A Wyandotte teen returned from Denver this week with college tuition in hand.

Chris Hofschulte, a senior at Wyandotte High School, won Grand Champion honors with his cross breed hog at the National Western Stock Show.

The NWS, as any livestock competitor will attest, in not just a blue ribbon event. Hofschulte’s prize hog sold for $16,000 during last Friday’s auction.

“We almost didn’t let him go,” said Hofschulte’s father Phil Hofschulte, the vocational agriculture teacher at Wyandotte. “His grandfather was ill and we had sows farrowing so I had to stay home with them. We didn’t know if they (Chris and his sister, Natalie) were ready to make the trip alone.”

One of the nation’s premier livestock shows, the NWS is over a century old. Each year, thousands of participants from around the world converge on the 90-acre complex in mid-January with their prize stock in tow.

In addition to spending thousands of hours over a period of months feeding, grooming and preparing their animals to compete in one of the largest youth exhibitions in the nation, many of these youths, between the ages of 9 and 19, attend school, participate in 4-H and FFA chapters and compete in a number of other extracurricular activities.

National Western junior livestock exhibitors have the opportunity to win prize money, trailers, scholarships and awards. Plus, 90 of the best animals qualify for the Auction of Junior Livestock Champions, where a winning animal could sell for more than $100,000.

“It was kind of stunning to me when the judge made the announcement,” Chris Hofschulte said. “I’d never won anything this big before.”

The young showman has been showing hogs since he was about 5 years old — following in his father’s footsteps.

He plans to continue walking in the same direction.

“I will probably go to NEO or some other two-year college and judge on their team,” Chris Hofschulte said. “Then, I plan on going to some place like OSU to judge.”

“Natalie was also a sale qualifier,” Phil Hofschulte said.

Natalie Hofschulte sold her hog for $2,350.

The economy put a big hit on the Junior Livestock Auction at the National Western Stock Show.

This year’s champions brought only 50 to 70 percent of the prices paid last year. The biggest disappointment was the Grand Champion Steer, where auctioneers coaxed and coaxed the well-heeled crowd but could pull a winning bid of only $50,000. Last year’s steer brought $110,000.

Pat Grant, President of NWS, purchased Hofschulte’s hog for a third of what last year’s hog brought.

“I’m not complaining about $16,000,” Hofschulte said. “I wouldn’t complain about $1,000.”

Hofschulte said that, more than anything, he enjoyed the experience of attending — let alone winning — one of the world’s biggest stock shows.