ALVA, Okla. – When Stockton Graves became the coach at his alma mater, he wasn’t sure what to expect in the Northwestern Oklahoma State University rodeo team.
“Our expectations are dang sure to finish in the No. 1 spot in the (Central Plains) Region,” said Graves, a seven-time qualifier to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in steer wrestling. “I think we have a chance to do it.”
Northwestern’s rodeo teams will test their mettle this weekend at the Kansas State University rodeo in Manhattan, Kan. Performances are scheduled for Friday-Sunday.
The Rangers men’s team won the inaugural rodeo of this campaign in Colby, Kan., with Trey Young and Clint Kindred finishing first and second in the all-around, respectively. Jared Thompson won the bulldogging, while Coldar Craig Cluck finished second. Team roping Tanner Braden and Austin Rogers held the top two spots in heeling.
“Our men’s team has done well,” Graves said, pointing to the Rangers’ No. 3 spot in the team standings behind Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College and Oklahoma Panhandle State University. “One of our top guys has been Jared Thompson, but he blew out his knee, so he’s out. Everybody’s going to have to step up, but the good news is we’ve got six rodeos this spring to do it.”
The women’s team has seen its ups and downs, bolstered most by a big win in the final event of the fall session. That just happened to be the hometown rodeo in Alva, when the Rangers women posted 325 points, 180 points better than runner-up Western Oklahoma State College.
“I feel like our women’s team is way better than we’ve shown, and we’re going to try to prove it this semester,” Graves said. “We’ve got a lot of young girls on the team, so they’re going to do some growing. I think you’ll see that a lot over the next few months.”
The women rank seventh in the region, but most of the season remains.
“You only get six guys and four girls to put on your team where their points count toward your team,” Graves said. “You have to strategize and pick the right people at the right time.”
While the Kansas State event kicks off the spring session, the tour winds through both states: Garden City, Kan., March 2-4; Fort Scott, Kan., March 9-11; Weatherford, Okla., April 12-14; Hays, Kan., April 20-22; and Guymon, Okla., April 26-28.
“You’ve got some schools that are strong in the roughstock events, where we’re a team that is stronger in the timed events,” Graves said. “That’s a little harder to deal with, because there are just a few bareback riders and a few bronc riders to compete for those spots; but there are 100 kids in all the timed events.
“I think we try to dominate the timed events, and I think we can do better.”