ALVA, Okla. – Everything fell into place at just the right time for Cody Devers, a Northwestern Oklahoma State University junior from Perryton, Texas.
“It was pretty important for me to do well in Stillwater,” said Devers, a steer wrestler who won both go-rounds and the average championship at the Oklahoma State University rodeo in Stillwater. “The first two rodeos of the year hadn’t gone as planned, so I needed a good rodeo.”
The trip to the Payne County seat was the perfect stop for the Texas Panhandle cowboy, who won the OSU bulldogging title a year ago while competing at Garden City (Kan.) Community College. This year, though, he earned his championship as a Ranger.
“I decided to come here because of Stockton,” Devers said of Stockton Graves, the Northwestern rodeo coach who qualified seven times for the National Finals Rodeo. “Alva is the bulldogging capital of the Central Plains Region. If you’re going to be the best, you’ve got to be around the best.”
It seems to be working. One Ranger has earned the steer wrestling title at all three region rodeos so far this season – Devers in Stillwater; reigning college champion J.D. Struxness in Durant, Okla.; and Joby Allen in Colby, Kan.
“I think Stockton does a lot of things to help us,” Devers said. “We run steers. We chute dog. We have a jackpot once a week, and we have matches against one another. It’s just about having us behind that barrier and being competitive as much as possible to prepare us.”
Northwestern had several other cowboys find success, including header Dylan Schulenberg of Coal Valley, Ill., who won the team roping title with heeler Wyatt Miller of Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College. While they didn’t place, the tandem earned a spot in the final round, then put on a clinic with a 6.6-second run to win the short-go and the average titles.
Another Rangers duo, header Kass Bittle of Kremlin, Okla., and Edgar Fierro of Hennessey, Okla., were third in the long round with a 7.6-second run and placed sixth overall. Tie-down roper Wylee Nelson of Faith, S.D., was finished in a tie for sixth place in the opening round with a 10.6-second run.
For the women, goat tiers Katie Miller of Faith and Jennifer Massing of Ponoka, Alberta, worked their way into the short round. Miller finished third in the opening round, then suffered a no-time in the finale, while Massing finished tied for third in the long round, sixth in the short round and sixth overall.
Breakaway roper Brandi Hollenbeck, a junior transfer from Hutchinson, Kan., made the championship by finishing in a three-way tie for fifth place in the opening round with 3.2-second run.
“It’s still pretty early in the season,” Devers said, noting that seven rodeos remain on the schedule. “We have a few things we’re getting worked out, and I think it’s all starting to click for us now as a team.”
Team success comes through individual accomplishment, but each individual has a team of supporters and other attributes that help make everything come together.
“I’ve got a really good horse,” he said of Sassy, a 7-year-old mare that just made the transition from barrel racing to steer wrestling a few months ago. “She’s young, and I just got her started in July, but she put me in position. I had some good cattle drawn and just utilized them.
“My hazer is Bubba Allred (a fellow Ranger from Kanarraville, Utah), and he’s been doing a really good job hazing for me.”
Now he and the rest of the rodeo team hope to take the next step this coming week as they host the Northwestern Oklahoma State University rodeo, which takes place Thursday-Saturday.
“It’s a pretty packed week,” Devers said. “Between class, putting up panels and doing all the other things that go into it, we have a lot going on, and we still have to find time to practice.
“We still want to be prepared so we can go out and win our own rodeo.”
DUNCAN, Okla. – They grew up just outside of Goodwell, Okla., in the same house, separated only by the years.
For Trell and Shade Etbauer, rodeo has been part of their lives since birth. The sons of two-time world champion saddle bronc rider Robert Etbauer, Trell is the oldest son, just a couple years younger than their sister, Chancy. They’ve won all-around championships at every level of the game, and they continue to excel in multiple events.
It showed this season in a tight regional all-around race that came down to Saturday’s final round of the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo at Stephens County Arena. Shade earned enough money in saddle bronc riding to slide past his older brother for his first circuit year-end championship.
“It’s pretty exciting to be hauling with each other and to be winning that going into the finals,” said Shade, who trailed Trell entering the three-day finale by $451, then held a $440 advantage heading into the third round. “We weren’t that far from each other and were able to make a pretty good race during the finals.”
When all the scores were tabulated, Shade finished nearly $2,000 ahead of his brother with $27,713 in season earnings. Though he only qualified for the finals in bronc riding, he also competes in steer wrestling and tie-down roping just like Trell. While the oldest of Robert and Sue Etbauer’s kids qualified in both his events, the baby capitalized a little more this weekend.
