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OCA Estimating Competition

2023 Event Headlined by Full House, CWRU’s First Win

Since the pandemic, the OCA Estimating Competition has returned in full force – with “full” being the optimal word.

OCA Director of Member Events David Rule said, “We had a full complement of teams,” in describing the February 10 & 11 event at the Nationwide Hotel & Conference Center, as 12 Ohio universities competed for the 2023 title. With two schools making late decisions to enter the 22nd annual event, this year’s OCA Estimating Competition field reached the maximum amount of 72 student participants.

Two years removed from when the 2021 event was cancelled due to COVID concerns and restraints, the 2023 event returned a more experienced group of participants, according to Rule. “Last year, the first year back, we didn’t have as many returning students because of not having the competition in 2021,” he said. “It showed a little bit last year, because we didn’t have as many students that had experienced the event.”

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Rule, who serves as a competition organizer with The Ruhlin Company’s Jeremy Angel and Alex Licitri, said approximately 30% of the students competing this year were returning participants. With two returning competitors, the student team from Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) captured the school’s first title and joins a list of nine schools having won one or more team titles since the event began in 2001. Students on CWRU’s winning team included Dan Cohen, Hailey DeGeorge, Shalev Grunshlag, Shanti Jacobson, Steven Leung and Sebastian Saintignon.

Helping prepare CWRU for its winning effort were OCA Team Advisors Sarah Carlson, Jackie Guttman and Jim Ruhlin Jr. of The Ruhlin Company. The three were just 29 of the OCA members, representing 13 state contractors, who helped prepare the student teams for the competition.

Youngstown State University, which is seeking its first OCA Estimating Competition title, finished second while defending champion University of Akron finished third. The top-three finishing schools received $2,400, $1,800 and $1,500, respectively, while the remaining participating teams were awarded $1,200 apiece.

The annual competition is open to schools in Ohio offering degrees in engineering and/or construction management. The competition begins Friday and allows the six-person teams approximately eight hours to prepare bids, perform scheduling and answer questions pertaining to the year’s featured project – which in 2023 was a restricted intersection project in ODOT District 4. Following Friday’s full day of preparing and turning in their project bids within the abbreviated timeline, each team prepares for Saturday’s presentation portion of the competition. The 30-minute oral presentations provide the judges the opportunity to learn how teams developed their bid and ideas on how they would construct the project. Due to the higher number of teams participating, judges moved this year’s presentation schedule to begin at 7:30 a.m. Saturday, to accommodate students’ and OCA member participants’ travel home.

Rule said teams this year utilized more digital information in formulating their bids. “Jeremy and Alex have done a good job of streamlining the upfront preparation of the event in the way of project plans,” he said. “We’ve gone to more digital … We’re trying to streamline to be as technologically close to what is actually happening with the use of digital documents and information.”

Cut Out for RCUTs

Student participants at the 2023 OCA Estimating Competition were tested on a type of non-traditional intersection crossing that was not only new to them but may be for many of the state’s contractors.

This year’s featured project was the Restricted Crossing U-Turn (RCUT) intersection constructed by Shelly & Sands Inc. for ODOT-District 4 at Butterbridge Road and State Route 21 in Stark County. The two-phase, $2.2 million RCUT intersection was completed in fall 2020. It was the first RCUT to be constructed in this area of the state.

Shelly & Sands’ Area Construction Manager Gene Galloway and Jobsite Foreman Andrew Thacker provided a presentation on the RCUT project during the competition’s opening afternoon for college faculty and OCA members, and then again for student participants on the estimating event’s final day

According to ODOT, the RCUT intersection is a safety measure that can reduce collision opportunities and accidents by up to 50%. RCUTs have shown to reduce injury accidents and fatalities by 40%- and 70%-plus, respectively. Located on divided roadways, RCUTs prohibit side-street or side-road traffic – such as motorists traveling on Butterbridge Road – from crossing or turning left onto the mainline (S.R. 21). The RCUT on this project has Butterbridge Road traffic turning right onto S.R. 21 and making a legal U-turn at a nearby crossover.

In their project overview, Galloway and Thacker detailed Shelly & Sands’ work, which included removal of the existing Butterbridge Road/S.R. 21 median intersection; construction of the RCUT, installation of turn lanes, widening S.R. 21 both north and south of the intersection; updating and installing storm water improvements along with traffic-control pavement markings, signage and a new bicycle path. Shelly & Sands encountered and overcame other issues on the project, such as soil and wetland undercutting and remediation, topsoil/slope protection, a 60-inch storm crossing under S.R. 21 that needed to be installed through the Jack and Bore method and more. The two-phase project was completed in a total of 148 days.

“We had a lot of challenges on this little project,” Galloway summarized.

