- Associated Press - Monday, May 25, 2015

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (AP) - For Chyene Wiescholek, there’s barely been a time when welding something, anything, wasn’t a part of his life.

From repairs on machinery to chores around the home, the whole family, it seemed, knew how to handle a welding torch around their Union City farm the way most people handle screwdrivers.

“I’d be working with my dad on machinery,” Chyene, 18, told the Battle Creek Enquirer ( https://bcene.ws/1FjDJ4q ). “That’s just what we did. “We’re kind of a welding family.”

It was his dad, Gary, and his older brother by a year, Chayton. who taught Chyene the basics of the trade. Since then, he has taken it a whole lot further.

“He’s one of the best, if not the best, high school students I’ve had in 35 years,” said Warren Banaszewski, a welding instructor at the Calhoun Area Career Center since 1980. “I had his brother and he had skills too. But Chyene has taken them to the next level.”

And the highlight was his first-place finish recently in the prestigious Secondary Welding Competition held Ferris State University in Big Rapids. He was the winner of the shielded metal arc welding competition, beating out high school welders from more than 40 schools in Michigan and Wisconsin.

Banaszewski said the category, known in the field as “stick welding,” is a process required for all welders to earn professional certification. And while there are many other forms of welding, this is where Wiescholek excels and where he plans to make a career one day.

Wiescholek, a senior at Tekonsha High, has been in the welding program at the career center for two years. It’s a program he always planned to join to follow in his both his dad’s and brother’s footsteps.

“His brother didn’t have that competitive edge, so he didn’t enter that competition,” Banaszewski said. “But Chyene really wanted to do this. What separates him is that even to place in the competition is good. To win, you have to be exceptional.”

He competed in his first year in the program but didn’t place. Still, he used the experience to get better.

“I knew what I had to practice on,” Wiescholek said. “I learned what I had to work on. It was a challenge for me.”

And the soft-spoken Wiescholek also used a time-honored motivation tool.

“I wanted to be better than my brother,” he said with a smile.

Chayton is a professional welder and is coming back home after working on a job in Kentucky.

Banaszewski said it’s difficult to explain what makes a great welder, but after 35 years of watching students come and go, he just sees something special in the younger Wiescholek.

“You’ve got have a lot of natural ability,” he said. “It’s hard work and determination. You know by a visual exam and you can tell if someone is skilled. Welding is metal art.”

And it can also be lucrative because Banaszewski said there’s a demand for welders around the country.

“Anything made of metal has to be welded and it’s never going away,” he said. “Baby boomers are starting to retire and there are hundreds of thousands of welders needed.”

Wiescholek’s next step is Kellogg Community College’s Regional Manufacturing Technology Center where he’s also been working under the tutelage of Preston Graham.

After that, he hopes to attend Ferris State, one of the nation’s top welding schools, with help from the $1,000 scholarship he received for winning the competition.

“I knew after my first year in the program that this is what I want as a career,” he said.

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Information from: Battle Creek Enquirer, https://www.battlecreekenquirer.com

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