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Members of the 2015-16 WIU Livestock Judging Team (all seniors unless otherwise noted): back row, L to R: Brenen Diesen (Pocahontas, IL), Matthew St. John (Rushville, IN), Heath Harper (Lafayette, IN), Sam Bair (Elkhart, IA), Hank LeVan (Woodstock, OH) and Tyler Gradert (Geneseo, IL). Front row, L to R: Sam Mattingly (alumnus), Ashley Kauffman (Danvers, IL), Cassie Lindsay (Jacksonville, IL), Jennifer Livermore (Media, IL) and Katie Lewis (Clay City, IL).
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WIU Livestock Judging Team Earns First Place Team Award from National Barrow Show

September 28, 2015

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MACOMB, IL — The Western Illinois University Livestock Judging Team brought home a first place team award and several individual awards from the National Barrow Show in Austin (MN) earlier this month. The team earned first place in the judging event—beating the second place team by 81 points—and six of the team members placed in the top 10 of the individual judging competition.

Team members, who are all seniors, include: Sam Bair (Elkhart, IA), Brenen Diesen (Pocahontas, IL), Tyler Gradert (Geneseo, IL), Heath Harper (Lafayette, IN), Ashley Kaufman (Danvers, IL), Hank LeVan (Woodstock, OH), Katie Lewis (Clay City, IL), Cassie Lindsey (Jacksonville, IL) and Jennifer Livermore (Media, IL). Individual judging overall results included: Harper, second place; Lewis, fifth place; Bair, sixth place; LeVan, seventh place; Livermore, eighth place; and Gradert, 10th place.

"The WIU Livestock Judging Team returned to us with lots of hardware to show for their efforts over the last couple of months in preparation for this event," noted WIU School of Agriculture Director Andrew Baker. "The hogs they brought also did very well, with the awards for the Champion Purebred Truck Load, Reserve Crossbred Truckload and Reserve Champion Overall. They also brought back the award for the Grand Champion Yorkshire Gilt. It was a team effort, and they represented Western extremely well," he added.

According to team members, the WIU Livestock Judging Team's success is attributable to their teamwork, as well as to their coach, the WIU School of Agriculture's Associate Professor of Animal Science Mark Hoge.

"Students come to WIU to be part of the Livestock Judging Team for multiple reasons. One reason is that we have a close-knit family feel. If we need to study, we study as a group, or if we need to get a job done at a local farm or at WIU, we all try to go. I also know a lot of people who came to Western because of our talented coach, Mark Hoge. Mark is known for his elite judging skills across the country, and because of his help, time and knowledge, we have became an advanced multi-species judging school. I also think people come to WIU from all over the Midwest because of alumni and past judging success," Lewis explained.

Harper noted that although his hometown is in Indiana, he chose to come and study in in west central Illinois and to be part of the WIU Livestock Judging Team because of the benefits the School of Agriculture, and Western overall, offers students.

Western Illinois University makes you feel at home. Everyone at Western has a tight bond, and it has family-like atmosphere. Whether it be the faculty members or the students themselves, everyone wants to help out," Harper said. "Above all, I think a value—one that I have really been taught at Western—that I can apply in the industry is time management and hard work. At Western, in the classroom, on the team, or in the School of Ag, no one ever just lets you do anything halfway—they are always pushing you toward your full potential and making you want to achieve more."

Read more about the team's experience at the National Barrow Show this year via a post by Lewis on the WIU School of Agriculture' blog at Follow the WIU Livestock Judging Team on Facebook at

For more information, contact Baker at (309) 298-1080 or via email at

Posted By: Teresa Koltzenburg (
Office of University Communications & Marketing