SAN ANTONIO -- The Rush Truck Centers' Tech Skills Rodeo wrapped up here on Tuesday evening, with first-time competitor, 24-year-old Travis Graham of Orlando, Fla. being named Heavy Duty Grand Champion and All-Round Rodeo Champion. Graham carts home $21,900 in cash and prizes.
It was Graham's first time competing in the Rush Truck Centers' Tech Skills Rodeo after joining the company less than three years ago. Graham describes himself as a Diesel Technician, level 4, specializing in electrical and diagnostics.
"I seem to have a knack for this," Graham said after accepting his awards. "I have been working on cars since I was old enough to hold a wrench. A lot of this seems second nature to me, but I'm also super competitive, and that helps."
Graham says his previous competition experience is limited to Skills USA Diesel Skills Competition during his high school years.
Rush Enterprises CEO, Rusty Rush, was on stage to congratulate the winners and present the prizes. After the award ceremony, Rush spoke of the talent and dedication of all the winners, and mostly the passion it takes to compete.
"There's a lot of passion in this room tonight, and y'all know how much I love passion." he said.
Dustin Ebert, of RTC's Phoenix store placed first in the Medium Duty category. Ebert has attended nine previous rodeos, and like Graham, won big during his first time out.
"The first time I placed first in Peterbilt Medium duty, first in Eaton and I won the grand champion," he said. "The second year I placed first in Eaton, and then I had a dry spell."
Over the past nine years, Ebert has never failed to qualify, and the December trip to San Antonio has become a family tradition, according to his wife, Liza.
"This year he came home from work the second day after the competition and wasn't saying much," he said. "He just sat on the couch. I didn't want to ask what had happened because I was afraid of stirring the pot if he didn't make it. I was getting nervous that we might not be going this year. Then he started pulling all the belt buckles out of his bag and I knew he had qualified. He was just stringing me along."
This is the 10th year of the RTC Tech Skills Rodeo. It began in Nashville in 2005 with a budget of $40,000 and just 10 tables in the banquet hall. In 2015, the operating budget for the entire event was somewhere north of $1 million with more than 350 people attending and dozens of staff members, suppliers, customers and friends helping to pull the even together. More than $157,000 in cash and prizes were given away this year.
2015 Winners Listing:
ALL AROUND RODEO CHAMPION
Travis Graham, Orlando
Cash & Prizes $21,900
RESERVE & GRAND CHAMPIONS MEDIUM DUTY AND HEAVY DUTY
Parts Grand David Zainfeld, Houston
Cash & Prizes $11,800
Parts Reserve Joe Acosta, Dallas
Cash & Prizes $8,300
Medium Duty Grand Dustin Ebert, Phoenix
Cash & Prizes $12,900
Medium Duty Reserve Lucas Manlief, Indianapolis
Cash & Prizes $9,100
Heavy Duty Reserve Travis Roark, Oklahoma City
Cash & Prizes $10,100
Heavy Duty Grand Travis Graham, Orlando
Cash & Prizes $15,600
HEAVY DUTY SUPPLIER DIVISIONS
Eaton Jason Swann, Dallas $5,000
Eaton Erick Lincoln, Albuquerque $4,000
Eaton Paul Serr, Denver $3,000
Cummins Sigifredo Gandaria, Corpus Christi $5,000
Cummins Matthew Chilson, Houston $4,000
Cummins Christopher Jordan, Effingham $3,000
Navistar Engine Rick Schaddelee, Joliet $5,000
Navistar Engine Dylan Moser, Hickory $4,000
Navistar Engine Derik Frazier, Cincinnati $3,000
Paccar MX Travis Roark, Oklahoma City $5,000
Paccar MX Glenn Boothe, Nashville $4,000
Paccar MX Travis Graham, Orlando $3,000
MEDIUM DUTY SUPPLIER DIVISIONS
Isuzu Levar Parish, Dallas $4,000
Isuzu Kory Sangster, Dallas $3,000
Hino Steven Brain, Dallas $3,000
Hino Tyler VanOrman, Fontana $4,000
International MD Lucas Manlief, Indianapolis $4,000
International MD Michael Pritchett, Quincy $3,000
Peterbilt MD Jose Garza, Pharr $4,000
Peterbilt MD Dustin Ebert, Phoenix $3,000
Ford Parts Ronald Hall, Dallas $4,800
Isuzu Parts John OBrien, Orlando $4,800
Hino Parts David Zainfeld, Houston $4,800
IH Parts 1 Alex Kujawski, Findlay $4,800
Paccar Parts Joe Acosta, Dallas $4,800
Rising Star Blake Fondren, Birmingham $7,000
Rising Star Wayne Henderson, Dallas $2,000
Rising Star Steven Bancroft, Hickory $1,000
Go Green Jay Seibech, Dallas $4,300
Go Green William Bodin, San Antonio $3,000
Refuse Travis Webster, Houston $4,300
Refuse Calvin Doppenberg, Tulsa $6,000
Body Repair Ryan Dugat, Lufkin $5,200
Body Repair Luis Gonzalez, Dallas $3,600
Body Paint Daniel Garcia Gonzalez, Salt Lake City $5,000
Body Paint Christopher Hooks, Lufkin $3,500