Shade placed in two go-rounds and finished second in the average race to earn $4,680 in Duncan. Trell earned $1,560, and that money came in tie-down roping only.
“You’ve still got to do your part,” said Trell, who finished third in the average. “I took too good of a start in bulldogging tonight (resulting in a 10-second penalty); I had a chance there. I just didn’t score very good in calf roping the first night and tonight.”
Still, he’s enjoyed the race and the fun sibling rivalry the two have shared this season as they traveled the rodeo trail together.
“I try to be part of the all-around race every year, but then to have Shade in there made it more fun,” Trell said. “We’ve been giving each other a hard time back and forth, so it’s been a lot of fun watching him grow up and get better every year.”
Trell is a four-time circuit all-around champion and has also excelled in saddle bronc riding like his brother, father and famous uncles. Though he focuses on tie-down roping and steer wrestling, Trell also owns four Linderman Award titles for excellence in both timed and roughstock events. It’s a family trait that has been passed down through the generations, though Robert, Billy and Dan made their reputations in bronc riding.
Shade is still fairly new to ProRodeo, but he obviously has the family’s talent. He dominated the bronc riding in the circuit and had clinched the year-end championship before the finale began. Then he did enough to pocket the coveted all-around crown.
“I feel like this year I did the best I’ve done,” Shade said. “I got a new saddle, and it’s helped me quite a bit. Hopefully I can go into this next year and carry it on further.”
He’s off to a good start.
Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo
All-around champion: Circuit Finals: Cody Doescher. Year-end: Shade Etbauer.
Bareback riding: First round: 1. Wesley Cole, 80 points on Silver Creek Rodeo’s Got a Dollar, $1,783; 2. Justin Pollmiller, 79.5, $1,337; 3. Frank Morton, 78.5, $892; 4. Caine Riddle, 74, $446. Second round: 1. Justin Pollmiller, 81 points on New Frontier Rodeo’s Elvis, $1,783; 2. Caine Riddle, 79, $1,337; 3. Connor Hamilton, 78, $892; 4. Logan Glendy, 77.5, $446. Third round: 1. Blaine Kaufman, 82 points on Frontier Rodeo’s Night Fist, $1,783; 2. Caine Riddle, 81.5, $1,337; 3. Frank Morton, 80.5, $892; 4. Brian Leddy, 76.5, $446. Average: 1. (tie) Justin Pollmiller and Caine Riddle, 234.5 points on three rides, $2,340 each; 3. Frank Morton, 231.5, $1337; 4. Wesley Cole, 226, $669. Year-end champion: Frank Morton.
Steer wrestling: First round: 1. (tie) Shane Frey and Jule Hazen, 4.1 seconds, $1,560 each; 3. Riley Duvall, $892; 4. (tie) Jake Johnson and Jerek VanPatten, 5.2, $223 each. Second round: 1. (tie) J.D. Struxness and Dean Gorsuch, 4.2 seconds, $1,560 each; 3. Jake Johnson, 4.4, $892; 4. Riley Duvall, 4.5, $446. Third round: 1. Shane Frey, 4.3 seconds, $1,783; 2. J.D. Struxness, 4.4, $1,337; 3. Riley Duvall, 4.8, $892; 4. Cody Doescher, 5.0, $446. Average: 1. Riley Duvall, 13.5 seconds on three runs, $2,675; 2. Ryan Swayze, 16.1, $2,006; 3. Cody Doescher, 16.3, $1,337; 4. Shane Frey, 20.4, $669; Year-end champion: J.D. Struxness.
Team roping: 1. Andrew Ward/Reagan Ward, 4.4 seconds, $1,783; 2. Brett Christensen/Dawson McMaster, 5.0, $1,337; 3. Cale Markham/Nick Simmons, 5.3, $892; 4. Coleman Proctor/Billie Jack Saebens, 5.5, $446. Second round: 1. Coleman Proctor/Billie Jack Saebens, 4.7 seconds, $1,783; 2. Jesse Stipes/Buddy Hawkins, 5.2, $1,337; 3. Brett Christensen/Dawson McMaster, 6.2, $892; 4. Casey Hicks/Braden Harmon, 7.1, $445. Third round: 1. Nick Sartain/Gage Williams, 4.4 seconds, $1,783; 2. Bubba Buckaloo/Cody Doescher, 4.5, $1,337; 3. Andrew Ward/Reagan Ward, 4.6, $892; 4. Jesse Stipes/Buddy Hawkins, 4.8, $446. Average: 1. Coleman Proctor/Billie Jack Saebens, 16.5 seconds on three runs, $2,675; 2. Brett Christensen, 16.8, 42,006; 3. Hunter Munsell/Levi Tyan, 19.6, $1,337; 4. Bubba Buckaloo/Cody Doescher, 20.1, $669. Year-end champion header: Coleman Proctor. Year-end champion heeler: 1. Billie Jack Saebens.
