GUNNISON, Colo. – Over his career, Casey Colletti has found great success at Cattlemen’s Days PRCA Rodeo, but he’s never won the bareback riding title in Gunnison.
That could change this year. On Thursday’s opening night, he spurred Stace Smith Pro Rodeo’s Sun Catcher for 87 points to take the early lead and. Almost as importantly, he also collected a $2,875 bonus for having the top bareback riding score on pink night – if the contestant(s) with the top score or time in any of the event were wearing pink, then they were awarded that bonus.
Others who won the $2,875 bonus were steer wrestlers Austin Eller and Chisum Docheff, tie-down roper Robert Mathis and barrel racer Nicole Waggoner.
“Yes, I entered for Thursday night because of the bonus, but it also worked because I was trying to make the other (Mountain States) Circuit rodeos count in Estes Park (Colorado), Casper and Laramie (in Wyoming),” said Colletti, a three-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier from Pueblo, Colorado.
Now he’s itching to claim his first title and another bonus – the Cattlemen’s Days committee puts up a rifle for the bareback riding winner each year.
“I’ve always loved coming to Gunnison because of the rifle, but unfortunately, I’ve never won the rifle because it’s a good rodeo and so many guys do well here,” he said. “I really hope I can win the rifle this year.
“I’m a big fan of the mountains, and Gunnison is a mountain town with beautiful weather. It feels more like a hometown event. Nothing against the big rodeos, but I’ve been coming here for a long time, and it’s just one of those that I love.”
It helped to have a solid horse. In the roughstock events – bareback riding, saddle bronc riding and bull riding – half the score is based on how well the animals perform. Colletti knew before he arrived in Gunnison that he had a good chance.
“I looked her up on the stock stats, and I saw that Jake Brown and Wyatt Bloom finished first and second in Los Fresnos, Texas,” Colletti said. “I called (flankman) Terry Autry two days ago, and he said, ‘She’s an old man of a horse; any old man can ride her.’ ”
He’s not exactly old, but he’s had plenty of miles. Colletti last competed at the NFR in 2013, then injuries took him out of the game for a bit. He began a family a few years ago and now travels with his wife, Kacee, and their 3-year-old daughter, Kingslee.
“I would really love to make the NFR again and take my wife and daughter, have a 16-day family vacation in Vegas,” he said. “But I know it’s a lot harder to rodeo with a family. It’s harder to leave them for a month and not see them. I’ve been more focused on picking and choosing where I go, going to circuit rodeos and rodeos where I’ve done well in the past.”
Nonetheless, he still hopes to make a living for his family on the backs of bucking horses. He proved in Gunnison on Thursday night that it’s still possible.
Bareback riding leaders: 1. Casey Colletti, 87 points on Stace Smith Pro Rodeo’s Sun Catcher; 2. Logan Patterson, 84; Skyler Erickson, 80.5; 4. Craig Wisehart, 79.5; 5. Tucker Zingg, 78; 6. Justin Pollmiller, 74.
Steer wrestling: 1. (tie) Austin Eller and Chisum Docheff, 4.7 seconds; 3. Joseph Buffington, 5.0; 4. (tie) Gage Hesse and Bill Claunch, 5.7; 6. Rick Petersen, 16.0.
Team roping: 1. Philip Schuman/Josh Fillmore, 6.0 seconds; 2. Travis Bounds/T.J. Watts, 6.3; 3. Ken McKibbin/Jorge Cruzz Ibarra, 6.6; 4. Casey Adams/Joe Roderick, 7.0; no other qualified runs.
Saddle bronc riding: 1. Lefty Holman, 79 points on Stace Smith Pro Rodeo’s Peyote; 2. (tie) Ryder Sanford and Wyatt Hageman, 78; 4. Parker Kempfer, 77.5; 5. Joey Sonnier, 77; 6. Trent Burd, 75.
Tie-down roping: 1. Robert Mathis, 10.4 seconds; 2. Brice Ingo, 10.7; 3. Stuart Hoar, 12.5; 4. Justin Hindman, 13.6; 5. Kasen Brennise, 21.7; 6. Wyatt Uptain, 22.5.
Barrel racing: 1. Nicole Waggoner, 17.58 seconds; 2. Chris Gibson, 17.65; 3. Shaylee Hindmann, 17.94; 4. Katie Jolly, 17.96; 5. Trudy Petersen, 18.22; 6. Bethany Gabel, 18.43; 7. Charity Hoar, 19.48; no other qualified runs.
Bull riding: 1. No qualified rides.