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All fired up for state welding competition

Jarid Shipley
Appeal Staff Writer
Joe Brillhart, a 17-year-old senior at Carson High School, demonstrates shielded- metal arc welding after finishing competing in the welding competition on Saturday at Western Nevada Community College. BRAD HORN/ Nevada Appeal
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He just wanted to be in the top 12, which granted him a chance to go to the state competition. Above that, placement would just be an added bonus – and what a bonus it was.

At 17, Joe Brillhart, of Carson City, is a seasoned veteran of the Nevada Western Regional SkillsUSA Welding Competition. Saturday was his third appearance in the event at Western Nevada Community College.

“My teacher introduced me to it,” Brillhart said. “The program skills are really good, plus I like the people I am working with.”

Brillhart accomplished his goal of finishing in the top 12 in grand style by placing first in the competition.

Don DeGrandmont and Tony Pedrotti, both from Regional Technical Institute in Reno, finished second and third, respectively.

More than 30 high school competitors from Northern Nevada showcased their skills in four areas: Oxy-acetylene cutting, gas metal arc welding, shielded-metal arc welding and a written test of safety and procedural information.

The combined scores determined the top 12, who will join winners from the other two regionals at the state competition in Las Vegas in May.

“It’s good for these kids to come to the competition and experience it,” said Randy Naylor, welding instructor at WNCC. “The experience is almost better for them than winning.”

Brillhart, now a senior, has been competing since he was a sophomore and is excited to make the journey to his third state competition. He said he has improved his skills every year he has competed. After finishing second in regionals in 2005, he went on to take fifth at the state competition.

“They judge you on everything from the basics of safety and cleanliness to the most technical positions, as well as the quality and cleanliness of your welds,” Brillhart said.

Ed Martin, a welding instructor at WNCC, said that the competition allows high school students to see the campus and helps them determine their future career paths.

“It’s a chance for them to see a post-secondary education setting,” Martin said. “(Naylor and I) both teach here. It’s our career, and we are here to help these kids get better and succeed. That’s our job satisfaction.”

Naylor agreed.

“This is important for these kids, so they can see what they can get involved in,” he said.

He added that because WNCC has a strong program, participants from this region tend to do well in larger competitions.

“The last five or six years, the winner at the state competition has been from this region,” Naylor said. “Last year’s winner is here again, but it’s always hard to say who will do well.”

Brillhart’s goal now is perform well enough to place in the top three in Las Vegas.

As for becoming the state champion, he said it depends on his performance.

“You have good days, and you have bad days. So we will just have to see,” he said.

— Contact reporter Jarid Shipley at jshipley@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1217.