Saddle bronc riding: First round: 1. Roper Kiesner, 80.5 points on Big Rafter Rodeo’s Who Knows, $1,783; 2. Shade Etbauer, 79, $1,337; 3. (tie) Hardy Braden and Preston Kafka, 78, $669 each. Second round: 1. Hardy Braden, 78 points on Rafter H Rodeo’s Summer Wages, $1,783; 2. Jesse James Kirby, 77, $1,337; 3. Ryan Bestol, 74.5, $892; 4. Cole Pacheco, 73, $446. Third round: 1. Hardy Braden, 80 points on Frontier Rodeo’s Girlfriend, $1,783; 2. Jesse James Kirby, 79, $1,337; 3. (tie) Roper Kiesner and Shade Etbauer, 78.5, $669 each. Average: 1. Hardy Braden, 236 points on three rides, $2,675; 2. Shade Etbauer, 227.5, $2,006; 3. Preston Kafka, 220, $1,337; 4. Ryan Bestol, 215.5, $449. Year-end champion: Shade Etbauer.
Tie-down roping: First round: 1. Bryson Sechrist, 7.7 seconds, $1,783; 2. Tyler Milligan, 7.9, $1,337; 3. Cody Quaney, 8.2, $892; 4. Ryan Jarrett, 8.6, $446. Second round: 1. Lane Jeffrey, 8.6 seconds, $1,783; 2. Caddo Lewallen, 8.7, $1,337; 3. (tie) Trent Creager, Jerome Schneeberger and Trell Etbauer, $446 each. Third round: 1. Ryan Jarrett, 7.8 seconds, $1,783; 2. Bryson Sechrist, 8.3, $1,337; 3. Cody Quaney, 9.2, $892; 4. (tie) Trell Etbauer and Lane Jeffrey, 9.7, $223 each. Average: 1. Bryson Sechrist, 25.0 seconds on three runs, $2,675; 2. Cody Quaney, 27.4, $2,006; 3. Trell Etbauer, 28.7, $1,337; 4. Will Howell, 29.4, $669. Year-end champion: Cody Quaney.
Barrel racing: First round: 1. Kyra Stierwalt, 15.97 seconds, $1,805; 2. Emily Miller, 15.99, $1,354; 3. Sherrylynn Johynson, 16.11, $903; 4. Tracy Nowlin, 16.19, $451. Second round: 1. Tracy Nowlin, 16.03 seconds, $1,805; 2. Emily Miller, 16.13, $1,354; 3. Shy-Anne Jarrett, 16.38, $903; 4. (tie) Jeanne Anderson and Mary Burger, 16.39, $226. Third round: 1. Gretchen Benbenek, 16.13 seconds, $1,805; 2. Tracy Nowlin, 16.14, $1,354; 3. Sherrylynn Johnson, 16.15, $903; 4. Jody McKay, 16.21, $451. Average: 1. Tracy Nowlin, 48.36 seconds on three runs, $2,708; 2. Emily Miller, 48.44, $2,031; 3. Cierra Chapman, 48.99, $1,354; 4. Shy-Anne Jarrett, 49.16, $677. Year-end champion: Emiily Miller.
Steer roping: First round: 1. Brodie Poppino, 12.2 seconds, $1,642; 2. J.P. Wickett, 14.0, $1,232; 3. Rocky Patterson, 14.8, $821; 4. Zac Parrington, 17.2. Second round: 1. Thomas Smith, 9.8 seconds, $1,642; 2. Chet Herren, 10.6, $1,232; 3. Rocky Patterson, 10.7, $821; 4. J.P. Wickett, 13.5, $411. Third round: 1. Rocky Patterson, 11.7 seconds, $1,642; 2. (tie) Billy Good and Kelton McMillen, 12.0, $1,026 each; 4. Marty Poppino, 12.1, $411. Average: 1. Rocky Patterson, 37.2 seconds on three runs, $2,463; 2. Chet Herren, 43.2, $1,847; 3. Brodie Poppino, 46.2, $1,232; 4. Billy Good, 48.2, $616. Year-end champion: Rocky Patterson.
