State champion welder hoping to get to international competition

By: Kevin Myrick (Polk County Standard-Journal)

Welding student and Cedartown High School graduate Ryan Fincher has a big task ahead of him this coming weekend in Huntsville, Ala., as he strives to become one of three that can move onto international competition and a trip overseas.

Fincher, who has been going to Georgia Northwestern Technical College after he graduated in 2015, was invited as one of more than 60 from across the country to participate in the 2017 SkillsUSA World Team selection competition.

Earlier this week, Fincher headed to Huntsville to participate in the latest round of competition to see who would make it to the final three against other competitors from around the country.

He’s been busy welding up projects and sending off work to judges in preparation for getting through the latest round of cutting the field from 6 competitors to 3.

Fincher’s most challenging and favorite project thus far has been a pressure vessel that can hold 1,000 pounds per square inch of compressed air.

He said both the work itself and figuring out the right way to bead a weld line correctly have challenged his abilities throughout the process, now in its third round.

“You’ve got to figure out how to get good penetration in the weld, but also keep it consistent,” Fincher said. “Like with the pressure vessel, you have to make sure you’ve burned it in good enough to hold 1,000 psi and that isn’t an easy task.”

Fincher, who was previously working for Polk County Public Service as a gas line welder has since moved back into the family roofing business while still attending GNTC to spend more time on preparing for the competition.

He’s had the help of teachers and friends along the way, and though he’s mostly had to pay for the competition out of pocket some recent donations from Southeastern Hose out of Bremen and an individual from Holston Gas in Rome have helped defray costs.

Making it to the final six also allows this latest trip and the materials to be covered by the SkillsUSA organization.

Ultimately though, it’s about the projects being done and what Fincher can do with the metal that no one else can.

“All of this is designed to challenge their welding skills,” said Matt Hayden, the welding instructor at Cedartown High School.

It hasn’t been easy. In practice trying to get it right, Fincher has made six different versions of the pressure vessel, and sent off two of those for judging according to Haney.

The two time state welding champion his junior and senior year of high school is looking forward to the chance to make it all the way through to the international competition, where he’ll not only get a chance to work with past national and international competitors who have mastered welding, but also for a trip to Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates in October 2017.

It also comes with a $40,000 scholarship from the American Welding Society if he wins the international competition, something he wants badly.

He’ll first have to make it to the TeamUSA finals in February first after this weekend’s competition in Huntsville.