ALVA, Okla. – It’s been a long time coming for steer wrestler Brock White.
The Northwestern Oklahoma State University senior earned his first college championship this past weekend at the Kansas State University rodeo and helped propel the Rangers men to the team title in Manhattan, Kan.
“I really wasn’t expecting much out of it, because I’ve been kind of lacking on practice to start this year,” said White of Earlville, Iowa. “I wasn’t even in the standings, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I decided to look at it like I do ProRodeo: Take a straight look on things and just make your run.”
That’s one of the many things he learned from Northwestern rodeo coach Stockton Graves, but it came in handy in Manhattan. As one of the first bulldoggers to compete last Friday, White set the pace early; his 4.5-second run held up to win the first round. He then followed that with a 5.0-second run in the championship round Sunday afternoon to clinch the title.
“I knew I had a pretty decent steer on my first one, then I just hung out the rest of the weekend,” White said. “I never really got nervous. When we got to the short round, I just sat in the back and let everybody make their runs. I didn’t panic and didn’t pressure myself. I knew I had a really good steer, and I just needed to score sharp and make a good run. I knew I had to be 5.5 to win it.”
He did better than that, and so did the rest of the Northwestern men. While White won the bulldogging title, teammate Chase Lako of Hunter, N.D., finished second. Another Ranger, Jacob Edler of State Center, Iowa, finished sixth.
Lako also placed sixth in tie-down roping and won the all-around title at K-State. Three other Northwestern tie-down ropers also had great success in Kansas, including event titlist Bryson Sechrist of Apache, Okla., who roped and tied two calves in 22.6 seconds to win. Mason Bowen of Bullard, Texas, finished second, and Wade Perry finished third. Bareback rider Austin Graham of Jay, Okla., placed third, while heeler Sawyer Barham of Barnsdall, Okla., placed fourth, and the team roping tandem of Taylor Munsell of Arnett, Okla., and Bubba Allred of Kanarraville, Utah, finished fifth.
The men scored 488.3 points, distancing themselves by more than 100 points over the No. 2 team, Oklahoma Panhandle State University. The women finished third. Munsell won the women’s all-around title, also earning a spot in the short round in breakaway roping – she was 2.5 seconds to finish in a four-way tie for second.
Other women in the short round were barrel racer Sara Bynum of Beggs, Okla., and three tie-down ropers: Tearnee Nelson, Shayna Miller and Katy Miller, all of Faith, S.D. Shayna Miller finished second with a two-run cumulative time of 13.2 seconds, while Katy Miller finished in a tie for fifth.
In all, it was a solid performance by all the Northwestern athletes, but none had a bigger weekend than White. Not only did he earn his first college rodeo title, he earned it with a bit of a handicap.
White is blind in his left eye, the result of a mishap that happened a little more than two years ago in Alva. He and a group of other Northwestern students were chute-dogging steers. During his turn, the steer popped his head up and caught White directly in the eye. The result was a torn optic nerve and a detached retina.
“I was down for about a month,” he said. “When the doctor released me, I contacted Perry Dietz, who had a couple rope horses here in town. I jumped on that horse and roped three in a row like it was nothing. That made me want to do it more.”
Roping is one thing, but it is still a difficult task for someone who has vision in just one eye. It was even tougher when White decided to return to wrestling steers.
“That depth perception is crazy,” White said. “I had Stockton hazing for me. I looked down, and he looked like he was a long ways away. It took Stockton being on the other side and telling me that I was OK. Now I have the muscle memory, but it took a bit to get comfortable with it.”
Those are the realities the young cowboy faces every day. He realized that his vision might limit his working opportunities once he graduates from Northwestern, but he has a great way to look at things. Instead of dwelling on his situation, White pushes forward. He has invested in rental property and still plans to pursue his rodeo dreams.
“I never want people to feel sorry for me,” he said. “I just want to show them that it doesn’t matter what happens in your life, anything is possible. It’s more than trying to make people happy. It’s trying to find something to leave behind. If you have the right people backing you, anything’s possible.
“I’ve had the support of Stockton and my parents saying I could do it. That’s helped me mature and understand the side of winning.”
Figuring out the best way to compete is just part of the battle. Finding the way to win is just as important in competition. That’s something the Rangers do every day in practice.
“We definitely dominated the weekend,” White said, noting that both the men’s and women’s teams sit second in the Central Plains Region standings. “We came away with a strong advantage. Stockton always pushes us to go out and win. He’s been there and done that, and he’s taught us how to win.”