Mike Ciammaichella, of The Ruhlin Co. and one of eight OCA members serving as competition judges, believed this year’s featured project was both well-rounded and challenging for the teams. “I think the obstacles for the students is that it is a very-rounded project – it has a little bit of everything. So, if for any reason they prepared for just one aspect of highway work they are going to be lost on something in this bid.”

He added that items purposely omitted from project plans provided to the student teams would challenge their construction knowledge. “… Piecing together the plans and then visualizing what they’ve got is probably the most difficult thing – beyond just trying to price it,” Ciammaichella said.

This marked the eighth time the OCA Estimating Competition’s venue has been held at the Nationwide Hotel & Conference Center, located about 10 minutes north of Columbus and I-270. Previously, the event was held at the Hilton Columbus at Easton. Rule called the accommodations at the Nationwide Conference Center “ideal” to handle the 72 student competitors and more than 50 OCA members who volunteer for the event (see page 40). “Plans are that the event will be there at least the next several years,” Rule said, as he mentioned the conference center’s “ideally sized breakout rooms” to accommodate the student teams, their computers and more for the estimating process; judges’ room; and presentation spaces. “It’s an ideal situation, with the location being centrally located and easily accessible for the schools.”

The 2024 event is tentatively scheduled for February 9-10.

Making a Case for Being No.1

Case Western Reserve University won its first OCA Estimating Competition title at this year’s 12-school event. For the past six competitions, schools had repeated earlier championships until CWRU became the first, first-time winner of the competition since 2016 when the University of Toledo captured its only title.

Here are the schools, listed alphabetically, and the year(s)* they have won OCA Estimating Competition titles:

  • University of Akron (4 titles) – 2022, 2010, 2009, 2003
  • Bowling Green State University (1) – 2004
  • Case Western Reserve University (1) – 2023
  • University of Cincinnati (3) – 2017, 2013, 2002
  • Cleveland State University (2) – 2011, 2005
  • University of Dayton (4) – 2020, 2018, 2006, 2001
  • Ohio Northern University (2) – 2019, 2008
  • Ohio State University (4) – 2015, 2014, 2012, 2007
  • University of Toledo (1) – 2016

*Event not held in 2021

OCA Member Participation

Team Advisors

  • Akron – Chuck Gillombardo (Kokosing Construction Co. Inc.), Hunter Blevins & Chris Szabo (The Ruhlin Co.)
  • Bowling Green State – Jared Lombardi (Kokosing Construction Co. Inc.) & Morgan Montgomery (Vernon Nagel Inc.)
  • Case Western Reserve – Sarah Carlson, Jackie Guttman & Jim Ruhlin Jr. (The Ruhlin Co.)
  • Cincinnati – Rob Lichter & Josh Nichols (John R. Jurgensen Co.)
  • Cleveland State – Matthew Blesi, Matthew Chandler & Jeff Jones (The Great Lakes Construction Co.)
  • Dayton – Danielle Ermis (Barrett Paving Materials Inc.), Aaron Peterson (Paul Peterson Co.) & Sean Wade (Eagle Bridge Co.)
  • Kent State – Nick DiGeronimo & Adam Robertson (Independence Excavating Inc.)
  • Ohio – Pete Kinzer, Zach Messmer, Robert Parker & Nate Smith (Shelly & Sands Inc.)
  • Ohio Northern – Brent Good & Isaac Krinkle (The Shelly Co.)
  • Ohio State – Brant Mercer & Alex McQuade (Kokosing Construction Co. Inc.)
  • Toledo – Quinn Lawrence & Ashley Norman (E.S. Wagner Co.)
  • Youngstown State – Ryan Peppers (Beaver Excavating Co.)

Competition Organizers

  • Jeremy Angel, The Ruhlin Co.
  • Alex Licitri, The Ruhlin Co.
  • David Rule, Ohio Contractors Association


  • Robert Bowers, Kokosing Contruction Co. Inc.
  • Mike Ciammaichella, The Ruhlin Co.
  • Blake Dickman, John R. Jurgensen Co.
  • Brian Francis, Beaver Excavating Co.
  • John C. Wagner, E.S. Wagner Co.
  • Jim Wilson, E.S. Wagner Co.


  • Jeremy Angel, The Ruhlin Co.
  • George Palko, Great Lakes Construction Co.

Project Presenters

  • Gene Galloway, Shelly & Sands
  • Andrew Thacker, Shelly & Sands

Job Fair

  • Beaver Excavating Co.
  • S. Wagner Co.
  • Great Lakes Construction Co.
  • HNTB Corp.
  • George J. Igel & Co. Inc.
  • Independence Excavating Inc.
  • Kokosing Construction Co. Inc.
  • Miller Bros. Construction Inc.
  • Paul Peterson Co.
  • The Ruhlin Co.
  • The Shelly Co.


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