Bull riding: First round: 1. Guthrie Murray, 86 points on Rafter H Rodeo’s News Flash, $1,783; 2. Colten Jesse, 85, $1,337; no other qualified rides. Second round: 1. Laramie Mosley, 84 points on Frontier Rodeo’s Levi the Boss, $1,783; 2. Jeston Mead, 80, $1,337; 3. Wyatt Rogers, 79, $892; 4. Colten Jesse, 77, $446. Third round: 1. Colten Jesse, 85.5 points on Silver Creek Rodeo’s Cimarron Dispatch, $1,783; 2. Trevor Kastner, 83, $1,337; 3. Nate Perry, 76, $892; 4. Clayton Joe Appelhans, 76, $446. Average: 1. Colten Jesse, 247.5 points on three rides, $2,675; 2. Guthrie Murray, 86 points on one ride, $2,006; 2. Laramie Mosley, 84, $1,337; 3. Laramie Mosley, 84, $1,337; 4. Trevor Kastner, 83, $669. Year-end champion: Nate Perry.
DUNCAN, Okla. – Justin Pollmiller has had a singular focus on the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo: Win the three-round average.
“That was definitely my goal when I got here,” said Pollmiller, who won Friday’s second go-round of bareback riding with an 81-point ride on New Frontier Rodeo’s Elvis and owns the lead in the average with a two-ride cumulative score of 160.5 points.
Not only do the earnings add up, but the average champion qualifies to the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo in Kissimmee, Fla., where he will be joined by the year-end winner. Since Frank Morton of Wright, Kan., has clinched the year-end, all that’s left is to decide the average winner.
“I want to go to Kissimmee,” said Pollmiller, a three-time circuit finals qualifier originally from Littleton, Colo., now living in Weatherford, Okla. “I’ve been telling everybody since I got here that I’m going to Florida. I’m going to go all out and try to win every round.”
He’s come close. He started the finale with a 79.5-point ride in Round 1 to finish second, then did one better Friday on a horse he knows pretty well.
“He’s old, has been around forever and he’s just as nice as can be,” he said. “I actually got on him earlier this year and messed him up a little bit. I was happy to have another shot at him, and if you’re going to get a rematch, this is the place to do it. He’s just awesome; he’s a sweetheart.
“He’s really fast and pretty small, and I’m pretty tall and have real long legs. It’s tough, because my spurs hit a few inches in front of his neck, so it makes my timing a little goofy. I just tried to keep my feet flying, and the judges seemed to like it.”
Pollmiller likes it, too. Though he’s qualified for the circuit finals each of the past three years, he was unable to complete last October because of injury; he tore a biceps last June and had to sit out six months of the season. Now he’s just trying to take the steps necessary to become one of the elite bareback riders in the game.
“I’m getting really close,” he said. “This year I was able to get on some really good horses and ended up winning quite a bit of money. From a riding standpoint, I’ve been feeling awesome and feel like I’m competitive just about everywhere I’ve been.”
Each step he walks in the game puts him closer to his destination. He hopes this weekend’s festivities serve as the perfect catapult to a Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualification.
“My big goal for next year is I want to be in the top 15,” Pollmiller said matter-of-factly.
He’s well on his way.
Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo
Bareback riding: 1. Justin Pollmiller, 81 points on New Frontier Rodeo’s Elvis, $1,783; 2. Caine Riddle, 79, $1,337; 3. Connor Hamilton, 78, $892; 4. Logan Glendy, 77.5, $446.
Steer wrestling: 1. (tie) J.D. Struxness and Dean Gorsuch, 4.2 seconds, $1,560 each; 3. Jake Johnson, 4.4, $892; 4. Riley Duvall, 4.5, $446.
Team roping: 1. Coleman Proctor/Billie Jack Saebens, 4.7 seconds, $1,783; 2. Jesse Stipes/Buddy Hawkins, 5.2, $1,337; 3. Brett Christensen/Dawson McMaster, 6.2, $892; 4. Casey Hicks/Braden Harmon, 7.1, $445.
Saddle bronc riding: 1. Hardy Braden, 78 points on Rafter H Rodeo’s Summer Wages, $1,783; 2. Jesse James Kirby, 77, $1,337; 3. Ryan Bestol, 74.5, $892; 4. Cole Pacheco, 73, $446.
Tie-down roping: 1. Lane Jeffrey, 8.6 seconds, $1,783; 2. Caddo Lewallen, 8.7, $1,337; 3. (tie) Trent Creager, Jerome Schneeberger and Trell Etbauer, 446 each.
