The Odessa College Wranglers get one last chance to make their mark when the College National Finals Rodeo gets under way today in Casper, Wyo.
The Wranglers will be represented by bareback riders BoDell Jessen and Wyatt Johnson, bull rider Austin Allred and steer wrestlers Kyler Dick, Brock Powell and Ty Allred. In the women’s competition, Maddy Dickens is qualified in barrel racing and goat tying.
The Odessa College men qualified as a team by finishing second in the Southwest Region, edging out Western Texas College by just 25 points. Wranglers coach C.J. Aragon said going as a team gives the Odessa College contingent a built-in support system.
“There have been years where we’ve just had a couple of individuals up there and you just don’t have as much of a support group,” Aragon said. “You’ve got to rely on kids from other teams to help you pull your rope, to help set your rigging, to help push your steers, whatever it is.
“When you can qualify a team, you’ve got enough individuals up there that they can help each other. That’s pretty huge because that’s what they’ve done all year to get there. They can basically stay in their routine once they get to the college finals. They’ve got people they can trust and have been able to lean on for support all year.”
The CNFR runs through Saturday with qualifiers competing in three go-rounds. The top 12 in each event advance to the short go.
In addition to being involved in a demanding regional race — Odessa College didn’t clinch its team berth until the final rodeo of the spring — Aragon said his athletes are used to competing at a high level with six holding PRCA cards.
“They’ve been competing at a professional level and a high professional level all year,” he said. “They helped the team qualify to get to the college finals, and I think they’re better prepared now that we’re getting up there just because they have been competing professionally.
“All of these kids have been going to a lot of pro rodeos and I think that’s got them a little bit more prepared to compete at the level that they’re going to be expected to at the college finals.”
In addition to pursuing a national title, Dick, a freshman from Oakley, Utah, will also have a bit of a family reunion in Casper. His sister Rylee, a former Odessa College cowgirl, will represent Tarelton State in breakaway roping.
“It’s really cool that me and my sister can go to Casper together,” Kyler Dick said. “It’s her last year and it’s really cool that she won the region. She started at Odessa and that’s where I started, too. It’s going to be really fun to see how it all turns out.”
Rylee Dick, who graduated last month with a degree in kinesiology, is also looking forward to the gathering.
“It’s pretty exciting for me,” she said. “We never got to go to the high school finals together, so I was excited when we both made it to the college finals. It’s my last year college rodeoing, so it’s kind of fun to be there with a sibling.”
Kyler Dick, who will compete at Tarleton State next year, said his sister has provided valuable advice in his choice of colleges.
“She told me how awesome it was, how Odessa was a great place to start and then moving on to Tarleton, how it was a good stepping stone,” he said. “It was an easy transition for her, just because of the rodeo structure and how well C.J. had set it up at Odessa. It just transferred right into going to Stephenville.
“It is a bigger school there at Tarleton, so she did tell me that I had to study a lot harder there. She’s been helping me set up my classes, helped me talk to the coach and all that stuff. She’s been helping me a lot that way.”
Rylee Dick said she was glad with her experience at Odessa College, where she was a two-time CNFR qualifier.
“Odessa was a really good place to start just because it’s a junior college,” she said. “When you’re going 20 hours from home, you kind of need to start off at a junior college and not just get thrown into a big university because college can be overwhelming.
“Plus C.J.’s a very good steer wrestling coach and that’s his main event. I knew he’d get along well there.”