DODGE CITY, Kan. – The convergence begins later this week with 145 of the top cowboys and cowgirls in the region.
Whether they’re from Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, Nebraska or Kansas, they have earned the right to compete at the Kansas Professional Rodeo Association Finals, set for 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 23-Saturday, Sept. 24, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 25, at Roundup Arena.
“This is their championship, their finals, their NFR,” said Joel Redman, vice president of Dodge City Roundup, the local committee that produces the KPRA finals. “We have a lot of contestants that are from southwest Kansas, but what’s really neat about the KPRA is that it attracts cowboys and cowgirls from all over this area.
“We want them to feel at home in Dodge City and enjoy this experience, because they’ve earned it. Whether they’re from here or Goddard or eastern Colorado, they are excited to be coming to Dodge City.”
It’s true. Many of the qualifiers rodeo part time and either have full-time jobs or are still in school. This is a way they can battle for important titles.
“Dodge City is a great fit for the KPRA,” said steer wrestler Ryan Swayze of Freedom, Okla. “They have great facilities at Roundup arena, and the Roundup committee has gotten behind this rodeo and helped us a bunch.
“There are lots of things to do in Dodge when you’re there for the whole weekend. It’s a great place to have our finals.”
Swayze also competes in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and has had his fair share of success at Roundup Rodeo over the years. This past August, he placed in two of three go-rounds and finished fourth overall to pocket more than $6,600.
“You always have those rodeos that you feel like you do good at,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of success at Dodge on this little sorrel horse I have now. Hopefully it’s a pen he likes. There are different setups that suit different horses, but he definitely likes Dodge. That’s a great place for him to like.”
Roundup Arena is not new to Swayze. He grew up near Coldwater, Kan., which is about 65 miles southeast of Dodge City.
“When I got out of college, I basically moved home,” Swayze said. “My address is Freedom, but I live just seven miles from where I grew up.”
He competed in tie-down roping and team roping while growing up and didn’t start steer wrestling until midway through his college career. He hasn’t looked back since. He sits fifth in the KPRA bulldogging standings, but he knows his chances to win the year-end are a long shot.
“The top two guys have more than $3,000 on me,” he said, referring to leader Cody Devers of Perryton, Texas, and the No. 2 man, Justen Nokes of Juniata, Neb. “It would be a real stretch for me to win the KPRA title, but you’re not going to keep both those guys from winning some money; they just bulldog too good.
“If I can’t win the year-end, then I guess my focus ought to be on winning the average.”
In order to do that, he’ll have to battle through three rugged go-rounds. The best cumulative time will then grab the average championship. That’s the goal of every competitor who will be part of the festivities in just a few days.
“What we saw last year is that this rodeo is just as good as any you can go to,” Redman said. “This will have a couple different events that you don’t see at Roundup, but that just makes it more interesting. We’re all looking forward to it.”