Barrel racing: 1. Tracy Nowlin, 16.03 seconds, $1,805; 2. Emily Miller, 16.13, $1,354; 3. Shy-Anne Jarrett, 16.38, $903; 4. (tie) Jeanne Anderson and Mary Burger, 16.39, $226.
Bull riding: 1. Laramie Mosley, 84 points on Frontier Rodeo’s Levi the Boss, $1,783; 2. Jeston Mead, 80, $1,337; 3. Wyatt Rogers, 79, $892; 4. Colten Jesse, 77, $446.
DUNCAN, Okla. – Three-time world champion Rocky Patterson continued his dominance in the region Friday morning during the steer roping competition during the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo at Stephens County Arena.
Patterson placed in all three go-rounds, including the final-round victory, to win the average championship in a cumulative time of 37.2 seconds. In fact, he was six seconds faster than the runner-up, Chet Herren.
Just as importantly, Patterson pocketed $5,747 in Duncan and pushed his season earnings in the region to $29,591. He and Herren were the only two cowboys in the circuit to surpass more than $20,000.
Patterson and Herren also sit first and second, respectively, in the world standings and will carry that momentum with them when they compete at the Clem McSpadden National Finals Steer Roping in three weeks. They will be joined by fellow circuit competitor J.P. Wickett, who finished the season third in the region; he is 11th in the world standings.
Steer roping: First round: 1. Brodie Poppino, 12.2 seconds, $1,642; 2. J.P. Wickett, 14.0, $1,232; 3. Rocky Patterson, 14.8, $821; 4. Zac Parrington, 17.2. Second round: 1. Thomas Smith, 9.8 seconds, $1,642; 2. Chet Herren, 10.6, $1,232; 3. Rocky Patterson, 10.7, $821; 4. J.P. Wickett, 13.5, $411. Third round: 1. Rocky Patterson, 11.7 seconds, $1,642; 2. (tie) Billy Good and Kelton McMillen, 12.0, $1,026 each; 4. Marty Poppino, 12.1, $411. Average: 1. Rocky Patterson, 37.2 seconds on three runs, $2,463; 2. Chet Herren, 43.2, $1,847; 3. Brodie Poppino, 46.2, $1,232; 4. Billy Good, 48.2, $616.
DUNCAN, Okla. – Shane Frey knew he had some work to do when he qualified for the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo.
Sitting second in the steer wrestling Prairie Circuit standings, Frey needed to make up an $1,810 deficit to leader J.D. Struxness of Appleton, Minn. He made a significant move Thursday during the first go-round at the Stephens County Arena. He posted a 4.1-second run to share the round victory with Jule Hazen of Ashland, Kan.; each cowboy earned $1,560.
“It was definitely a great way to start the week,” said Frey, a two-time circuit finals qualifier from Duncan who is just $250 behind Struxness.
Struxness was unable to record a time when his steer ducked and veered away from him, so he no longer holds much of a chance to cash in on the weekend bonus that pays the top four spots in the three-run aggregate. That puts Frey in the driver’s seat for the year-end championship.
“We have a lot of rodeo left, so we can’t worry about that right now,” he said. “I just have to stay sharp and keep making good runs.
“The only other time I’ve qualified here was in 2014, and I placed in the first round. I came back winning the average after the second round and missed my third steer. Hopefully I can get a little bit of redemption this year.”
There are great incentives to do well in Duncan this week. Not only is the year-end title on the line, but the average also pays dividend for having the best three-round cumulative times and scores. In fact, the average and year-end champions at the conclusion of this weekend will qualify for the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo, set for next spring in Kissimmee, Fla.
And for the first time since the circuit system was developed four decades ago, money earned at all circuit finals will count toward the next year’s world standings. That provides even more push for contestants to do well. That means money earned this weekend and in Florida will go a long ways to helping cowboys and cowgirls qualify for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
“With Kissimmee counting for the NFR, there’s a lot of money down to be won down there,” Frey said. “Hopefully I can have some luck here and get qualified there and win a chunk of change. That’s the goal for sure, then get ready to go to the NFR in 2017.”
The NFR is the premier championship in ProRodeo, and only the top 15 in the world standings in each event advance to Las Vegas. That’s where world champions are crowned each December, and it’s understandable why Frey wants to be there. It also offers the biggest pay in the game over 10 days. His father, Shawn, qualified for the NFR in bareback riding.
