Iowa Lakes Students Earn High Honors at 2023 Iowa SkillsUSA Competition

skills usa

(Emmetsburg, Iowa) Eleven Iowa Lakes Community College students and three Iowa Lakes Career Academy students received top rankings at the 2023 Iowa SkillsUSA competition in Ankeny, Iowa, at Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) on April 28.

The competitors participated in the Carpentry, Marine Service Technology, High School Power Equipment, High School Motorcycle, College Power Equipment, and College Motorcycle categories at the annual competition, which showcases the best career and technical education students as they put their skills to the test.

During the competition, four Iowa Lakes students and two Iowa Lakes Career Academy students earned the coveted gold medal for first place, securing a spot to compete in the 2023 National SkillsUSA competition held in Atlanta, Georgia, from June 19 to 23.

“The SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference is the world’s largest skill competition, with over 5,000 competitors in 108 different areas of competition. Winning the SkillsUSA Iowa Carpentry competition is an outstanding achievement,” Construction Technology Program Coordinator Corey Menning explained.

In the Carpentry division, Javin Shopp, a freshman from Parker, Colorado, took first, and sophomore Carlos Balderas (Emmetsburg, Iowa) grabbed second place, earning the silver medal.

” Competing at the State SkillsUSA in Carpentry was a big adrenalin rush for me. It is hard to describe the excitement I felt when I heard my name called as the winner of the Carpentry competition. It is a tremendous honor for me to represent Iowa Lakes Community College and the entire state of Iowa at the National Leadership and Skills Conference in Atlanta!” exclaimed Shopp.

“It was a fun experience competing at the State Carpentry Competition for SkillsUSA. I enjoyed the whole trip. I think it’s cool that Javen and I both made it on the podium, and I wish him the best of luck at the National Competition in Atlanta this June,” said Balderas.

Competing in Marine Service Technology, sophomore Hunter Welch (Hubbard, Iowa) obtained Gold, sophomore Coleton Usher (Atkins, Iowa) earned Silver, and freshman Wyatt Schwenker (Maquoketa, Iowa) reached Bronze. Boat and Watercraft Technician Program Coordinator Rick Brichta mentored Welch, Usher, and Schwenker and couldn’t be prouder of their accomplishments.

“I thought the competition was fun. It was exciting to have challenges on something you might not have worked on in a while, figure it out, and see if you could finish before the time ran out. I’m excited about nationals coming up and hope to represent Iowa Lakes well,” explained Welch.

Assistant Professors Dustin Ross and Matt Bohl in Powersports and Power Equipment Technology helped Iowa Lakes Career Academy students Zachary Borchers of Graettinger-Terril High School win the Gold and Nathan Adams from Emmetsburg High School to obtain the Silver in the High School Power Equipment competition. Additionally, with their guidance, Brice Rooney from Emmetsburg High School earned Gold in the High School Motorcycle competition.

“The Iowa SkillsUSA Motorcycle Technology and Power Equipment Technology contests are an excellent way for our students to put the knowledge they have learned here at Iowa Lakes to the test. The students are tested both with a written test and hands-on stations such as precision measurement, equipment evaluation and inspection, parts identification, valve adjustment, and electrical component testing,” explained Bohl.

The Career Academy students enjoyed the day competing and meeting students from other high schools with similar interests. The two Career Academy students who placed first look forward to attending Nationals. When asked what the most challenging part of the competition was for each of them, Rooney responded, “Having someone looking over your shoulder on two of the stations made it more difficult compared to the stations that didn’t have judges. I was confident I would do well, but still felt nervous.” Borchers said the most challenging part was “knowing there was a time limit on each job.”

At the college level in Powersports-related competitions, sophomore Dylan Short (Cherokee, Iowa) earned Gold, freshman Brady Petitt (Sheldon, Iowa) took Silver, and freshman Ryan Kilian (Heron Lake, Minnesota) grabbed Bronze. In the College Motorcycle competition, sophomore Wayde Cofey (Carbondale, Ill.) earned Gold, and sophomore Jagger Horken (South Sioux City, Neb.) and freshman Nicholas Grub (Nicollet, Minn.) obtained Silvers.

“I enjoyed competing in SkillsUSA both years that I have participated. I am looking forward to competing at Nationals this year and meeting representatives from major companies in the industry,” said Short.

Driven by employer demand, SkillsUSA helps students develop necessary personal, workplace, and technical skills grounded in academics. SkillsUSA has members nationwide in high schools, colleges, and middle schools, covering over 130 trade, technical, and skilled service occupations. The U.S. Departments of Education and Labor recognizes SkillsUSA as integral to career and technical education. SkillsUSA has served 13.9 million members since 1965.

At Iowa Lakes, Career Academy offers high school students the opportunity to learn real-world skills in high-demand occupations. For college students, Iowa Lakes provides hands-on training and classroom learning to earn a degree or diploma, preparing students to perform well in SkillsUSA competitions and, even more importantly, to start their careers with the in-demand skills needed to succeed.

To learn more about career and technical programs at Iowa Lakes, please visit

PHOTO CAPTION 1:  Iowa Lakes Community College Students and High School Students led by Iowa Lakes instructors place at Iowa SkillsUSA this year. From left to right: Wayde Coffey, Jagger Horken, Brice Rooney, Nicholas Grubb, Brady Petitt, Ryan Kilian, Nathan Adams, Zach Borchers, Dylan Short, Javen Shopp, Carlos Balderas, Hunter Welch, Coleton Usher, and Wyatt Schwenker.