ALVA, Okla. – Steer wrestler Kaden Greenfield and tie-down roper Denton Oestmann have quite a story to tell about their rodeo journeys.
Between them, they account for two transfers, two Central Plains Region titles, five qualifications to the College National Finals Rodeo and two degrees from Northwestern Oklahoma State University. They will close out their intercollegiate careers by returning to the college finals, set for June 11-17 at the Ford Wyoming Center in Casper, Wyoming.
“Closing out my career by making the college finals means a lot,” said Oestmann, a 2023 graduate from Auburn, Nebraska. “Everybody wants to go out with a bang. It would have been a lot nicer to have won the region, but it didn’t quite end up in my favor. Being able to compete at my last college rodeo in Casper is what really matters.”
Over his three seasons in Alva, Oestmann has had solid success. He transferred from Iowa Central Community College; while there, he qualified for the college finals in 2019.
Greenfield spent two years at Blue Mountain Community College in Pendleton, Oregon, before arriving in Woods County in time for the 2021-22 season. He had competed at the college finale after his sophomore season, then proved to be on top of his game once he moved to Oklahoma. He won the Central Plains each of the past two seasons.
A year ago, he made his trip to Casper and found limited success. He placed in the second go-round but left with hopes of having a better run. He earned a chance at redemption with his third straight CNFR bid.
“The top goal at the beginning of the year is to be the national champion,” said Greenfield, a Lakeview, Oregon, cowboy who obtained his degree on May 6. “The first thing you have to do is make the college finals, then you have to do good there. In order to make it, you have to set other, smaller goals along the way, so I’d made the goal to win the national title, and then I made the goal to win the region.”
That process is easier said than done, especially in the circuit made up of contestants from colleges in Oklahoma and Kansas. It’s recognized by the cowboys and cowgirls as one of the toughest in the country. For bulldoggers, it’s hard to make it out of practices unscathed. Of the top 11 steer wrestlers in the region, eight are from Northwestern.
“Our region is full of guys you see at ProRodeos,” said Greenfield, the son of Shawn Greenfield, a seven-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier. “Competing against those guys pushes you to be better.”
The old adage that iron sharpens iron is not only eloquent but also serves as proof of greatness. Neither Greenfield nor Oestmann would be in positions to make a run at the college championships had they not overcome the challenges throughout the 10-event campaign. Oestmann, for example, had led the circuit through a good portion of the season but finished second.
“My roping has come a long way since I first made the college finals,” he said. “My roping’s matured a lot. I’ll be riding a better horse than when I went out there for the first time.”
He’ll actually take two to Casper. One is Short Stack, a sorrel that he has ridden at most of the college rodeos this season; the other is Low Rider, a gray gelding owned by his brother, Jarrett. That’s the one Oestmann plans to ride at the indoor arena.
“He’s a veteran, and he’s good in the buildings,” he said, noting that he doesn’t get to ride Low Rider much while in school because the gray is in southeastern Nebraska. “I click with him pretty good when I get to ride him.”
That’s important. They have to work as a team, and each combatant needs all the advantages he can get when it comes to competing against the best in intercollegiate rodeo. When the weeklong competition is done at Casper, he and others will try their hands at the professional level. Last fall, Oestmann earned a spot at the Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo, the regional finale that took place in Duncan, Oklahoma.
Greenfield is following in his father’s footsteps. He is in his second year competing in the PRCA and will be traveling the rodeo trail with teammate Trisyn Kalawaia and Northwestern rodeo coach Stockton Graves; both have been instrumental in Greenfield’s success while in Alva the last two years.
“You can learn a lot, especially from Stockton,” Greenfield said, noting that Graves is an eight-time NFR qualifier. “You’ve got to continue to try to improve, and this will give me a good shot at doing that.”
Graves takes a competitive approach to coaching the team; he sets up opportunities for cowboys and cowgirls to learn through pressure situations, and it has worked well in his time with the program. Both Greenfield and Oestmann are in position to be the fourth (and maybe fifth) Northwestern athletes to win national titles, following in the footsteps of bulldoggers J.D. Struxness (2016) and Bridger Anderson (2019) and breakaway roper Taylor Munsell (also 2019).
“Northwestern has been good to me,” Oestmann said. “Stockton was really good about how I prepared. I always had an arena rented, and I roped every single day. Stockton knew how hard I was working.”
It has paid great dividends. Now, he and Greenfield will make their final few rounds of college rodeo in the place that crowns national titlists each June.
“You just have to go make three good runs and let the cards fall where they may,” Greenfield said. “If it works out, then you go make another good run in the short round and see where you end up.”
Rodeo’s gold only goes to a select few each year, and those that win the championships will have to overcome all the challenges they face while competing at an optimum level. Greenfield and Oestmann are in the mix and ready to let it all play out.