ALVA, Okla. – Ethan McDowell and Ryan Domer knew they had work to do during the final rodeo of the 2012-13 Central Plains Region season if they hoped to earn qualifications to the College National Finals Rodeo.
The labor paid off for both. McDowell won the region’s heading title after roping in a third-place finish at Oklahoma Panhandle State University’s Doc Gardner Memorial Rodeo in Guymon, Okla; Domer used points earned by finishing fifth in steer wrestling and seventh in team roping to finish second in the circuit’s all-around race to earn the automatic bid for the college finals, set for June 9-15 in Casper, Wyo.
“We knew it was going to be tough; it’s the last rodeo, so everybody was going to try to go out there and win first,” said McDowell, a senior from Mooreland, Okla., who has roped the spring season with Chase Johnson, a sophomore from Snyder, Texas. “It was a real tough rodeo. We drew two good steers and did what we had to with them to come out on top.”
McDowell and Johnson were two of nine Rangers team ropers who qualified for the final round in Guymon. In fact, the top four teams featured Northwestern cowboys: Hunter Munsell of Arnett, Okla., and Derrick Jantzen of Ames, Okla. won the rodeo with a two-run cumulative time of 10.9 seconds, followed by Bradley Bullock of McAlpin, Fla., and Chase Boekhaus of Rolla, Kan., who finished in 11.1.
McDowell and Johnson finished in 11.7, while heeler Dustin Searcy of Mooreland, Okla., and partner Trey Harmon of Western Oklahoma State College placed fourth in 11.9. Domer, a junior heeler from Topeka, Kan., joined his brother, header Collin Domer, in the final round, finishing seventh.
“That’s what we expected out of our team ropers all year,” coach Stockton Graves said. “They had a hard year and took some lumps, but I was sure proud of our team ropers. It was a very tough team roping. Hopefully they’ll build off that next year.”
The season certainly has been a developing one for Ryan Domer, who began competing in steer wrestling within the last couple of years. Still, by finishing second in the season all-around race, he’ll be allowed to compete in two events at the college finals, steer wrestling and tie-down roping.
“I had to turn it on a little bit and make up some ground to go,” said Domer, who finished seventh in tie-down roping, eighth in steer wrestling and 15th in heeling. “I knew what I had to do, and I knew what it was going to take to make it to the college finals. I just fought to get it done, and it worked out for me.”
Domer will join his older brother in Casper – Collin Domer earned the right to compete by being the student representative; this marks Collin’s second straight automatic qualification. They are joined by McDowell, Johnson and Searcy, the latter of whom finished fourth in the region and only earns the nod so Collin Domer has a partner.
“It’s pretty good that we have five guys who make the college finals,” said Graves, who noted that the women, by finishing runner-up in the standings, will be able to take a full team of five cowgirls to Casper. “I think both our teams are in a position to do something when we get there.”
This marks McDowell’s first qualification to the college finals, and he’s happy Johnson will be there with him – Johnson finished third among Central Plains heelers.
“He transferred from Snyder (College), so he had to sit out the first semester,” McDowell said of his springtime partner. “I roped last fall with Dakota Koehn, and he helped me get a lot of my points.
“We’ve got some real good team ropers here at Northwestern, and we roped real good out there in Guymon.”
That’s a powerful way to finish a rugged season in which the men’s team finished sixth in the region. Ryan Domer said he’s excited for his next competition, and he’s ready for the challenges he’ll face – even if it means wrestling steers for a chance to win the college championship.
“It just shows I got lucky this year,” he said. “It really was a lot of fun. Having a coach like Stockton really helps you out a lot. He can see things most people can’t, and he can help you change it.”
The women had three Rangers earn the right to compete – all-around runner-up Micah Samples of Abilene, Kan.; runner-up barrel racer Alexis Allen of Alva; and third-place breakaway roper Jessica Koppitz of Alva. The fourth member of the team will be added later.
“It was good seeing that we were able to get points throughout the season in all the events,” Graves said of barrel racing, breakaway roping and goat tying. “I was happy to see that all-around come out in our girls.”