Dave Beyer, Sports Information Director
CASPER, Wyo. – The Oklahoma Panhandle State University men’s rodeo team kicked off its defense of the National College Rodeo Association back-to-back championships on day one of the College National Finals Rodeo at the Casper Events Center. The Aggies had five competitors in Saddle Bronc, one in Bareback and one in Bull Riding on the opening day.
Sophomore Cooper Thatcher (Darbalara, New South Wales, Australia) won the first go-round in Saddle Bronc competition, registering a ride with a score of 82 points (four ahead of second place). OPSU sophomore teammate Dawson Dahm (Tomahawk, Alberta, Canada) tied for third place after the first go-round, tallying 76.5 points on his scoresheet.
Senior Tanner Hayes (Elkhart, Kan.) gave the Aggies their third top-10 finisher in the first go-round of Saddle Bronc. Hayes tied for ninth with 71.5 points.
Senior Cody Ballard (Tumut, Australia) was 19th with a score of 65.5 points. Junior Jade Taton (Coleman, Texas) failed to cover his first go-round in Saddle Bronc, rounding out the Aggie five.
Taton – the only OPSU team member in more than one event at the CNFR – did, however, cover his first go-round in Bareback. Taton’s score of 68.5 points placed him 23rd after day one.
Senior Dustin Martinez (Guymon, Okla.) rounded out the Aggie cowboys’ result from day one, placing eighth in the first go-round of Bull Riding. Martinez received a score of 71 points heading into round two.
OPSU Head Rodeo Coach Robert Etbauer was pleased with his team’s day one efforts at the CNFR. “It was a great rodeo in Casper today,” Etbauer said. “They tried hard. It went good for a lot of them. They’ll be back here tomorrow trying their hearts out.”
Taton, Hayes, Thatcher and Ballard will all be in action on Monday’s slack beginning at 7 a.m. (MT). Taton will also compete in his second go-round in Bareback on Monday.
All four members of the OPSU women’s rodeo team will compete Monday, as well. The quartet – Bailee Henderson, Beau Peterson, Kaylee Ann Smith and Sierra Smith – are all in section one of the first go-round for Goat Tying. The foursome will be on a mission to bring home an individual national title in the event, the only CNFR championship absent from the OPSU rodeo collection to complete its “CNFR Slam.”