Nation’s Top Welder is CAAS Student at USU Eastern
by Susan Polser
Spring 2017 Issue
photo by Tyson Chappell
A few days after his 19th birthday, a Utah State University Eastern welder relaxes in his instructor’s office with a big grin. He describes how as a kid he hated school, yet was just named the top welder in the United States.
It happened last February when USU-Eastern’s Chandler Vincent and welding instructor Mason Winters, a faculty member in the School of Applied Sciences, Technology and Engineering, flew to Huntsville, AL, for the U.S. Open Welding Trials. Vincent had been there in November when the top-six welders were scaled down to three. He had been there in January when the top-three welders practiced with welding experts. And again he went back to compete for the top spot.
After four days of nonstop welding, he was named the USA WorldSkills welding champion, a feat never achieved by anyone from USU Eastern.
Winters, a former College of Eastern Utah student, was named the second-best welder in 2009 as was Jeremiah Garcia, who was named second-best welder in 2007. No one had ever been named No. 1 from Eastern until Vincent, a freshman, claimed the prize and will represent the United States in the WorldSkills championships held in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, in October 2017. Winning the national contest also earned Vincent a $40,000 scholarship and tools from the American Welding Society.
Since fall semester began in August 2016, Vincent welded 10 hours a day, seven days a week. The only time he did not follow his intense regiment is when he took a half day off to spend Christmas morning with his family in Roosevelt, then returned to Price to practice welding that afternoon.
He credits his instructor, Winters, who told him that he would have to yield to this regimented schedule if he wanted to compete with the elite welders in the nation. And he did every day for seven months, including missing every major holiday except a half-day at Christmas.
“Everyone at the competition was insanely talented,” he said. “I am always happy, not stressed out. I adapted to the challenge I had during the competition without stressing out and staying calm. I’m a pretty happy guy and doing something I love.” It just so happens that Vincent is the best in the nation doing something he loves.
Winters and Vincent have more in common other than their love for welding with both being first-generation college students. They both also hated high school and never thought they would graduate, let alone attend college.
All Vincent wanted to do was hunt and be in the outdoors when he was in high school. He hated school and wanted to drop out. His mother begged him to go to school and take just one class he loved. At 15 years old, he registered for a welding class at the Uintah Basin Applied Technology College and the rest is history. Winter’s story paralleled Vincent’s . . . “I failed every class my sophomore year in high school and then I found welding.”
Vincent cannot say enough good about the welding department at USU Eastern and its instructors.
“The biggest thing that I have learned from this program, is learning how to learn. I learn from my own mistakes and better myself from the things that I have screwed up. I thought I was pretty good at welding and thought I knew everything. I came here and it was a big awakening for me. They [the instructors] opened up this huge world on the theory side and now I understand what is going on in the metal and how the machines get the power.”
“These instructors definitely teach a one-of-a-kind program,” he said. “The things students learn will last them a lifetime…Besides making great welders, the instructors develop character here."