Dave Beyer, Sports Information Director
CASPER, Wyo. – The Oklahoma Panhandle State University men’s and women’s rodeo teams will be trying to make some program history when they travel to the College National Finals Rodeo (CNFR) on June 7-15, 2019 in Casper, Wyoming. The Aggie men will be sending six competitors, along with four representatives for the Panhandle ladies, after both squads finished second in the final 2019 National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association Central Plains Region rankings.
Winners of seven men’s team titles over the years, the Aggie cowboys will be looking to wrangle a third-consecutive CNFR national championship in 2019. OPSU won back-to-back crowns in 1997 and 1998, as well as 2017 and 2018. Panhandle State’s men will be competing in three events: Saddle Bronc, Bareback and Bull Riding.
In Saddle Bronc, Panhandle will be sending the Nos. 1, 4, 6, 7 and 8 ranked riders in the region to Casper. Sophomore Dawson Dahm (Tomahawk, Alberta, Canada) led the Central Plains Region with 870 points in Saddle Bronc, after finishing second in the event at the 2018 CNFR (to teammate Jake Finlay).
Joining Dahm in Saddle Bronc will be sophomore Cooper Thatcher (Darbalara, New South Wales, Australia) at No. 4 in the region, senior Cody Ballard (Tumut, Australia) at No. 6, senior Tanner Hayes (Elkhart, Kan.) at No. 7 and Jade Taton (Coleman, Texas) at No. 8.
Taton, who earned the Central Plains Region’s all-around award in 2019, was also the top regional qualifier in Bareback, earning 1,320 points. Taton is the Aggies’ only multi-event participant at the 2019 CNFR.
Senior Dustin Martinez (Guymon, Okla.) rounds out the Panhandle men’s entrants. Martinez heads to the CNFR as the No. 3-rated Bull Rider from the Central Plains Region. Martinez placed ninth at last year’s CNFR event.
Head coach Robert Etbauer’s cowgirls will be looking to help the Aggies’ rodeo program complete the “CNFR Slam,” needing a championship in Goat Tying to give OPSU an individual national champion in every event offered at the CNFR in its history. If ever there were a chance to reach that benchmark, it is this year as all four Aggie ladies – senior Kaylee Ann Smith (Jay Em, Wyo.), freshman Beau Peterson (Council Grove, Kan.), junior Sierra Smith (Winterset, Iowa) and senior Baylee Henderson (Dusty, N.M.) – are all entered in the Goat Tying competition.
Smith, Peterson and S. Smith were the Nos. 1-3-ranked competitors in the region for 2019, with Henderson ranked No. 8. Kaylee Ann Smith placed 23rd at the 2018 CNFR in Goat Tying and racked up a total of 1,055 points heading into the championships in 2019.
Fans can follow the Aggies at the 2019 CNFR in several ways. Results and updates will be posted on the Athletics web site (opsuaggies.com). Likewise, the OPSU Rodeo Facebook page (OPSURodeo) will carry intermittent updates. Live results will also be available via the CNFR web page (www.cnfr.com) during the event.