Science & Technology

Two USU Eastern Student Welders Compete for Top Spot in the Country

By Shelby Ruud Jarman |

Wyatt Hansen and Benjamin Cornaby.

The biggest welding competition in the country is about to take place — and two students from Utah State University Eastern are in the running for the top spot.

WorldSkills is the technical skills equivalent of the Olympics, comprised of events such as carpentry, plumbing and heating, and welding. One welding student from every competing country is selected to represent their home nation at this global competition held every two years. This year, WorldSkills will be in Lyon, France, in September, and the Final Weld-Off to select the USA’s competitor is later this month.

Just three college students in the entire country remain in the running to represent the USA. This year, for the first time, two of the top competitors are USU Eastern students: Benjamin Cornaby and Wyatt Hansen.

If you’re in the USU Eastern McDonald Career Center building any time from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., you’ll hear Cornaby and Hansen diligently practicing their welding skills. Their training has been going on for months, and they routinely put in 60- to 90-hour weeks in the shop between their college classes.

“They are the first people in the building every morning and the last people to leave it in the evenings, every single day,” said Austin Welch, assistant welding professor at USU Eastern and coach to these two student welders.

The logistics of having two competitors working so closely have been challenging, between sharing training space and the increased cost of materials, travel and tools. But despite being competitors, Hansen and Cornaby share a dynamic of mutual support and camaraderie.

“Having us both in the shop is a big advantage because we push each other,” Cornaby said. “If he's there, I'd better be there. If I'm there, he better be there. It’s just extra motivation. And at the end of the day, you’re really trying to beat your own last score and better yourself.”

The unique benefit of having both competitors train side by side has become apparent in the shared motivation and continuous improvement each student has gained.

“It’s an advantage to both of them, in my opinion,” Welch said. “My general advice to any of our students competing in any welding contest is: ‘Train like you know that you’re in second place right now.’ For Ben and Wyatt, having their competition training just across the shop eliminates any speculation about how they’re stacking up against others. It’s done nothing but amplify both of their skills.”

In addition to the chance to represent the USA at WorldSkills Lyon 2024, the winner of the national Final Weld-Off also receives a $40,000 scholarship to put towards their education. Training for this competition is not only a chance to hone welding skills, but also an opportunity to strengthen their communication and professionalism skills, dedication and work ethic.

“I think it'll set me up to not only be able to weld, but to be able to be a leader in the welding industry,” Hansen said. “To be able to be a foreman, or a boss, or a welding inspector. Someone higher up in ranks, overseeing jobs.”

Past competitors from USU Eastern's welding program who have done very well in competition and built the program’s reputation include Jordan Packer, Jordan Wynn, and Chandler Vincent. Both Hansen and Cornaby are inspired by the competitors who came before them.

Welch emphasizes that his outstanding former students laid the foundation of Hansen’s and Cornaby’s successes. It’s clear that USU Eastern is the place to go for students who want to succeed in these welding competitions and the industry.

“Eastern’s continued success in the USA Trials is difficult to attribute to a single factor — but in my opinion, the largest contributing factor is the culture of the students themselves,” Welch said. “Ben and Wyatt might not know it, but at this very moment they are helping their counterparts of the future prepare for upcoming contests. Success helps pave the way for more success.”

With their exemplary dedication, Cornaby and Hansen are not just competing; they are inspiring future generations of welding enthusiasts to strive for excellence. Despite the long hours and intense training, Hansen has found that his participation is well worth the effort.

“It's a lot of hard work, but if you put your head down and give it your all, it'll pay off,” Hansen said. “Hard work and dedication will always pay off.”


Shelby Ruud Jarman
College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences


Austin Welch
Assistant Professor
USU Eastern, Welding


Statewide Campuses 340stories Hands-on Learning 205stories Career 60stories USU Eastern 51stories

Comments and questions regarding this article may be directed to the contact person listed on this page.

Next Story in Science & Technology

See Also