Carson High dominates welding competition

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During Saturday's regional welding competition at Western Nevada Community College, welding professor Jim Pawluk said Carson High School's Richard Cook has the skills to go far in the field.

Cook, 17, proved him right by taking first place out of 23 competitors. Carson High took the top two spots Saturday, with welder Britton Armstrong, 18, taking second. Justin Buonanoma of Reno's Regional Technical Institute placed third.

The competition involved three types of welds and a written test.

The welds included a fillet weld technique known as "gas metal arc welding," cutting steel with an oxygen and fuel cutting torch called "oxy-fuel cutting," and shielded-metal arc welding.

"Welders call that stick welding," said Pawluk.

Judge Victor Garcia, a certified welding inspector, said Cook's cutting was clean.

"It's some of the best I've seen," he said. "Some of the guys, what they do is they go back and forth, back and forth and they burn the material."

Another judge, looking at Cook's finished cut, remarked, "Nice. Real nice. Definitely something to be proud of there."

Cook said he thought the oxy-fuel cutting torch burns about 2,400 degrees. "I'm not really sure. That was on the test and that's the answer I put," he laughed.

He said the difficulty of the test surprised him.

"A lot of it I knew but I was just guessing on some of the questions," he said.

Pawluk, who has been welding for 35 years and teaching full-time at WNCC for 23 years, said welding takes time to learn.

"It takes hours and hours to get good at it," he said. "It's like playing golf or playing a musical instrument -- the more you do it the better you get."

When judging the quality of the welds, he looks at their thickness, consistency and even the little ripples in the once-liquid steel.

Prizes for the top three welders at Saturday's competition were donated by Carson City's A.L. Sierra Welding Products at 4443 Highway 50 East. "They do it every year," said Pawluk.

One prize was a red skull-shaped welding helmet with a hot-rod-style flame paint job. The top three finishers got to pick which prizes they wanted.

Cook may have the skills to go far in the field of welding, but he's not sure he wants to do it as a career.

He plans to study business management at WNCC after graduation because he "hates getting sweaty and burnt and gross." Joining pieces of steel is "just a hobby" for the champion welder.

Cook wasn't the only champion at the Andy Butti Welding Building at the college on Saturday --Enot in the eyes of competition judge Garcia.

"To me all these people are like champions," he said. "Every one."


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