But there’s always something about competing in his hometown, and he gets to do that this week while battling for championships.
“It’s always great to come home and compete in front of people I know and let people see what I’ve been working for,” he said.
It might be everything he needs.
Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo
Bareback riding: 1. Wesley Cole, 80 points on Silver Creek Rodeo’s Got a Dollar, $1,783; 2. Justin Pollmiller, 79.5, $1,337; 3. Frank Morton, 78.5, $892; 4. Caine Riddle, 74, $446.
Steer wrestling: 1. (tie) Shane Frey and Jule Hazen, 4.1 seconds, $1,560 each; 3. Riley Duvall, $892; 4. (tie) Jake Johnson and Jerek VanPatten, 5.2, $223 each.
Team roping: 1. Andrew Ward/Reagan Ward, 4.4 seconds, $1,783; 2. Brett Christensen/Dawson McMaster, 5.0, $1,337; 3. Cale Markham/Nick Simmons, 5.3, $892; 4. Coleman Proctor/Billie Jack Saebens, 5.5, $446.
Saddle bronc riding: Results pending until event can be completed, which will take place before the second round Saturday.
Tie-down roping: 1. Bryson Sechrist, 7.7 seconds, $1,783; 2. Tyler Milligan, 7.9, $1,337; 3. Cody Quaney, 8.2, $892; 4. Ryan Jarrett, 8.6, $446.
Barrel racing: 1. Kyra Stierwalt, 15.97 seconds, $1,783; 2. Emily Miller, 15.99, $1,337; 3. Sherrylynn Johynson, 16.11, $892; 4. Tracy Nowlin, 16.19, $446.
Bull riding: 1. Guthrie Murray, 86 points on Rafter H Rodeo’s News Flash, $2,452; 2. Colten Jesse, 85, $2,006; no other qualified rides.
DUNCAN, Okla. – This community of more than 23,000 is about to become a Cowboy Town.
By hosting the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo, Duncan is opening its doors to the greatest cowboys and cowgirls in the region to compete for some of the most sought-after titles in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.
The battle for the titles is set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday at the Stephens County Arena in Duncan.
“Every contestant that is coming to town has earned the right to compete here,” said Joe Henderson, chairman of the Chisholm Trail Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo committee, a group made up of volunteers who live in the area and have dedicated their time and talents to producing the championship. “We have the top 12 contestants in each event based on how they have done in our circuit.”
That means most of the contestants come from the Oklahoma-Kansas-Nebraska region and have earned their way to Duncan by performing well at events primarily boundaries of those three states. This is their chance to shine in the bright spotlight that is the circuit finals.
“This is a big deal for the qualifiers,” Henderson said. “They bring their families and make it a special deal. We, as a committee, try to make it as special for them as we can. For some of these contestants, this is their National Finals Rodeo.”
It’s true. For many, there’s a dream of leaving Duncan with the Prairie Circuit championship; for others, they hope to win the three-round average championship. In fact, the winners of those two titles in each event advance to the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo, where they will compete for ProRodeo’s national championship.
That’s why Duncan is a vital stop for the top regional cowboys and cowgirls in the game. Whether they are part-time competitors or make their living on the rodeo trail, the circuit titles are valuable. The contestants battle all year with hopes of making the cut for the finale, and only the top players in the game advance.
The circuit finals is not a typical rodeo. Not only do the top-caliber cowboys and cowgirls earn the right to be part of the competition, it also will feature amazing animal athletes. The top livestock from the circuit – both in timed events and with the bucking horses and bulls – are selected based on votes by the contestants.
“This is a major championship, from the caliber of our livestock to the talent of the contestants,” Henderson said. “We want all of southern Oklahoma to see a big-time championship event, and that’s one of the reasons we have John Harrison coming in as our entertainer and barrelman.”
Harrison was recognized as the 2013 Coors Man in the Can for his work inside the barrel and is the two-time reigning PRCA Comedy Act of the Year. Now he’ll bring his award-winning talent to the folks in Duncan.
“This is something we volunteer to do for our community,” Henderson said, noting that tickets for adults are $12 in advance, $15 at the door, while children ages 4-12 get in for $8; children 3 and younger are free. “We are a non-profit organization, and have given over $23,000 to the Stephens County Youth Shelter and the Cancer Center of Southwest Oklahoma. This is our fifth year of producing this championship, and we are excited about it.
“From our Tough Enough to Wear Pink night on that Friday to Respect the Blue on Saturday to everything else we do, it’s about giving back to our community. We want to put on the best championship possible for the contestants, but we want to make this a great entertainment value for fans. That’s our primary purpose.”
