HEMPSTEAD, Texas – Along the northeastern coast of Queensland, Australia, lies the coastal city of Townsville.
It’s a long way from Hempstead, but the Waller County Fair and Rodeo is just where Kodie Jang wanted to be on opening night of the rodeo. On Thursday night, the Australian steer wrestler tossed his steer to the ground in 4.6 seconds to take the early bulldogging lead.
“I hope that hangs on and gets a check before the weekend’s over,” said Jang, 25.
The young cowboy began wrestling steers nearly five years ago in Australia. He quickly moved to the United States to compete at Western Texas College in Snyder. He hasn’t stopped since and has only returned to his homeland for Christmas 2015.
“It’s hard to be away from my mom, dad, little brother and grandparents,” he said. “But I’m out here chasing my dreams.”
He’s working his way up. He traveled the rodeo trail for the 2018 season with veteran Matt Reeves, a six-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier from Cross Plains, Texas. He even rode Reeves’ horses; he kick-started his 2019 season in Hempstead on Roy, a talented sorrel gelding Reeves’ wins at The American in February and at the Calgary (Alberta) Stampede in July.
“I’m traveling with him again this year,” Jang said of Reeves. “I ride his horses, and they’re phenomenal. Matt’s been there and done that, and he’s really positive. When times are tough, he keeps me going.
“It’s important for me to be with him. He’s been everywhere. He’s been places I want to go, and he helps me along the way. I’m very thankful he lets me ride his horses.”
When he began the 2018 season a year ago, Jang’s goals were to qualify for the RAM Texas Circuit Finals Rodeo, which takes place each July in Waco, Texas. He earned the right to battle at the regional championship, but he’s got bigger plans for the 2019 season.
“I actually went out rodeoing with Matt and a couple of other guys just to get my feet wet and experience life on the rodeo trail,” he said. “Now that I’ve met that goal to qualify for the circuit finals, I’m going to bear down and try to make the (NFR).”
Jang’s feet are plenty wet, and he proved that Thursday night at the Waller County Fair and Rodeo.
Waller County Fair and Rodeo
Bareback riding: 1. Zach Hibler, 77 points on Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Rosemary; 2. Leighton Berry, 73.5; no other qualified scores
Steer wrestling: 1. Kodie Jang, 4.6 seconds; 2. Matt Reeves, 4.8; 3. Sam Powers, 6.1; 4. Heath Thomas, 6.3; 5. Don Payne, 13.6; no other qualified times.
Team roping: 1. Clay Tryan/Travis Graves, 4.6 seconds; 2. Laramie Allen/McCoy Profili, 5.4; 3. Joe Beaver/Cody Thornton, 6.6; 4. Charley Crawford/Cole Davison, 9.7; no other qualified times.
Saddle bronc riding: 1. Dean Wadsworth, 77.5 points on Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Red Root; 2. Jarrod Hammons, 74; 3. Parker Fleet, 72.5; no other qualified rides.
Tie-down roping leaders: 1. Ricky Canton, 8.4 seconds; 2. Troy Reese Jr., 9.3; 3. Ty Heath Iselt, 9.5; 4. Bo Pickett, 9.8; 5. Jayce Johnson, 10.8; 6. Colton Stone, 13.0; 7. Clay Long, 14.5; no other qualified times.
Barrel racing leaders: 1. Jennifer Sharp, 14.96 seconds; 2. Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi, 15.00; 3. Halyn Lide, 15.07; 4. Tasha Welsh, 15.57; 5. Lynette Clyde, 19.65; 6. Sydney Surin, 20.20; no other qualified times.
Bull riding: 1. Dakota Louis, 83.5 points on PR Rodeo’s Roulette; 2. Dalan Dunca, 83; 3. Gavin Michel, 82; no other qualified scores.