The life of an Odessa College rodeo cowboy or cowgirl is pretty unique.
Not only is each member of the team on scholarship with the school, but unlike every other Wranglers’ sport, the rodeo team isn’t governed by NCAA rules.
The rodeo team competes under the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association’s banner, which allows five years of collegiate competition while athletes get a degree to fall back on when their days of roping cattle and riding horses are over.
Under the NIRA’s rules, competitors are also allowed to compete in noncollege rodeos for cash prizes.
“If you’re disciplined enough and you can go on the road and handle that, then it’s easy,” Odessa College head coach CJ Aragon said. “Some kids can do it, some can’t.”
Before school starts each year, Aragon sits down with each of his athletes to make sure they have an understanding of their responsibilities — for class, training and everything in between.
A majority of Aragon’s team spends free time on the road traveling to different rodeos all over the country.
In recent weeks, members of the Odessa College rodeo team have made stops in Utah, Arizona and Mississippi along with several cities in Texas.
“Some kids are great at it, other kids need a lot of help with it, a lot of these kids — it’s the first time they’ve ever been away from home and their parents have done so much for them that they need a lot of help getting that structure and everything,” Aragon said. “Other people they can function well on their own and they can go and just take off and run with it and you don’t have to worry about them at all.”
A few Wranglers even traveled around Texas while the program hosted the 34th annual Odessa College Wrangler Rodeo at Ector County Coliseum this past week.
“Sometimes I’m somewhere in a rodeo thinking ‘I need to turn in this homework.’ I’ve tired to stay relaxed and do everything in time,” said Odessa College’s Ezzio Jacquez, who traveled to Fort Worth to compete in a rodeo last week. Jacquez said he’s taking 16 credit hours this semester and holds a GPA over 3.0. “It’s kind of hard but it’s not impossible.”
“I just make sure I stay on top of my school work,” Odessa College bareback rider Harry Ash said. “If you get behind on it, it gets hard … as soon as I get it I make sure I knock it out right there.”
Odessa College sophomore Chase Zweifel said he has one particular thing that keeps him going through class and the rodeo lifestyle — coffee.
“We have a super-competitive region and the buckles are just going to go to
the guys that are willing to put that time in and that effort,” Zweifel said. “It is tough. You got to keep going.”
The Odessa College rodeo team practices at the Graham Center in Gardendale, with live animals coming to the site a few times a week.
That helps those riders staying in the Permian Basin stay on top of their game for any rodeo the Wranglers compete in or for when individuals travel out of town.
“It’s just like football or anything else except for the only difference is you don’t get recruited,” Odessa College bareback rider and team roper BoDell Jessen said. “If you want to do it, you can.”
Aragon added that the process of helping his athletes stay on top of everything is a never-ending process. He also knows how much is available down the road for his athletes.