WyoTech 2023 Hall of Fame inductees

WyoTech names inaugural hall of fame inductees

June 8, 2023
The six inductees, all alumni of the Laramie, Wyoming-based technical college, include a YouTuber/John Deere master technician, tinkerer-turned-fabricator, and "The Fastest Woman on Earth."

WyoTech, the automotive, diesel, and collision trade school which was founded in 1966, has named its inaugural Hall of Fame class. The six inductees include:

  • John Alonzo
  • Jessie Combs
  • Dave Giley
  • Levi Green
  • Zeth Key
  • Randy Svalina

"Each of the six alumni has achieved tremendous career success and demonstrates WyoTech's capability of training students to succeed across the entire spectrum of the trade industry," said Jim Mathis, president and CEO of WyoTech. "We're honored to recognize them as the first inductees of WyoTech's Hall of Fame and to show the public the kind of impact our graduates have on the trade industry and the world."

To be eligible for the WyoTech Hall of Fame, alumni must be five years post-graduation and established in the industry. Once nominated, the inductees were asked to participate in WyoTech's "give-back" programs, such as participation in a Program Advisory Committee or serving as a volunteer teacher in a workshop for current or summer seminar students.  

Here's more on each inductee:

Jessi Combs (1980-2019)  

Combs, dubbed the "The Fastest Woman on Earth," was given the honor posthumously. She set a new Women's Landspeed World Record at 522.783 mph in 2019, but at the cost of her life. The jet-powered car she was piloting suffered a wheel failure and burst into flames. Combs died at the scene. The vehicle was approaching 550 mph at the time, according to the Harney County Sheriff's Office.

The previous record, 512.7 mph, was set in 1976 by Kitty O'Neil.

Combs was born in Rapid City, South Dakota, where she found a love for speed and its machines at a young age.

She graduated top of her WyoTech class in 2004 with a degree in Custom Automotive Fabrication. Her areas of focus included Collision/Refinishing, Chassis Fabrication, Street Rod Fabrication, and Trim/Upholstery.

Combs accepted her first job from the trade school's marketing department to build a custom car with Ben Bright to represent WyoTech at the Specialty Equipment Marketing Association's (SEMA) show and charity auction. This project paved the way for Jessi to appear on "Overhaulin'" as a guest fabricator and launched her career in television. She went on to co-host "Xtreme 4x4" on Spike TV and created more than 90 episodes over four years while maintaining her integrity as a metal fabricator, builder, and industrial artist. That earned her additional appearances on shows, including "Mythbusters" and "All Girls Garage."

Jessi was a fierce competitor in auto racing, where Ultra4's King of the Hammers crowned her "Queen of the Hammers" with first-place finishes in 2014, 2016, and notably in 2018 with her custom-built Jeep, "Goldie Rocks."

She broke stereotypes and records by joining the North American Eagle Supersonic Speed Challenger team and in 2013 became "The Fastest Woman on 4-Wheels" at 398 mph, with a top speed of 440 mph. In 2019, she set a new Women's Landspeed World Record at 522.783 mph before the accident that took her life. That feat and her career were memorialized in the HBO Max documentary "The Fastest Woman on Earth."

She is memorialized through the Jessi Combs Foundation, which provides scholarships to women pursuing a career in the trades.

“So many young women look up to Jessi at WyoTech—her name and her example echo in our halls daily,” noted Cindy Barlow, WyoTech director of industry relations. “Jessi set the pace and will always lead the way for women to dream big, remove the glass ceiling and move mountains.

“Even in her passing, she is still paying it forward and changing lives to all who get the opportunity to work with the Jessi Combs foundation,” Barlow added.

John Alonzo

Alonzo is Racing Operations-Marketing Director for the Race Shop at Scoggin Dickey Parts Center in Lubbock, Texas, one of the world's leading dealers of high-performance engines and GM parts.

He developed a passion for cars and racing growing up in his uncle's automotive shop and watching him compete in drag races. Alonzo enrolled at WyoTech shortly after high school and it left a strong impression.

"WyoTech instilled knowledge, punctuality, and a strong work ethic in me,” Alonzo said. “The school held its students accountable for their actions and held us to a high standard that ultimately prepared me to succeed in the workforce."

