Matthew Wallen was named the 2016 King of the Ring during competition at the Champaign County Fair on Thursday, edging out Taylor Ayars and Kendell Metz.
“I would really like to thank everyone who stood behind me. My brother Mark, my brother Dustin, my dad, my mom,” Wallen said. “It takes a village to do it.”
Wallen accumulated 206 points in the competition, compared to Ayars’ 190 and 177 for Metz. The 11 participants showed nine species and were graded by judges in each category. Wallen received a first place score in sheep, his species of expertise, and second in llamas, goats and swine.
“I went back and learned some more,” said Wallen, who participated in the event a couple of years ago. “This year, I did a little more studying and tried to learn more about the animals.”
Wallen is attending Edison State Community College in Piqua, but plans to transfer to The Ohio State University.
In years past, the competitors rotated around stations that were set up with each species. This year, the kids took turns showing each species in a heat. That is, all 11 competitors showed swine at the same time, or horses, or goats, etc.
This led to a true show atmosphere, where the competitors roamed the arena and followed judges’ instructions. It also led to a bit of chaos, as a couple of swine wanted to make a break for it and crossed the ropes into the spectators’ seating. Later in the show, a couple of the sheep were uncooperative as well.
“I think, after that, the rabbits don’t seem so bad,” sheep judge Kevin Neer quipped afterwards, echoing many competitors’ sentiments that the rabbits are difficult to show.
Also new this year, the llamas that have become so popular for the llama races in the show’s intermission became an exhibit to be shown.
The change didn’t throw anyone off, especially Kristin Bailey, who had 90 minutes of preparation time after a competitor dropped out and she was tapped as the alternate.
“A showman is a showman, regardless of species,” Barb Baker said. Baker judged the llama portion of the event.
With all the action, it will be interesting to see if the event organizers elect to go back to the more traditional station-based approach or if the new format is here to stay.