9-year-old wins national title

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Brazos Heck competed in both mini bareback riding and mini saddle bronc riding at the Jr.NFR in Las Vegas earlier this month, winning the all-around title there. (DALE HIRSCHMAN PHOTO)
Brazos Heck competed in both mini bareback riding and mini saddle bronc riding at the Jr.NFR in Las Vegas earlier this month, winning the all-around title there. (DALE HIRSCHMAN PHOTO)

Brazos Heck wins all-around championship at Jr.NFR in Las Vegas

KINGFISHER, Okla. – Brazos Heck is quite driven and focused.

He knows exactly what he wants in his future to be. He’s a cowboy in every sense of the word, and in rodeo, he competes on the backs of bucking bovines and bucking broncs.

“I want to ranch here in Oklahoma,” he said. “I think I can ride all three (roughstock) events, and it would just be a dream come true to win 10 all-around world titles.”

Driven. Focused. Oh, and he’s only 9 years old.

Brazos Heck
Brazos Heck

“I do this because I love to do it, and I think it’s my passion,” said Brazos, the son of Odie Heck and Shasta Yost.

He’s also pretty good at it. In early December, he competed at the Jr.NFR in Las Vegas. He finished several days of competition as the No. 2 man in mini bareback riding, where he won two rounds. He also finished third in the middle saddle bronc riding.

Because of his success, he earned the pee wee division all-around championship. No matter the age group, it is the most cherished prize in the sport.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” he said. “I’m hoping to win more.”

He stands a good chance, thanks in large part to his work ethic, his study of the game and having a couple of the best-known cowboys as friends and mentors. His father is a cowboy in Tupelo, Okla., and is close friends with Jet and Cord McCoy, two all-around champs who made their names on CBS-TV’s “The Amazing Race.”

The McCoys have been rodeo champs since they were youngsters, too.

“In a lot of ways, he does remind me of me,” Jet McCoy said. “He’s pretty special. I’ve been pretty impressed with him.”

Brazos’ list of accomplishments is long. He’s been riding since age 5, and he’s progressed fairly rapidly, too

“He started out wanting to get on sheep,” Odie Heck said. “He’d been at a rodeo, and they had mutton busting. He was always around Cord and Jet, so he wanted to ride. Then we were at a rodeo, and kids were riding little ponies in bareback riding. He wanted to get a rigging and enter the bareback riding.”

Heck has been around rodeo all his life, but he was a timed-event cowboy. Roping and steer wrestling were good fits for the athletically built, 6-foot cowboy.

“Brazos’ athletic ability is a little different than mine,” he said. “He’s a bucking horse guy.”

In fact, Brazos craves it. When he’s not riding, he’s thinking about it, and he watches a ton of videos to help with those thoughts, from the bronc riding Wright family – brothers Cody, Jesse and Spencer have won world titles, as has Cody’s second-oldest son, the 2017 champ, Ryder – to the McCoys, to bareback riding world champions Kaycee Feild and Bobby Mote and world champion bull riders Cody Custer, J.B. Mauney and Cody Custer.

“They just make me feel like I ride really good,” said Brazos, who is sponsored by the American Hat Co. and Oklahoma Ag Transports. “I watch them over and over again, and I want to ride like them.”

Those are the types of champions he looks up to and wants to emulate. Even at his young age, he understands the need for constructive criticism if he is to improve. That’s why he looks to the McCoys for assistance. Both were five-time International Professional Rodeo Association world champions who competed in all three roughstock events.

“I almost make him ask me for help before I offer any,” said Cord McCoy, a 2005 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier in bull riding and a six-time competitor at the PBR World Finals. “If he wants to come to the house and train in our arena, I step back and let it be his idea. I let him show the desire.

“I think all of us have our own natural style. He’s pretty natural. I know he’s been watching every rodeo in the area and on TV. That’s all he craves.”

He knew Brazos was pretty good but admitted that there may have been some bias because of his relationship to the youngster.

“Then they had the Jr.NFR, which was all the kids who qualify from across the country, and he’s the all-around champion,” Cord McCoy said. “He’s got raw talent. If he keeps the desire he has today, he’s going to be a contender when he gets older.

“It was pretty inspirational to go to the Jr.NFR and see Billy (Etbauer), Ty (Murray) and Larry Mahan there. The superstars of rodeo got to watch the next generation compete.”

Jet McCoy likened the Jr.NFR as the Little League World Series, and that young cowboys and cowgirls who compete at the pinnacle of their sport are taking the steps necessary to excel as teens and adults.

“If you want to compete at the highest level, you’ve got to start early,” he said. “To have the opportunity to go to Vegas and spend three or four days to see what it’s like, it gives them something to visualize and something to shoot for.”

For now, though, those closest to him support and believe in what Brazos Heck is doing because they see his passion for the sport.

“You’ve got to have the want-to, and I don’t think anybody’s forced it on him,” Cord McCoy said. “When you nod your head, you’ve got to have the eye of the tiger.

“He’s got that winning attitude to go along with the talent.”


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