He has worked his way up to his current position, at Scoggin Dickey's in-house premier machine shop, specializing in high-performance engines.

"I'm working at my dream job and get to showcase our product at the racetrack," he said.  

Dave Gilley

Gilley is the founder and owner of Gilleyfab Enterprises, near Salt Lake City, Utah, known for top-tier, fine-quality fabrication in the UTV industry.

He may now be in a college’s hall of fame, but in high school he was rarely even in the halls. Gilley cut classes in high school to spend more time in the metal shop. Before and after school, to stay away from a troubled home life, Gilley put his time into work at a precast shop, cutting, welding and doing minor repairs. Then in his junior year, he met a WyoTech rep, and it changed his life.

"He mentioned Motorsports Chassis Fab, and right then I was hooked and knew that is what I wanted to do," Gilley said.

He went on to be a WyoTech class valedictorian and eventually launched Gilleyfab.

"I'm proud to say today I have a wonderful facility, filled with amazing people and equipment," he said. "I've been in business for over 10 years now, and we are not slowing down. I'm very thankful to WyoTech and all the wonderful people that helped me a long the way to get where I am today."

Gilley’s experiences led him to understand the value of failure.

"Always do your absolute best; you will fail, however, learn from failures and turn them into lessons,” he advised. “Some will absolutely hurt, but always turn the negative energy into a positive and make the best of it. Constantly set goals, build your skill set, become confident but not cocky, and when you do produce quality, stay humble."  

Levi Green

Green is the owner and instructor of HammerFab, a company located near Austin, Texas that specializes in handcrafting upscale turn-key customs and industry-leading fabrication tools and parts.

Green grew up on a 40-acre farm in rural Missouri, tinkering with a 1958 Apache truck that an uncle had given him.

"Dad and I had plans to work on the old truck and learn to do the metal work ourselves, but my skills were not up to the task," he remembers.

He brought the truck with him to WyoTech, where he used it as a class project to hone his skills. With his WyoTech experience, he worked his way up through a number of shops before founding Hammerfab.  

He recommends automotive students practice patience as they progress in their careers.

“Don't expect to be a rock star overnight,” Green said. “Be diligent, take one step at a time. It took me 20 years to get where I'm at today. Just don't give up, keep getting better, and move forward no matter what!"  

Zeth Key

Key is a Master John Deere Service Technician at Sloan Implementthat provides new and used John Deere parts, equipment, and service, in Illinois.  

He became interested in cars while in high school, working on his 1977 Chevy Nova with his father. But it wasn't until after taking automotive technology classes in high school when he met a WyoTech recruiter, that he was sold.

"I quickly fell in love with the 'green iron,'" he said as he earned his Master John Deere Service Technician certificate.

In April 2008, he launched a YouTube channel in honor of his late friend, Jake, to promote the trade they loved and to "inspire a younger generation to pick up a wrench and start a great career," keeping agriculture running. In two years, the channel grew to 63,000 subscribers and 8 million views.

Key reminds students that it's okay to not know everything when they graduate from school, but to stay humble and "treat everyday as a learning day."

"Be the best student you can possibly be and set high goals," he said. "This will help you develop the correct mindset you will need to become successful in the future and add value to yourself. Learn how to be resourceful enough to teach yourself."

Randy Svalina

Although Svalina grew up as a ranch kid who hated school and swore he'd "never return to a classroom after graduating," he's now a WyoTech Specialties Instructor.

After discovering a love and passion for teaching, he developed an idea he calls "discipleship on tires," where he teaches students not only a curriculum but a way of life that helps their families and their communities.

"What I once did with my own hands was cool, self-gratifying, paid well enough to live a good life, and seemed great until I learned of something far deeper," he said. "As a part of WyoTech, we help others reach their goals, their dreams, raise their families, and succeed in their journey."

He brings hard work and faith to the table and believes the rest will fall into place.

"First Thessalonians reminds us to... aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your hands,'" he said, citing the Bible. "Remember that everything that you do has your fingerprint on it and is worthy of your effort, your skill, your heart."

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