The final bid: Iowa man wins auctioneering title

By Peighton Kendrick for Tri-State Livestock News

Will Epperly, a third-generation auctioneer originally from the small town of Moneta, Virginia, was named the 2022 World Livestock Auctioneer Champion in Shipshewana, Indiana. The Livestock Marketing Association hosted the contest.

Auctioneering runs deep in Epperly’s rural roots, and he was born with a God given talent in his blood. In 1986, Will’s father and grandfather built a local livestock auction, which is where he originally got his feet wet.

Thursday mornings were dedicated to watching Superior with his grandpa, and he remembers being seven years old watching Ralph Wade win world champion auctioneer contest, and that’s where he made the decision to chase after the career of auctioneering. Not long after that, seven-year-old Will sold his first calf sitting on his grandpa’s lap at their family-owned livestock auction.

Little did he know that 26 years later, he would be recognized as the best in the world.  Needless to say, Will is no stranger to the agriculture industry and he calls himself, “one of the lucky ones, getting to grow up on horseback with cattle around”.

Will’s family runs registered Angus cattle, and during his youth, Will participated in the Angus Junior Nationals, showing around the country. Not only that, but Will has also worked in a number of different auctions all across the United States. He was willing to work hard to reach his dreams, even if that meant starting out as a pre-sorter just to get his foot in the door. Spencer Livestock Sales in Iowa was his first auctioneering job during his college years, and it was in 2009 at twenty years old where he qualified for his first national auctioneering competition. From there he embarked on a 12-year journey to reach the place where he is now.

In 2011 Will received the opportunity to work for Bluegrass Stockyards in Lexington, Kentucky. Shortly after, in 2013 he got the call of a lifetime to work at Dunlap Livestock Auction in Dunlap, Iowa, which is where he still resides with his wife Ally and son Zeke. Will is now also a co-owner of Dunlap Livestock Auction with John and Jim Shaven. What makes Will’s story special is that he was able to tackle the feat of world champion as a self-taught auctioneer. He has been inspired by previous world champions including Matt Lowery, who he had the chance to learn from for a month.

For Will, auctioneering isn’t a job, it’s a passion. “It is one of the most fun occupations you can have. Every day you get to go to work, and you have the challenge and excitement of getting to bring someone their full years wage when they bring in their stock to sell. The auction is so electrifying and intoxicating. It’s the competitive way of it. It can get really fun”, says Will.

The world champion competition is open to anyone who wants to compete. There are three qualifying competitions held throughout the U.S. and the top 10 qualifiers from each of these get to move onto the world champion competition, which was held in Shipshewana, Indiana this year. The world champion competition consists of an interview portion which takes up 25 percent of the total score and each qualifier then sells 10 drives of cattle which accounts for the other 75 percent of their score. They are judged on quality of voice, clarity of chant, professionalism and poise, speed of sale, and knowledge of the product. “I just had fun”, says Will, and he left it all on the table this year with nothing to lose. He says that hearing his name being called out as number one in a room full of auctioneering heroes that night is a feeling that he cannot describe in words.

Will lost his grandfather in 2020 and given that his grandfather is one of the first and most impactful people who helped him get started in the industry, this win was beyond meaningful for him. Auctioneering ties together family values and its worth in Will’s life goes far past championship titles. He has devoted years of hard work and dedication into this contest, and he wants to share a message with the youth that “if you have the dedication, the passion, and the drive, the hard work will pay off”.

One of the most rewarding aspects to winning this title for Will is when young people tell him that they are inspired by his story, and because he didn’t give up on his dream in the 12 years that it took him to reach it, it gives them motivation not to give up ether. Moving forward, Will wants to continue to pursue the goals of the Livestock Market Association, by providing a competitive market while making improvements along the way. They want to put livestock in front of all kinds of buyers, as the LMA represents and advocates for a vast range of different livestock operations. Although Epperly has reached the top, he continues to strive for success and improvement, and he uses this platform to encourage the youth not to give up on their goals!

Epperly earned his spot to compete in this year’s competition by winning Runner-Up honors at LMA’s 2022 Midwestern Qualifying event. Thirty other contestants also qualified through three regional qualifying events. Courtesy photo
Will is now also a co-owner of Dunlap Livestock Auction, Dunlap, Iowa, with John and Jim Shaven. Courtesy photo