CASPER, Wyo. – The smile isn’t likely to leave Weston Timberman’s face anytime soon.
He’s just 19 years old and has already proven to be one of the best cowboys in the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association, claiming the bareback riding championship and serving as a major reason why the Clarendon (Texas) College rodeo team won its second men’s national title in three years.
“It’s pretty surreal, and I’m still trying to grasp it all,” said Timberman, a freshman from Columbus, Montana. “It’s pretty awesome to be able to bring back two titles to Clarendon.
“It’s hard to beat the national championship I won for bareback riding, but for it to help the team ring home the national title is just as cool in my eyes.”
That’s just what happened in 2021. Cole Franks won the bareback riding title, and the Clarendon men won their first college crown. This year, Timberman stood out in a group of six standouts that guided the bulldogs another crown, the fourth overall for rodeo coach Bret Franks; he also won the 1997-98 men’s titles while coaching at his alma mater, Oklahoma Panhandle State University.
“We had a good bunch of guys that like to win,” said Franks, a three-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier in saddle bronc riding. “We have a real close-knit group that worked hard, and that plays out in the end. We had a meeting going in, and the goal was to get all six of our guys into the short round.”
They came close. Because the Clarendon men finished second in the Southwest Region standings, the Bulldogs had a full team of six cowboys in the mix. Timberman was joined by fellow bareback rider Sam Petersen of Helena, Montana, who advanced to the championship round.
In saddle bronc riding, only Cauy Masters of Leon, Iowa, failed to make the short round, and the other three all finished strong: Dylan Hancock of Golconda, Illinois; Slade Keith of Stanfield, Arizona; and Will Pollock of Utopia, Texas, finished fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively. Each bronc rider secured points, which made a difference when it came time to tally the final team standings.
“We had six guys ride in three rounds each, and we had just one missed markout that kept us from having all six in the short-go and getting to ride for a fourth time,” Franks said. “To compete that well with four freshmen, one sophomore and Will, who was competing for the third year, means something. It’s impressive that they were able to compete at that level.
“This group is really determined and mentally tough. That’s the key to it.”
It’s important. After Masters was saddled with a no-score in the second round, he bounced back in the third round. Overall, he finished 19th. Hancock placed in the second, third and final go-rounds, while Keith placed in the first, third and fourth rounds. Pollock added points in the second round and in the aggregate.
Timberman was a bit more dominant. He won the first round and shared the top score on championship night, placing in the second and third rounds. He accumulated 320 points and was the CNFR’s top rookie.
“When you have a team like we have, it makes you step up every chance you get,” said Timberman, whose father, Chris, and uncle, Kelly, rode bareback horses; Kelly Timberman was the 2004 world champion. “It seems like throughout the year, I was constantly being pushed by my teammates.”
It paid off in a big way, not only for Timberman but for the rodeo team in general. Franks took control of the program in 2015. In that eight-year span, the Bulldogs have earned two men’s team titles and five individual crowns. Saddle bronc rider Wyatt Casper was the first in 2016, followed by Riggin Smith in 2019. Cole Franks won both the bareback riding and all-around national titles in 2021, and Timberman adds another piece of rodeo gold to the mix.
“We focus on mental toughness more than anything,” Bret Franks said. “You have to be ready for everything, from being confronted with a tough situation on horses and not letting that beat you before you get started to riding through being a little sore.
“These guys are really good about not letting the moment be bigger than the ride. I think that helped them as much as anything.”
Playing the game at an elite level takes a lot of talent and mental fortitude. The Clarendon rodeo team has shown that year after year.
“Bret brings a lot of consistency to us, keeping track of us,” Timberman said. “He makes sure we’re up in the morning, making sure we work out or are getting on the spur board or on the bucking machine. He has a couple of sayings that stick with you.
“There’s a bunch that Bret brings to the table. He’s definitely got that old-cowboy mentality.”
Being a champion means mixing superb talent with an old-school approach, and the Clarendon College rodeo team continues to prove it.