MARSHALL — The competition was heating up in Marshall on Thursday as Texas State Technical College hosted its fourth annual welding contest for East Texas high school students.

More than 150 students from area schools turned out to test their skills and take home prizes, including scholarship money.

“We have students from about 28 area high schools, in grades freshman through senior, to compete in welding and fabrication,” TSTC Marshall Lead Welding Instructor Russell Hutcherson said. “We added the fabrication to the competition because I think you get a better welder if you have someone that can build and weld.”

The competition also allowed freshman and sophomore welding students, people Hutcherson said most welding competitions don’t allow.

“Most welding competitions are for the junior and senior welders but I wanted to open the competition up and allow the freshman and sophomore welders this learning experience,” he said. “And I think it paid off — last year we had 90 students compete and this year we had about 150 students so it’s growing.”

Jefferson High School student Will Griffin took home the competition’s No. 1 spot and a prize purse of $1,000 in scholarships, while Jefferson High School student Ezekiel Najera took home second place and a $500 scholarship.

Komatsu provided judges for the event.

“Welding is a skill that can earn them a good wage,” Hutcherson said. “The average welder in the U.S. last year made $44,000.”

TSTC Marshall currently offers a one-year welding certification program.