ALVA, Okla. – Goals and aspirations are one thing; accomplishing them oftentimes is another.
For the Northwestern Oklahoma State University rodeo teams, reaching goals is all about the preparation involved. With just two events under their belts, the men’s and women’s squads are reaching for championships for the 2015-16 season.
“As a team, I think we have all the talent to win the region,” said Austin Graham, a bareback rider from Jay, Okla. “The way I look at it, it looks like we have the talent to compete for a national title.”
Each step taken by the Rangers is one more toward that ultimate prize. The first happens in the practice arena, where cowboys and cowgirls hone their skills and their mindsets in order to compete in the Central Plains Region, annually recognized as one of the top circuit’s in the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association.
From there, it’s competing well at each of the 10 rodeos, and the Rangers have done that so far. In fact, Graham won the bareback riding championship this past weekend in Woodward, Okla., finishing second in both rounds and winning the two-ride aggregate. He was joined in the winner’s circle by Jacob Edler, a steer wrestler from State Center, Iowa.
“We’ve talked about this, and it’s never happened, but we want to be the men’s and women’s team champions,” said Edler, who finished third in the first round, then won the championship round to claim the title in Woodward. “We’ve got the best athletes we’ve ever had. We’re going to try to win first all the way around.”
So far, it’s working quite well. Besides both Rangers teams being near the top of the standings, Graham, Edler and tie-down roper Bryson Seachrist of Apache, Okla., are atop the list in their events. In Woodward, Seachrist won the first round and placed in the short go-round to finish fourth overall.
“I’ve been rodeoing since high school, and the key to winning at rodeos is about 20 percent talent, and the other 80 percent is being mentally strong,” said Edler, noting that the teams gain a lot of understanding from coach Stockton Graves, a steer wrestler who has played on the biggest stages in the sport.
“I think Stockton does a great job of teaching mental toughness. We have a tournament-style match for every event we do. The kids that haven’t competed much or haven’t learned how to win learn how to do approach the mental aspect of competition. It teaches you how to win.”
In fact, that oftentimes is the driving force for cowboys and cowgirls in deciding on Northwestern to further their college education and rodeo training.
“Stockton has been to the NFR seven times,” Graham said. “He can teach you the things you need to do to go rodeo: Working on my attitude, staying positive, learning how to enter and learning how to win.”
Those lessons are paying off for the Rangers. While Edler won the steer wrestling title this past weekend, he was joined in the final round by four teammates: Layne Livermont, Ty Battie, Tyrell Cline and Maverick Harper. Battie finished sixth overall, while Cline (fourth) and Harper (third) placed even higher.
The women were paced by breakaway ropers Elli Price, who finished second in both the short round and the aggregate race, and Ashton Johnson, who finished third in both rounds and the average. Laremi Allred paved the way in goat-tying, winning the final round and finishing third overall. She was joined in the short round by Shayna Miller, who placed second in the first round, and Tearnee Nelson, who finished in a tie for third in the opening round.
“The first weekend, I won second, and the win in Woodward is helping in the points,” Edler said. “I’m able to take the lead in the standings for the year, but I know with these rodeos it’s dang sure a marathon and not a sprint.
“I’ve been awful fortunate to go to school at Northwestern. We have a great group of bulldoggers, and our coach, Stockton Graves, couldn’t be a better mentor or coach. He makes sure we’re staying sharp in the classroom and in the arena.”