Steamboat Springs The questions have stopped, but the suggestions haven’t.
Graig Medvesk was the kind of athlete small towns live for. In his four years playing for Hayden High School, he starred in every sport he played.
He gained more than 3,000 yards and scored 28 touchdowns in two seasons as the starting quarterback, a stint that included a drive to the playoff quarterfinals his senior season.
In basketball, he might have been even better, helping the Tigers to the state championship tournament as a junior and finishing his senior season as one of the school’s all-time leading scorers and one of just a few players to score more than 1,000 career points.
He was quick enough to burn a defense through the lane and slick enough to drain a 3-pointer whenever he needed to.
“People still always say I should go play somewhere in college," Medvesk said. “I don’t pay much mind to it.”
Medvesk never intended to play in college, and now that he’s into his second year at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, he has found a passion away from the field and the court.
Medvesk still hopes to someday be a basketball coach.
“It’s still in my blood,” he said.
For now, though, he’s fallen in love with the world of auctioneering. Turns out, he’s good at it, too.
The obvious part is the voice, the chatter or, as they say in the industry, the chant.
Mention the word “auction” and people are likely to break out their best impersonations, mixing a bit of Elmer Fudd with a lot of speed and a few random dollar amounts thrown in.
Steamboat’s own Cookie Lockhart said there’s almost infinitely more to auctioneering than the chant — and with more than 50 years of experience calling auctions in Steamboat, she knows — but even she admitted that’s where most people start.
It’s one of the things that stood out right away about Medvesk, but it's still something he’s spent more time on than might be expected.
After being turned on to the career in part by his sister’s fiance, Medvesk spent three months helping out at auctions — mostly setting things up to earn a little weekend cash.
“Then one day, it just hit me,” he said. “I thought, ‘This is actually pretty cool.’”
He traveled to Billings, Mont., to Western Auctioneering College and began to dip his toe into what is a large, wide and demanding industry.
First, though, came the work on the chant.
“They’d give us a list of tongue twisters, and you’d just sling out all of those. Then you'd do number drills, sequences,” he said. “I walked away from auctioneer school, and I knew my numbers and sequences, but I still sounded like a broken record, just spitting them out.”
Working with CP Auctions in Fruita, he soaked up everything he could, trying to improve his “sound.”
“I picked up what I wanted to, then got on the Internet and listened to some world championship auctioneers,” he said. “I took what I liked from each one and made a chant that works for me.”
His chant was a big part of his biggest honor so far. Lockhart suggested he compete at a rookie event at the Colorado Auctioneers Association Convention in Denver earlier this month, and there Medvesk won the Troil Welton First Timers Bid Calling Award.
He got a thrill earlier this winter calling an auction for a Hayden High School sports fundraiser, returning to the court not as a player or, as he someday might, a coach, but as the man running the show.
“It takes a lot to be an auctioneer, and that boy’s got it,” Lockhart said.
That, of course, doesn’t mean it will be easy.
Medvesk said only three of the 20 auctioneers who were in his Montana class still are pursuing the career.
That makes perfect sense to Lockhart, who has deep roots in the industry. Her company actually won three other first-place awards at the Denver competition. She said Medvesk is promising because he’s affable, well-spoken and good looking on the stand. That’s only a small part of life as an auctioneer, however. He plans on finishing a business degree at Colorado Mesa, and Lockhart said if it’s going to work out, more classes certainly await.
“First thing people think of is talking fast. OK, you can talk fast, but that’s only 5 percent of what we do. It’s mostly marketing. I spent 45 days getting ready for one auction.”
Work weeks after an auction also is required to helping sort out paperwork and complete sales. Classes are important to help in appraisals and to understand often complex tax situations.
“And he needs to practice, practice, practice,” she said.
She’s helping with that. Medvesk had worked with her company and the Fruita company, and he said he’s eager to soak up as much as he can.
And the practice shouldn’t be a problem. Medvesk was a gym rat as a child and achieved what he did on the field and court thanks in large part to that dedication.
Lockhart said that same dedication is the first step toward life as an auctioneer.
“He has a world of potential,” she said. “He gets along with people, and he’s starting to get the experience he needs. Now he has to keep working and learn it.”
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com