For Washtenaw Community College

WCC welder Kyle Cejmer. (Photo by Kelly Neumeyer | NuMedia Services)

LOUISVILLE, Ky.— Washtenaw Community College has a long, storied history of success in SkillsUSA competition, and six WCC students kept that tradition alive at this summer’s 53rd Annual SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference.

WCC’s welding program, in particular, enjoys a worldwide reputation for excellence. Five individuals have won national gold medals, including current WCC instructors Glenn Kay, Bradley Clink and Alex Pazkowski; and  welding lab assistant Joe Young.

WCC welders in this year’s nationals were sophomore Kyle Cejmer in overall welding, and the trio of Lindsay Nye, Anthony Sprow and Corey Brown in the Welding Fabrication competition. Each won state competitions to earn a berth into the national championships.

“I thought I’d be very calm here, but when it started I was actually very nervous,” Cejmer said. “I kept telling myself to calm down and used some techniques I  learned to get on my ‘A’ game. It was a great experience to come and compete against the nation’s best.”

Cejmer’s event required him to perform skills in cutting, stick, metal inert gas (MIG), tungsten inert gas (TIG), aluminum and flux-core welding.

His brother, Jeff, finished third in last year’s nationals and served as motivation for Kyle to give it a try. Both work at VulcanMasters Welding Company in Detroit.

WCC auto body students Wyatt Knick and Ashlea Carravallah at the SkillsUSA competition in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Kelly Neumeyer | NuMedia Services)

The SkillsUSA national competition was a familiar place for Wyatt Knick of Bradford, Ohio. He won the Automotive Refinishing Technology high school national gold medal in 2009 and then added the post-secondary title last year while competing for WCC.

This year, the 25-year-old opted to move out of his comfort zone and compete in Collision Repair Technology. He admitted his experience during this year’s competition was a little foreign.

“It was completely different,” Knick said. “It was actually one of the first competitions where I was really nervous. I was out of my comfort zone. I was born and bred a painter at a custom paint shop, but this was a good challenge and a good experience.”

Fellow WCC auto body student Ashlea Carravallah took Knick’s spot for WCC in the Automotive Refinishing Technology competition. Although it was her first experience at nationals, she came away feeling good about her performance.

She grew up in an automotive-loving family. But while most of those relatives were adept at putting a wrench on vehicles, Carravallah decided she wanted to carve out a different path.

Using the appreciation of color gained as an artist, Carravallah decided to apply it to the painting side of the automotive industry.

After six months in the WCC program, she won a state title by beating two men who paint cars and trucks for a living, her instructor Bobby Feldkamp said.

“I’ve always been in the arts. I’ve always drawn, and sang and played in a band,” Carravallah said. “Transitioning to Automotive Refinishing was natural for me, especially when it comes to matching colors.”

Cejmer, Knick and Carravallah all finished among the top 10 in their events.

This story is an abridged version of a complete story released on the WCC News & Events page immediately after the event. Additional photos and videos were published on the WCC Facebook page.