‘The Ride’ features the top young talent in the sport during IFYR showcase
Fifteen years ago, teenage brothers Jet and Cord McCoy were the talk of the town in Shawnee, Okla., host of the annual International Youth Finals Rodeo.
The brothers McCoy already were big names in the sport, and they added to it in Shawnee. Cord McCoy won the IFYR’s all-around championship in 1997, and Jet, older by just 13 months, claimed the title a year later.
In the Aug. 19 episode of “The Ride with Cord McCoy,” the show’s host revisits his old haunts and introduces the show’s fans to the next generation of rodeo’s stars. The show airs at 1 and 11 p.m. Eastern on Monday on RFD-TV.
“A lot of cowboys and cowgirls will be breaking into their careers,” Cord McCoy said while opening the show, noting that many of the sport’s biggest names have competed at the IFYR over the years.
The competition features high school-aged contestants from all over the country, and a few from outside the borders of the United States. Unlike the National High School Finals Rodeo, which features those who qualify from every state, the IFYR is open to any appropriately aged competitor and features a purse of greater than $200,000 annually.
This year, the rodeo celebrated its 21st year all at the Heart of Oklahoma Expo Center. McCoy took “The Ride” cameras behind the chutes to get insights on the event and why it’s such an important step in the development of young cowboys and cowgirls.
“It gave me a big step up,” said bull rider Joseph McConnel, the 2012 bull riding champion. “I thought, ‘Alright, you’re going to have to take it a little more serious.’ ”
The IFYR has served as a catapult for the collegiate and professional careers of many great names. Mike Outhier, a four-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier in saddle bronc riding, continues to be one of the best all-around cowboys in the sport. He won the IFYR all-around crown and competed in all six boys events for two years in the mid-1990s.
Will Lowe burst onto the scene in 1999, winning the bareback riding championship in Shawnee that summer. By 2002, he was making a significant living in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, winning the Bareback Riding Rookie of the Year crown and earning a trip to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. Since then, he’s added three world championships to his resume.
Other PRCA world champions who have competed at the IFYR over the years include bareback rider Justin McDaniel, all-around champs Trevor Brazile and Ryan Jarrett, barrel racer Janae Ward-Massy and bull rider Blu Bryant.
McCoy is a bull riding qualifier to the 2005 NFR and has earned six trips to the PBR World Finals. He was a five time world champion in the International Professional Rodeo Association and still owns the single-season earnings mark, so he realizes the impact the IFYR has on young players.
“The IFYR is definitely the biggest, has the most competition,” said two-time IFYR breakaway champion Samantha Little of Hackberry, La.
The players aren’t the only ones who see a great benefit of it. Mike Visniesky, the rodeo coach at Southwestern Oklahoma State University, said college rodeo programs gain a lot from being in Shawnee and watching the competition.
“The IFYR is a huge opportunity for coaches to recruit for the best high school talent there is,” Visniesky said. “When we get to watch them compete all together at the national level, that’s really important when you’re trying to put together a competitive team.”
The event has certainly grown over the years. It began in 1993 after Shawnee hosted the high school finals. Organizers saw an opportunity to make things happen in the central Oklahoma community annually.
“You look at the (economic) impact that all these contestants and their families bring on this town,” said Michael Jackson, the event’s coordinator. “That’s what this facility is about … to bring in the impact to the town. In 2008 was the last impact study we had, and it was estimated to be $5.4 million through the week.”
The IFYR begin with about 300 contestants that first year. It has peaked at more than $1,000; this year, there were 897 contestants and more than 1,500 entries.
“We went to three arenas to make it a little more exciting,” Jackson said. “We’ve had a lot of kids that have went on and had great pro careers.
“To me, it’s a great opportunity for them.”
That’s the way the show’s host looks at it, too.
“After 21 years of the International Youth Finals Rodeo, it’s always good to be back,” McCoy said, closing the show.