DUNCAN, Okla. – The Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo is more than an event.
It’s more than a championship.
It’s more than the very best competitors from the Oklahoma-Kansas-Nebraska region that earned the right to be in the field.
“We want this to be a great championship for all these great cowboys and cowgirls, but there’s more to it than that,” said Joe Henderson, chairman of the volunteer committee that produces the event, set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 20-Saturday, Oct. 22, at the Stephens County Arena in Duncan.
“This is important to us, and we want it to be an important part of our community. We want the community to come out and celebrate this with us.”
That includes a couple of nights to celebrate the community. The performance set for Friday, Oct. 21, will be Tough Enough to Wear Pink Night, which raises awareness toward the fight against cancer. With October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it’s only fitting that the rodeo will have a night just to bring attention to the fight against cancer.
While organizers hope fans will show up donning pink, they also have similar sentiments for the final night of the rodeo with blue attire.
“With everything going on in our country regarding attacks on police, we are focusing Saturday night as ‘Respect the Blue Night,’ ” Henderson said. “We are inviting local law enforcement officers, members of the fire department and EMTs to join us for that night.
“Obviously we honor our law officers, and we want to make that give them that special recognition on our final night of the circuit finals.”
Community is behind everything the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo Committee does. Made up of local volunteers that dedicate many hours to the rodeo, the key factor in organizing the championship is to bring hundreds of people to Duncan for a few days in October.
“We will have more than 100 cowboys and cowgirls that have qualified to be in Duncan that weekend,” Henderson said. “When you include their families and friends, we have several hundred more that will come to town. That means we have that many more people fueling at our gas stations, eating at our restaurants and staying in our hotels.
“They raise the economic impact for our community, and we get to show off what a great community we have. Everyone around here is so welcoming that the contestants are excited to be coming to Duncan for the circuit finals. That says so much for the people in this area.”
They might be the best horsemen in rodeo.
The qualifiers to the Clem McSpadden National Finals Steer Roping have earned the right to compete for the world championship; they will get the opportunity Nov. 11-12 in Mulvane, Kan.
The field of the best 15 steer ropers in the business includes 14 men who have played the game at the highest level before – only Chris Glover has earned his first qualification. The pack also includes three men who own a combined 23 gold buckles: Guy Allen (18), Rocky Patterson (3) and Scott Snedecor (2).
These great cowboys are dedicated to the sport they love. Along with saddle bronc riding, steer roping is one of the first two events ever performed in rodeo as we know it. It has a long and distinguished history, and rightfully so.
It’s an event that has a dedicated fan base that has followed the championship across the country in order to see the greatest play the game the right way. While it’s not mainstream, even in rodeo, it has its place, and it’s because of the ropers themselves. The Clem, as I call it, is the perfect place to see excellence in the arena – from outstanding horsemanship to amazing roping to some of the most genuine people you’ll ever meet.
I’m proud to call many of these great men my friends, and I recommend to my hard-core rodeo friends to take in this awesome championship. The 15 combatants will battle through 10 rounds over two days of competition all hoping for a shot at an elusive world championship.
The steer ropers have done everything right in the game, and they deserve as much recognition as they can get.
ALVA, Okla. – Dylan Schulenberg is more than a college student.
A junior at Northwestern Oklahoma State University, he also is a student of the game. A team roping header from Coal Valley, Ill., he put his studies to the test this past weekend and passed; he and his heeler, Wyatt Miller, roped two steers in a cumulative time of 15.2 seconds to win the title at the Southeastern Oklahoma State University rodeo in Durant.
“We’ve been working a lot, and we mapped out a plan of what we wanted to do,” Schulenberg said. “We knew the steers, so we made a plan for each steer that we drew.”
The two stopped the clock in 8.0 seconds to finish sixth in the opening round, then posted the fastest time of the rodeo with a 7.2-second run in the championship round.
“Coming into the short round, we knew we had a decent steer,” said Schulenberg, who transferred this year to Northwestern from Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College. “I tried to set that steer up for him to the best of my ability.”
The tandem first began roping together last year at Fort Scott. While Miller is a sophomore there now, they still compete in the Central Plains Region together.
“We actually spent the whole last year trying to get each other figured out,” Schulenberg said. “We were trying to understand how we like the steer set up. Now we know how we need to conduct our jobs. He hazes them how I like them, and I try to handle them the way he likes to heel them.”
