AFSA Wins Big at NCC

Piper Fire Protection celebrated two wins at the NCC. From left to right: AFSA Director Chris Johnson, president/co-founder of Piper; Jennifer Plouffe, mother of Tyler Hester and corporate construction administration manager at Piper; Daniel Coticchio, gold medal winner; Tyler Hester, safety winner; Bryant Coffey, previous ABC NCC gold medal winner and current Piper employee; Mike Curinga, construction project manager at Piper and instructor for the ABC apprenticeship class; and Mike Corbett, Sarasota branch manager.

Members Take Home Gold, Silver, and Safety Awards

Several members of the American Fire Sprinkler Association (AFSA) competed at the Associated Builders and Contractors’ (ABC) National Craft Championships (NCC) at the Gaylord Palms in Kissimmee, Florida, this past March. This year marked the 34th annual competition for ABC, and AFSA was pleased to learn its members nearly swept the competition. With a showcasing of nearly 200 of the nation’s top-performing craft professionals, it should come as no surprise that AFSA members rose to the top of the ranks.

ABC NCC winners

Daniel Coticchio, a fourth-year fire sprinkler apprentice with AFSA Contractor Member Piper Fire Protection Inc., Clearwater, Florida, took the highest honor of the gold medal. “I appreciate a challenge, so this competition was right up my alley. Also, I knew it would be worth the experience,” Coticchio comments. “I had an idea I would be a finalist, but I competed with a lot of skilled competitors, so nothing was for sure.”

He continues, “Competitions like this one are important because it lets people have a chance to challenge themselves and showcase the skills they have accumulated through their apprenticeship.”

Coticchio’s gold medal gives Piper Fire its third gold medal since competing in this event, the first occurring in 2014 with Paul Gibson and then followed by Bryant Coffey in 2018, among other outstanding technicians who have brought home silver and bronze in those years as well.

“Piper Fire has a long history of striving to have the best trained and equipped team in Florida. Dan, Tyler, and Jamie have made me super proud in their efforts to be world-class apprentices and journeymen,” comments AFSA At-Large Director Chris Johnson, president/co-founder of Piper Fire Protection. “Piper has recently joined with Fortis Fire and Safety, and our mutual goal is to have all of our technicians be well-trained and ready to take on all types of work. My Co-Founder Rich Ennis and I are both very, very proud of these guys, and we look forward to seeing them advance their careers in our company!”

Jacob Utz, the 2023 silver medal winner, began his career as a fire sprinkler apprentice four years ago with Fusion Fire which was later bought by Redhawk Fire & Security during their acquisition by AFSA Contractor Member ADT Commercial.

“After participating in a four-year apprenticeship with ADT Commercial, I won the state competition in Maryland for ABC, and that pushed me to compete for the Craft Championships. Having the opportunity to compete at the national level was a huge motivation for me to further my knowledge and skills in the field,” Utz says. “These competitions are important because they help showcase the talent and technical ability of the next generation coming into the trade. Competition is healthy for the advancement of the industry, and it gives folks a chance to be recognized by their peers and industry leaders.”

Jacob Utz with ADT (center), celebrated winning the silver medal with his parents Mark and Joy.


“The best preparation for this competition, in addition to studying, was working in the field every day,” Utz continues. “The hands-on experience afforded by my apprenticeship helped me take my technical knowledge and apply it in a tangible way that made me feel even more prepared for the practical performance test for this competition. I also spent a lot of time after-hours on phone calls with Jeff Kempf, project manager for fire sprinkler installations at ADT Commercial, discussing different components and the operation of various valves.”

Matthew Eichner, Wiginton Fire Systems, Florida, received the bronze medal at ABC’s 2023 NCC.

Tyler Hester, also with Piper Fire Protection Inc., Clearwater, Florida, secured the safety plaque at ABC’s 2023 NCC. He has worked in the industry for six years and says that he first learned about it from his grandfather. “Growing up, I was always told that fire protection would never go away and it’s always guaranteed work. Plus, my grandfather started his own business in the profession. So, I’ve always been around the industry to begin with,” Hester says. “I’ve always loved the sense of pride I’d feel whenever completing a job/task.”

He continues, “I studied pretty hard. I’ve never been the greatest test-taker. I’m more of a hands-on-learning type of guy. For the hands-on portion of the competition, that was just an everyday thing I do at work. We also had to do a local competition to qualify for nationals. I think people in construction don’t really get the credit they deserve. I think these competitions give construction workers the opportunity to show off what they do for a living and why they’re the best.”

ABC NCC Competition Details

This year’s NCC showcased the skills and expertise of craft professionals, including carpenters, electricians, pipefitters, plumbers, welders, and more, all vying for top honors in 16 competitions with skills on display in 12 crafts. The competition also featured a team competition with journey-level craft professionals from different crafts working to complete a joint project. The competition included a two-hour online exam and a six-hour practical performance test. To learn more about the 2024 NCC event, visit

AFSA NAC Competition Details

AFSA’s NAC is the premier event for the fire sprinkler industry and features the top seven fire sprinkler apprentices in the nation competing for tools, cash prizes, and bragging rights. Held during AFSA’s annual convention and exhibition, this year’s event will be held during AFSA42, September 6-9, in Orlando, Florida. For more information about the NAC, visit For more information about AFSA42, visit

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