WT Meat Judging Team Earns Top Honors at National Competition

Chip Chandler Sep 29, 2023
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WT Meat Judging Team Earns Top Honors at National Competition

Copy by Chip Chandler, 806-651-2124,


CANYON, Texas — West Texas A&M University’s internationally successful meat judging team recently was named reserve champion at a national competition.

The team scored highly across the board at the Eastern National Meat Judging Contest hosted by Cargill in Wyalusing, Pennsylvania, ranking first in beef grading, second in pork judging, third in beef judging and in reasons, fourth in specs and fifth in placings.

Ryan Heitschmidt, a junior animal science major from Nazareth, ranked No. 6 individually. Madison Colvin, a senior agricultural education major from Bryan, ranked No. 7. Eli Mathis, a junior agribusiness major from Covington, ranked No. 9.

Alternates Mikayla Hudmall, a junior animal science major from Lorenzo; Noah Harrell, a junior agricultural education major from Colorado City; and Megan Miller, a junior agribusiness major from Silver City, New Mexico, also ranked highly.

Meat judging programs are the most effective tool for the recruitment and development of future meat science technologists. Meat judging is much more than just the determination of the quality and lean meat yield of a carcass or wholesale cut; the program serves as a training tool to develop young leaders in the meat and livestock industries.

“This team has dedicated countless hours of time for practice, and each of them has exhibited exceptional work ethic and determination,” said coach Megan Eckhardt. “Meat judging has provided for these students a new lens on another important aspect of our agricultural industry.”

The team also is coached by Dr. Loni Lucherk, WT's Gordon W. Davis Chair in Meat Judging in the Paul Engler College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences.

The team was the highest-ranked team among Texas universities that competed Sept. 23, including Texas Tech University, Texas A&M University, Angelo State University. Teams from six other states also competed.

Other team members include Juan Carlos Buentello, a senior animal science major from Angleton; Colt Edrington, a junior agribusiness major from Grandview; Parker Franz, a junior animal science major from Burlington, Colorado; Bryce Hutson, a junior agricultural communications and media major from Idalou; Caleb Olfers, a junior animal science major from Fredericksburg; and Payton Ownbey, a junior animal science major from Whitney.

In 2022, the team was named international champion at the Intercollegiate Meat Judging Conference in Wagga Wagga, Australia.

Offering intellectually challenging, critically reflective and regionally responsive academic programs like meat judging is the primary mission of the University’s long-range plan, WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World.

That plan is fueled by the historic One West comprehensive fundraising campaign, which reached its initial $125 million goal 18 months after publicly launching in September 2021. The campaign’s new goal is to reach $175 million by 2025; currently, it has raised more than $150 million.



About West Texas A&M University

WT is located in Canyon, Texas, on a 342-acre residential campus. Established in 1910, the University has been part of The Texas A&M University System since 1990. WT, a Hispanic Serving Institution since 2016, boasts an enrollment of about 10,000 and offers 59 undergraduate degree programs and more than 40 graduate degrees, including two doctoral degrees. The University is also home to the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, the largest history museum in the state and the home of one of the Southwest’s finest art collections. The Buffaloes are a member of the NCAA Division II Lone Star Conference and offers 14 men’s and women’s athletics programs.


Photo: West Texas A&M University's meat judging team took reserve champion honors at the Eastern National Meat Judging Contest in Wyalusing, Pennsylvania. Team members and coaches include, back from left, Dr. Loni Lucherk, Megan Miller, Parker Franz, Caleb Olfers, Ryan Heightschmidt and Colt Edrington; and, front from left, Noah Harrell, Juan Carlos Buentello, Mikayla Hudnall, Madison Colvin, Elijah Mathis, Payton Ownbey, Bryce Hutson and Megan Eckhardt.