ALVA, Okla. – Denton Oestmann and Kaden Greenfield feel a bit of a sting, a bit of a loss.
Their final days as intercollegiate athletes came to an end without the fanfare both had envisioned at their last College National Finals Rodeo. By the time the national champions were celebrated Saturday night, both Northwestern Oklahoma State University cowboys had turned their attention to the next phase of their rodeo careers.
“Obviously, I would have wanted it to go quite a bit different,” said Oestmann, a recent Northwestern graduate from Auburn, Nebraska. “I made a good run on my third calf; it’s not going out with a bang, but it ended a lot better than it started.”
He roped and tied his final intercollegiate calf in 8.4 seconds to finish third in the third go-round at the Casper Events Center. That gave him the spark of momentum he will need as he sets out to compete at the professional level, testing his skills against the greatest cowboys in rodeo from time to time.
“There are a lot of lasts: the last time I’ll ever be considered a college kid or wear a vest while roping; my last college finals,” Oestmann said. “I didn’t have any good luck on my first two runs, but I can’t stay down dwelling on it. I was mad about it, but by the time I got back to the trailer and unsaddled, I was OK. You can’t let the bad stuff cloud the future. You just have to move on.”
That’s a common theme. For Greenfield, a second-generation steer wrestler from Lakeview, Oregon, his focus is intently on professional rodeo. He placed fourth in the second round in Casper, but the other two rounds are ones to forget.
“I don’t think I’ll rate this college finals very high,” he said. “It’s hard. It’s definitely not the week I wanted, but now it’s time to get ready for the summer.”
He’s already deep into it. Traveling with Northwestern rodeo coach Stockton Graves and fellow Rangers bulldogger Trisyn Kalawaia, he started his new week in Colorado preparing for a big run of ProRodeos. He’ll have miles in between runs to think about the last few years of college life, a four-year run that he’ll likely never forget.
He began at Blue Mountain Community College in his home state of Oregon, then transferred after two years to Alva. He made the college finals all three years that there was one for him – the 2020 championship was canceled because of COVID.
“It was a great four years,” said Greenfield, the son of seven-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier Shawn Greenfield. “Moving to Alva helped me as a bulldogger so much. I feel like I really grew as a bulldogger.”
He also grew as a young man, which is a valuable tool for student athletes. As they mature through the early stages of early adulthood, they learn to take the steps necessary and find a passion they want to explore. Greenfield is following in his father’s footsteps, but he’s also going about it in his own way.
“You’ve got to learn from different people, and there’s so much to learn,” he said. “You get their input and learn what they do. Nobody bulldogs the same. You have to figure out how you do it, and then you take what others are doing and what makes them successful and figure out how to make it work for you.”
Like Greenfield, Oestmann started his intercollegiate career elsewhere. The Nebraska cowboy competed for Iowa Central Community College his rookie season, qualifying for the college finals in 2019. He then transferred to Northwestern and continued to develop as a student and as a roper.
“As a whole, college was good to me,” he said. “Alva was really good to me. Stockton was good to me. I made a lot of friends. I think I should have won the region one time while I was there, made it to Casper one more time than I did, but there’s nothing a guy can change about it now.
“I was lucky enough to get to go to the college finals twice.”
With time, his reflections of college life will be about his friends, his rodeo victories and competing on the sport’s biggest stage. Of the thousands of cowboys and cowgirls who compete in the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association, only a few ever get to say they were college finalists.
That’s an elite status they’ll always have, and it’s one that will follow them through whatever professional success sits on their horizons.