Austin Unruh, a Goessel High School senior won first place last week in the state FFA agriculture mechanics competition in Manhattan. Like the other senior members of the Goessel FFA team which took second overall, he has grown-up driving, working on, and getting greasy from tractors and farm equipment for as long as he can remember.
“I’ve always helped my dad,” Unruh said. “I enjoy operating the equipment and working on it.”
Unruh and his parents, John and Elaine Unruh of rural Goessel, own and operate West Branch Excavating. They dig ditches, waterlines, ponds, basements, and remove trees or move dirt as needed, as well as farm.
His experience at home and on-the-job as a tire and farm technician at Cole Street Station in Moundridge gave Unruh the background he needed to excel in agriculture mechanics. His teammates Drake Sterk, Joe Campbell, and Tyler Shulz kept it real and made competing fun.
“We’ve been competing as an ag mech team for all four years we have been in high school,” Unruh said. “Kent Duerksen graduated last year and we added Tyler in, but each year we got better and better.”
According to Sterk, the Goessel boys knew what they were doing during the competition but they did not expect to win second place.
“The welding was the hardest this year, but overall the contest was easier than district,” Sterk said. “We were talking after it (state) was all over and we didn’t even stay for the results because we didn’t think we did all that well.”
Goessel FFA adviser and ag teacher Zana Manche saw the results by online streaming and quickly notified the students of their success.
Unruh, who won first place in agriculture technology management, as well as first place overall individual, was the team’s machinery expert. Campbell, a welding and engine repair guru, placed sixth; Sterk, a dairy farmer with his dad at Sterk Dairy rural Hillsboro and the team’s all-around trouble-shooter, placed seventh; and Shulz, a quick-study in shop knowledge and welding, and the team’s only junior, placed 16th. The team could possibly head to nationals next year, if the first place team defers.
“This is just one awesome accomplishment,” Manche said. “The guys lost to first place by a mere 4 points. It was just an excellent job and a reflection of all their hard work through the year.”
Unruh plans to attend Hutchinson Community College next year to study diesel mechanics before returning to the family excavation business. Campbell also plans to attend HCC, plugging in to their welding program. Sterk will play football at Dordt College in Iowa and study agribusiness. And Shulz — he will be a senior next year at GHS and he hopes to find some mechanical understudies to carry on the state Career Development Events competitive drive from Goessel.