CANYON, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Congratulations are in order for the West Texas A&M University meat judging team as officials announced that they took home their first-ever national championship win at the Tyson International Contest on Sunday in Dakota City, Neb.

The team, according to officials, won first place in beef grading, pork judging, reasons and total beef; second place in specifications; and fourth was earned by the team in lamb judging and total placings. Officials noted that the team’s score of 4,230 marks the second-highest score 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.”

The WT team went on to beat out Texas Tech University by 32 points, according to officials.

As previously reported on, the team won their first national contest in October at the American Royal Meat Judging contest, setting a school record in the process with Lucherk noting to WT that the win was preparation for the Tyson International Contest.

“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,” continued Pond. “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.”

Officials released the following individual results for WT team members:

  • Megan Miller, a senior agribusiness major from Silver City, NM 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.
    • 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.
    • 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 included:

  • 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, Colo.;
  • 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, who was named the Davis Chair in Meat Judging in 2021, following a $3.75 million gift from Dr. Gordon W. Davis, a Lubbock businessman, the team is also coached by Megan Eckhardt, a doctoral student in agriculture and Will Boyd, a graduate student in animal science from Cleburne. also previously reported that the team was featured on an episode of “Around Texas with Chancellor John Sharp” on Oct. 29, which spotlighted the success of the WT meat judging team.

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