June 18, 2024

Eastern welding student wins nationals; qualifies for worlds

It’s almost like a broken record when Utah State University Eastern’s SkillsUSA finalists place first in Utah, first in the United States and compete on the world’s welding stage. This year, Wyatt Hansen will represent USU Eastern, the state of Utah and the United States of America in Lyon, France, in September 2024. His welding partner, Ben Cornaby, placed second in nationals.

It’s taken a big support system on both Hansen and Cornaby’s side of things. “I’ve had a ton of help from a lot of different people along the way. I’d like to thank Kevin Mitchell, Rick Prather, Mason Winters, Jarimia Garcia, Austin Welch, Jake Clement, my parents, grandparents, and other family and friends,” Hansen said. 

“I had a great support system, from my high school instructor to my three welding instructors at USU and my parents were behind me the entire way,” Cornaby said. Competing on this level definitely requires a strong support system.

The SkillsUSA competition is an 18-hour block consisting of four modules. 

Cornaby said, “For modules two, three and four, we knew exactly what to expect and had been training for months to perfect them.” In each module, the contestants work on a weld. The day before the competition started, the contest organizers randomly select five weldments to be completed in the first module. 

“Each weldment has about four possibilities, as far as the weld position and welding process goes. Some of the options are much harder than others and we do our best to practice each one,” he continued.

“The combination of test plates we did at the final weld off were definitely the hardest part of the competition. There’s test plates, the pressure vessel, aluminum project and the stainless project,” Hansen said. 

The practice and time these two put into their welds helped them get ready for the harder pieces. “Going into the final weld off I was definitely nervous and wasn’t really sure if I was going to win or not, but I did know that I trained and prepared the best that I could going into it,” he said.

With Hansen being the official U.S. representative for the Worldskills competition this year, Cornaby is looking to compete for the 2026 Worldskills scheduled for Shanghai, China.

If Cornaby decides to compete, he’ll have a jump start on the other contestants and if not, he’ll be working as a welder and preparing to serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Hansen will be done with his college classes this week. He’ll be putting in about the same amount of time each week preparing for the Worldskills competition. Since he’ll be finished with classes, he’ll be able to fully focus on training and honing his welding skills. That means welding seven days a week, often 10 to 12 hours per day. 

“I won’t really have an idea of where I’ll place in the competition until we travel around the world for practice competitions and more training,” Hansen said.

So far on their agenda, they’ll be traveling to Canada and Australia to practice. “I only have ideas for what I want to do after the competition, but nothing is for sure. I’d like to get my engineering degree, try underwater welding, and get my Certified Welding Inspector(CWI),” he concluded. 

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