BURLINGTON, COLO. - Russele Sleep, named "Rookie of the Year" in Livestock Marketing Association's 2010 World Livestock Auctioneer Championship (WLAC), said he's confident he can win next summer's 2011 WLAC.
"Anything can happen," said Sleep, 26, of Bedford, Iowa. "I don't want to sound over-confident, but I feel I'm ready."
His comments came after he won the third qualifying contest, held at the Burlington Livestock Exchange, for next June's 48th annual WLAC.
Named Burlington reserve champion, or second place, was Kevin Schow, Paxton, Neb., and runner-up champion, or third place, went to Jason Santomaso, Sterling, Colo.
The three top winners at the contest here, and the next five highest-scoring contestants, are assured spots in the June 25 WLAC, in Williamston, S.C..
Those five are, in alphabetical order, Justin Abell, Sigourney, Iowa; Will Epperly, Moneta, Va.; Kevin Magby, Atoka, Okla.; Mike Nuss, Minatare, Neb.; and Preston Smith, Dodge City, Kan.
Sleep, who's only been a professional livestock auctioneer for about two years, said winning the "Rookie" honor definitely gave him confidence to enter the battle for the 2011 world title.
The "Rookie" award goes to the highest-scoring first-time contestant in the WLAC semi-finals.
Sleep said while this is just his second time in the WLAC, he's not intimidated by the many veteran contestants he'll face in Williamston. "Not really," he said. "I worry about doing a good job, not about the contestants."
He was sponsored by three Iowa markets: Madison County Livestock Auction, Winterset; Russell Livestock Market, Russell; and Clarinda Livestock Auction, LLC, Clarinda.
Reserve Champion Schow, 40, is the son of 1980 WLAC winner Dean Schow. Asked how his family would feel about having two world champions, Kevin Schow said, "It would be great. Dad would be very proud, and I'd be honored."
His father "gives me a lot of advice...some of it," he said with a laugh, "I want, and some of it, I don't want."
This will be Kevin's 5th time in the contest. He finished among the 10 finalists in 2009 and 2010.
He was sponsored by Ogallala Livestock Auction Market, Inc., Ogallala, Neb., and Ranchland Livestock Auction, Inc., Wray, Colo.
This will be Runner-Up Champion Santomaso's 4th time in the contest. He finished among the 10 finalists in 2009 and 2010.
If he wins the WLAC next June, he said he is looking forward to "traveling around, and seeing how other markets run their businesses. Maybe I can find something they're doing that's better than the way we're doing it."
During his championship year, the world champion travels around the country for LMA, appearing at markets and industry events.
In addition to being an auctioneer, Santomaso, 33, is assistant manager at Sterling Livestock Commission Co., which is owned and operated by his family. It sponsored his appearance in the contest here, held Oct. 28.
A cash award and a custom-made belt buckle go to the winner in each qualifying contest. The reserve and runner-up champions in each contest also receive custom buckles.
The first two qualifying contests were held Sept. 13 in Montgomery, Ala., and Oct. 23 in Ponoka, Alberta. The final qualifier will be March 4, 2011 in Bloomington, Wisc.
The eight top scorers in each qualifying contest, along with the current International Livestock Auctioneer Champion - Tom Frey, Creston, Iowa - make up the field of 33 for next June's WLAC.
It will be held at Upstate Livestock Exchange, LLC, and hosted by Upstate and Martin & Martin Cattle, Inc., both of Williamston.