College welders bring home gold again from national competition
In national welding competitions, the USU Eastern teams over the years have garnered many medals, accolades and special achievements with many of the awards on display in a custom built case in the McDonald Career Center. Soon a few more shiny pieces of medal will be added to the collection.
A welding fabrication team from USU Eastern took home the College/Postsecondary gold medal at the SkillsUSA Competition in Kansas City, Mo., held from June 23-28. USU Eastern students Austin Welch, Dexter Thayn and Chad Malnar made up the fabrication team that has now brought home gold medals for USU Eastern two years in a row.
The trio worked together having to use materials to build a fire pit from scratch. With only a short amount of time available for the team to build the fire pit, there is little room for error, according to USU welding instructor Mike Tryon.
"The competition is extremely tough out there at nationals," said Tryon. "We were a little worried going in wondering if we could win the competition again."
For Tryon and the fabrication team, hearing about the win did not happen for three days. The team competed on the first day of the event and had to endure three days of waiting while judges meticoulously looked over each welded creation.
For Welch, the first place finish continues a three-year run as a welding fabrication gold medal receipient as his team in high school took first and he was on the team last season that took home the gold for USU Eastern.
Tryon always reminds his students that to win a welding competition on any level it takes hard work and sacrifice. Tryon said he has been taking students to national competitions for 12 years and each year the competition is tougher and more knowledgeable than the previous year. USU Eastern teams typically face tough challenges with teams from California and Michigan always near the top of the field.
It's not uncommon for a student to spend hours in the shop, putting aside their social life, honing their skills in anticipation of an upcoming competition.
"We want to be on the podium every year we go to nationals," Tryon explained.
Another student from USU Eastern, Remington Grace, competed in individual welding finishing in fifth place overall. Tryon said Grace made a few mistakes on his project while working on some aluminum and pipe welding. Mistakes, however small they may be, can prove to be costly in welding competitions, Tryon said.
"You've got to be rock solid with everything," Tryon continued, "because one mistake can cost you everything in a competition."
Despite the tough ending for Grace at nationals, Tryon said Grace can hold his head high after finishing fifth out of the 38 welders in the competition.
"Remington worked the hardest, spending lots of hours at the college shop to get better," said Tryon. "Getting fifth place as a freshman is really good. He knows the work that it takes to make it that far and he will be more motivated to do even better next year."
Like any welder, Grace doesn't expect to slow down and stop welding now that the SkillsUSA competition has come and gone. He is currently working on weekly assignments with the hopes of making it to the Weld-Off Competition that brings the top six welders selected from 24 student welders that competed in the SkillsUSA Championship in 2011 and 2012 to Las Vegas, Nev., in November.
While the process of becoming a competitive welder is a difficult and time comsuming process, the competitive drive of being the best at something is what drives Tryon and the welding students to work so hard every day.
"It gets tougher and tougher every year to win championships," said Tryon. "But it's what keeps us going back to the national competitions every year."