WT Meat Judging Team Wins National Championship in Decisive Fashion

Chip Chandler Nov 15, 2023
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WT Meat Judging Team Wins National Championship in Decisive Fashion

Copy by Chip Chandler, 806-651-2124,


CANYON, Texas — West Texas A&M University’s meat judging team secured its first-ever national championship in a Nov. 12 competition.

The team took top honors at the Tyson International Contest in Dakota City, Nebraska.

The team took first in beef grading, pork judging, reasons and total beef; second in specifications; and fourth in lamb judging and total placings.

Its score of 4,230 is the second-highest core ever recorded by a WT meat judging team.

“Winning the first national championship in program history in the most competitive season of meat judging I have ever witnessed was legendary,” said coach Dr. Loni Lucherk, WT’s Gordon W. Davis Chair in Meat Judging in its Department of Agricultural Sciences. “The students believed they could win, trusted us to push and coach them to that level of excellence, and had the mental toughness to perform in competition. I am so excited for this win to catapult the program and put us on the map as a dominant meat judging school, but more excited to see how this program impacts students to go out in the industry and strive to be champions in life.”

WT topped its closest competitor, Texas Tech University, by 32 points. Other competitors included Oklahoma State University, Texas A&M University and Kansas State University.

The team won its first national contest in October at the prestigious American Royal Meat Judging contest, where it set a school record. That preliminary contest and six other competitions over the year were in preparation for the Tyson International, Lucherk said.

“A national championship comes from having a combination of a great coach, great students, great facilities and sufficient support to train a team,” said Dr. Kevin Pond, dean of the Paul Engler College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences. “WT is blessed with great meat science facilities, a great coach, honored and supported with an endowed chair, and great students desiring to compete and win.

“It is no accident that WT is in the position to compete for national championships. We are very thankful for the friends and alumni of WT who have made the facilities, chairs and scholarships possible and for the strong support from the upper administration of WT and from the System‘s Chancellor,” Pond continued.

Lucherk was named the Davis Chair in Meat Judging in 2021, following a $3.75 million gift from Dr. Gordon W. Davis, a Lubbock businessman and former educator.

In individual results, Megan Miller, a senior agribusiness major from Silver City, New Mexico, ranked fourth overall, second in pork judging, fifth in specifications and seventh in lamb judging.

Ryan Heitschmidt, a junior animal science major from Nazareth, ranked fifth overall, fifth in pork judging, third in beef judging, fourth in total placings and fifth in reasons. He also won the Rachel Hamilton Memorial Award and was named to the All American second team.

Eli Mathis, a sophomore agribusiness major from Covington, ranked sixth overall and third in beef grading; he also was named to the All American second team.

Colt Edrington, a junior agribusiness and economics major from Grandview, ranked ninth overall, fourth in beef grading, second in specifications and fourth in total reasons.

Other team members include Juan Carlos Buentello, a senior animal science major from Angleton; Madison Colvin, a junior agriculture major from Bryan; 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, and Will Boyd, a graduate student in animal science from Cleburne.

The team also was named reserve champion at the Eastern National Meat Judging Contest in September.

The team also recently was featured on an episode of “Around Texas with Chancellor John Sharp.”

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: Celebrating West Texas A&M University's first-ever national championship in meat judging are, front from left, Dr. Loni Lucherk, coach and Gordon W. Davis Chair in Meat Judging; Madison Colvin, Megan Miller, Mikayla Hudnall, Payton Ownbey, and Coach Megan Eckhardt; and, back from left, Dr. Ty Lawrence, WT's Caviness Davis Distinguished Chair in Meat Science; Coach Will Boyd, Elijah Mathis, Parker Franz, Ryan Heitschmidt, Bryce Hutson, Caleb Olfers, Colt Edrington, Noah Harrell and Juan-Carlos Buentello.