With the victory in Durant, Schulenberg moved up to fifth in the region standings. More importantly, it provided him with the confidence to battle toward his goal – advancing to the College National Finals Rodeo.
“This helps our confidence a lot,” he said. “Coming out of the first rodeo, we had a little trouble. We just tried to get back to what we know how to do.
“Both of our horses worked pretty good. I tried to prepare the best I could and prepare my horses and go on with it.”
It worked, but Schulenberg wasn’t the only Northwestern cowboy to have success in Durant. He was joined in the short round by Tanner Nall, a heeler from Colcord, Okla., who finished fifth.
The biggest success of the weekend came from a crew of steer wrestlers. Reigning college champion J.D. Struxness of Appleton, Minn., blistered a 3.9-second run in the final round to claim the bulldogging title, while Colten Madison of Whiting, Iowa, placed third and Grayson Allred of Kanarraville, Utah, was fifth.
Struxness, who sits third in ProRodeo and is heading to the National Finals Rodeo in December, finished in a two-run cumulative time of 10.0 seconds, three-tenths of a second faster than the runner-up.
All-around cowgirl Tearnee Nelson of Faith, S.D., paced the Rangers women by earning points in both goat-tying and breakaway roping. Nelson won the final round in breakaway roping with a 3.6-second run and finished second overall with a two-run cumulative time of 7.4 seconds. She also placed in the opening round of goat-tying.
Breakaway Ashlyn Moeder of Oakley, Kan., was 3.2 seconds to finish sixth in the opening round and qualify for the championship.
With just two events down in the 2016-17 season, the Rangers have eight more opportunities to earn the points needed for region titles and chances to earn spots at the CNFR. That’s exactly where Schulenberg wants to be next June.
“Everybody’s goals are to win the region, and I want to make it to the college finals,” he said. “I came to Northwestern because I’ve come to the rodeo here the last two years, and I like the facilities. I like (rodeo coach) Stockton (Graves) a lot, and I know he can help us.”
DUNCAN, Okla. – The measurement of greatness, oftentimes, is based on recognition.
For those who will be part of the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo, it is identified from work performed over a long season. It culminates in a three-round championship that takes place at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 20-Saturday, Oct. 22, at the Stephens County Arena in Duncan.
While the contestants qualified through the rigors of competition, Weston Rutkowski and Nathan Harp earned their spots in Duncan through hard work and that recognition of the top bull riders in the Oklahoma-Kansas-Nebraska region. They will be the bullfighters, assigned to the task of protecting cowboys during the three-night finale.
“It was a shock when I got the call that I was going to work it,” said Rutkowski, 27, of Haskell, Texas. “A guy measures his talent in the arena, so you want to be selected to any finals. It’s recognition that hard work is finally paying off for me. It’s especially a privilege to work the Prairie Circuit Finals, which is well known for having great bullfighters work it every year.”
This year marks the first time he has been selected to fight bulls at a ProRodeo finale, and he’ll be working alongside Harp, now selected to work the Duncan championship for the third time in four years.
“It’s a blessing to be picked by the bull riders to come back and work it,” said Harp, 26, of Tuttle, Okla. “I’m truly amazed, because Oklahoma is a hotbed for great bullfighters, from Cody Webster to Chuck Swisher to Evan Allard; the list goes on and on.”
Harp and Rutkowski will utilize their athletic ability to help keep everyone in the arena safe during bull riding. They are the cowboy lifesavers, and they take their posts seriously.
“The key to my job is making sure everybody walks out safely: the bull rider, the bull and me at the very end of it,” Rutkowski said. “As long as the bull rider can walk away and go to the next rodeo. If somebody’s got to take the shot, then that’s why we’re hired to be there.”
Ideally the bullfighters will use their voices and their bodies to distract bulls from fallen cowboys, then finesse themselves out of harm’s way and allow the bulls to leave the arena without anyone being hooked or stepped on in the process. Sometimes, though, they throw their bodies into the fray to make sure the bull riders are as safe as possible.
“If a guy’s under the bull, I’ve got to step in there and pull the bull away,” Harp said. “Weston and I have worked RodeoAustin (in Texas) together the last couple of years, and we have the same philosophy. I don’t have to wonder where he’s going to be. We just go out and fight bulls, and we click together doing it.”
That says a lot for the men who make a living look into the eyes of danger on a daily basis and live to tell about it.
“It’s always fun getting to fight bulls with one of your best friends,” Rutkowski said. “Working with guys like Harp, you know you have to step your game up. It brings your level of bullfighting to the highest level you can have.”