As a competitive team from the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Department of Animal Science, the wool judging team finished the judging season at the national contest against seven other universities. Shawn Ramsey, Ph.D., professor and wool judging team coordinator, Bryan-College Station, said the win was a culmination of long hours of hard work by the team and coaches.
“I am proud of their commitment and dedication,” Ramsey said. “They set a goal at the beginning of the fall semester to win the national championship after two consecutive years of previous teams being reserve national champions.”
Texas A&M entered two teams, maroon and white, and continued a winning tradition at the national contest.
In addition to taking home both top team honors on March 13, nine of the top 10 high individual awards were earned by Texas A&M team members. Seven Texas A&M students were also named to the 10-member All-American team, which is decided by the culmination of placings of the top three of four contests, grades and activities.
The All-American team members and high individual awards are as follows:
All-American team members
- Charlee Proctor, ’26, Princeton.
- Connor Pence, ’26, Mereta.
- Kodi Davis, ’26, Sonora.
- Kyla Beck, ’26, Seguin.
- Ally Brooks, ’26, Henderson.
- Garret Kern, ’26, Fields Store.
- Carson Carter, ’26, Iola.
High individuals, overall
- Pence, first.
- Proctor, second.
- Nathan Kerth, ’26, third, College Station.
- Trinity Reagan, ’26, fourth, Katy.
- Carter, fifth.
- Davis, sixth.
- Brooks, seventh.
- Megan Downie, ’26, eighth, College Station.
- Beck, ninth.
Other team members include freshmen Brianna Bongard, Middletown, Maryland; Anna Cox, Belton; Maggie DeLaCerda, Denton; Addie Derry, Medina; Rance Ellis, Henderson; Landon Southern, Sinton; Cooper Sutton, Gatesville; and Madilyn Vick, Jourdanton.
The previous six national competitions have resulted in Texas A&M teams winning two national and four reserve national titles.
Carson Millican, wool judging head coach and animal science master’s student from Seminole, praised the team for its unwavering dedication and hard work that led to this moment.
“As a coach, the most valuable reward is to watch these students succeed and accomplish the ultimate goal of the judging season,” Millican said. “Winning the national championship means the world to me and the team especially. Coaching these individuals has been a huge blessing and will forever impact my life.”
Wool judging basics
Wool judging is a competitive team event that offers a high-impact learning opportunity for students. Team members are required to evaluate wool based on fineness, coarseness and various other characteristics. The national contest consisted of a 15-fleece grading rail where contestants evaluated fleeces for yield, fiber diameter, staple length, character and purity. The grader must assign a number for both fiber diameter and yield, which is the percentage of clean wool left after washing. The most desirable fleeces are those with a higher yield, uniform fineness, evenly crimped or wavy from base to tip and free from brittle fibers, known as kemp, and other colored fibers.
The contest also requires the teams to evaluate an additional three commercial and three breed classes containing four fleeces each. The commercial fleeces are graded based on fiber diameter, ranked 1-4. Fleeces in the breed classes are placed based on breed characteristics and wool quality.
Although some members of the wool judging team previously participated in wool judging contests through 4-H and FFA clubs, prior experience is not required to be part of the collegiate team. In fact, Ramsey said, most members on the 2023 team had little wool judging experience.
“Students only need to bring with them a competitive spirit,” he said. “We will teach them everything else they need to know.”
The road to nationals
The journey to the national competition began when the nearly 200 students interested in the wool judging team enrolled in the fall wool evaluation course. To earn a spot on the team, the top 25 students in the class compete at a contest in San Angelo. For the remaining contests, the top 15 students make up the two teams that represent Texas A&M.
Ramsey encourages freshman to take the course not only for the chance to be part of a competitive team, but to also begin making valuable Aggie connections that will enhance the rest of their college years and stay with them after graduation.
For some, it even sparks an interest to continue being part of the team as an upperclassman. Miles Mathis ’23, assistant wool judging coach, Kingsville, said he immediately knew he wanted to coach future teams after judging his freshman year.
“I can honestly say that being part of the wool judging team has been the best decision of my college career, and I will never lose the relationships and memories made,” he said.
The first competition that kicked off the 2022-2023 judging season was the Texas Invitational Contest held in San Angelo, followed by the National Western Stock Show in Denver, the 7220 Wyoming Contest, Black Hills Stock Show in South Dakota and the San Antonio Livestock Show and Rodeo. The team had a successful run at these contests, earning both team and individual honors at each contest. A total of three first place and two second place overall finishes were claimed leading up to nationals.
“I think the most beneficial part of being on the wool judging team is the healthy competition and accountability that is built between the team members,” Mathis said.
Relationships built, memories made
Students learn the basics of wool judging during their tenure on the team while also building valuable communication, public speaking and team building skills. But perhaps the most meaningful part of the experience is building relationships with fellow teammates.
For team member Pence, who started wool judging in third grade, the wool judging team was a natural fit. He was excited to start building connections with fellow students in the class.
“Looking back, I am so grateful for the people I have met. These are some of my best friends, and the memories we made will never be forgotten,” Pence said.
Although a seasoned wool judger, Pence learned how to place more confidence in himself and his team members while judging on the collegiate team.
“You have to count on yourself and others to work together as a team,” he said.
Davis became interested in wool judging for the challenge of being on a competitive team member. After the judging season, she felt humbled by the unique experience and was grateful to be part of something that felt like a family.
“Representing myself, family, hometown and my university has been a memorable experience,” Davis said. “It allows me to be more than just an individual at a large university. I have been part of something much more significant.”
Assistant coach Jaxson Zimmerman ’25, Franklin, was proud to experience the wins with fellow coaches and see the experience come full circle for them—Millican was a team member on the 2019 reserve national champion team and Mathis was a member of the 2020 national champion team. He also enjoyed witnessing the growth of each team member.
“There are countless moments of pride and accomplishments throughout the past year,” Zimmerman said. “I am proud of the success and accolades of every individual, as well as the personal growth of everyone to become better young men and women.”
The tradition continues
The wool judging team at Texas A&M is no stranger to success; this year’s win continues a tradition of excellence, dedication and perseverance. Since 1996 when Ramsey became the team’s coordinator, the team has won 13 national championships and five reserve national championships.
“The continued success of our wool judging team is a testament to the exceptional students and the faculty who teach them,” said Andy Herring, Ph.D., professor and interim head of animal science. “The department is proud of this team and how they represent Texas A&M.”