stadium. They're a staple at McKale Center. They even strutted their stuff across campus in the U of A's "Gangam Style" video.

Wilma and Wilbur Wildcat are Arizona's sweethearts. But for the past two years their true identities have stumped students. "I think they could be a frat guy or something," says UA Freshman Alex Frost.

"Who knows? I have no idea!" says UA Freshman Jaclyn Cubillas.

Now the mystery is over.

After two years behind the costumes, Junior Forrest Gmitro, aka "Wilbur" and Senior Kimberley Jacob, aka "Wilma" are retiring.

"I wanted to get involved in something and it looked like a lot of fun," says Gmitro, a journalism major from the Chicago area.

"I was just looking for something new and exciting and came across the audition and thought, I could do that," says Jacob, a marketing major, who used to be a cheerleader at Canyon Del Oro High School.

Both took the reins in February 2011. Since then, they've been the superman and superwoman of campus. "Yea lot of people think I just work in athletics," Gmitro says. "I have a couple different cover stories that I'm not going to reveal," he says with a smile.

It's a demanding position that usually required a 25 to 30 hour time commitment each week. But they say perhaps the hardest part of the job is wearing the suit. "You look like you just jumped in the pool when you get out," Jacob says. "It's not attractive at all."

"It's hot," Gmitro says. "It's really hot."

Amid their appearances at sporting events and community events, both have run into some interesting situations. "There's a lot of cat calling and whistling," Jacob says.

"I've been groped a couple times while crowd surfing in the Zona Zoo," Gmitro says.

But they have lived through school spirit at its best. "You do get to take on this character, this icon that Tucson adores and that is known nationwide," Jacob says.

"Those moments in McKale when the crowd is going off, there is a time out on the fly and you're in the center of the court, are some of the coolest moments I've had in college," Gmitro says.

It's bittersweet to think about watching the games going forward as a "normal fan". "It's weird, I haven't wrapped my mind around it," Gmitro says. "Just being in the Zona Zoo and knowing I won't get full access to everything."

While they may not get the special treatment anymore, they'll carry with them memories of two unforgettable years.

The new Wilma was chosen a couple months ago. The new Wilbur will be selected this weekend. Students who sign on for the position have to be the mascot for a minimum of two years.

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