WT Meat Judging Team Wins National Competition, Sets School Record

Chip Chandler Oct 18, 2023
  • Agriculture
  • Featured
  • Community

WT Meat Judging Team Wins National Competition, Sets School Record

Copy by Chip Chandler, 806-651-2124,


CANYON, Texas — West Texas A&M University’s meat judging team took home a major national victory at the American Royal Meat Judging contest.

The team’s score of 4,237 is the highest in WT history and was 30 points higher than the team’s closest competitor, Oklahoma State University.

Texas Tech University, Kansas State University and Texas A&M University rounded out the Top 5.

WT’s score has only been reached eight other times by three universities in the history of meat judging, said Dr. Loni Lucherk, Gordon W. Davis Endowed Chair in Meat Judging and team coach.

“We have been extremely close to a win the past three years, and this team didn’t just win: They set a record with a massive score,” Lucherk said. “This was due to the depth and consistency of the students on the team. I preach to be your very best, whether that is a perfect score or just a five-point improvement from your last performance. This was as close to a perfect performance as a coach could ask for. The meat judging program has been heating up; now, we are on fire.”

The team ranked first in beef grading, lamb judging, total beef and placings; second in beef judging; and third in reasons and specifications.

The contest was held Oct. 15 in Omaha, Nebraska.

“Winning a national contest like the American Royal is not easy. Contests like this require students to gather information, make decisions, and then persuasively defend their decisions—all while in an intensely competitive environment and under time pressure,” said Dr. David Lust, head of WT’s Department of Agriculture in the Paul Engler College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences. “Dr. Lucherk does an outstanding job coaching our students to be knowledgeable and mentally ready for top-level competition. Her teams have been consistently near the top in contests during the last year and earlier this season, and it is gratifying to see their hard work pay off with this dominant breakthrough win.”

The team was named reserve champion at the Eastern National Meat Judging Contest in September. And the team will be featured on an episode of “Around Texas with Chancellor John Sharp,” scheduled to air Oct. 29 on Panhandle PBS and available statewide Oct. 26 at

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.

In individual rankings, Eli Mathis, a sophomore agribusiness major from Covington, placed second overall and first place in beef grading and total beef.

Ryan Heitschmidt, a junior animal science major from Nazareth, ranked fourth overall, first in placings, second in beef judging and fourth in lamb judging.

Madison Colvin, a junior agriculture major from Bryan, ranked sixth overall, first in lamb judging, and fourth in placings.

Megan Miller, a senior agribusiness major from Silver City, New Mexico, ranked ninth overall, third in placings and fifth in beef judging.

Colt Edrington, a junior agribusiness and economics major from Grandview, was third in the alternate division. Juan Carlos Buentello, a senior animal science major from Angleton, was fifth in the alternate division.

Other team members include Parker Franz, a junior animal science major from Bethune, Colorado; Noah Harrell, a senior agriculture major from Colorado City; Mikayla Hudnall, a junior animal science major from Lorenzo; Bryce Hutson, a junior agricultural media and communications major from Idalou; Caleb Olfers, a junior animal science major from Fredericksburg; and Payton Ownbey, a junior animal science major from Whitney.

In addition to Lucherk, the team is coached by Megan Eckhardt, a doctoral student in agriculture.

WT’s meat judging team is one of the ways the University is responsive to regional needs, as set out in its 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: The West Texas A&M University meat judging team won the American Royal Meat Judging contest Oct. 15 with a record score. Members include, top from left, coach Dr. Loni Lucherk, Bryce Hutson, Ryan Heitschmidt, Parker Franz, Caleb Olfers, Noah Harrell, coach Megan Eckhardt; and, bottom from left, Colt Edrington, Eli Mathis, Payton Owenby, Madison Colvin, Megan Miller, Mikayla Hudnall and Juan Carlos Buentello.