Two years ago, with a team comprised solely of timed-event cowboys, the University of Wyoming men’s rodeo team finished eighth at the College National Finals Rodeo. After the coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of the 2020 college finals, the Cowboys return to the Ford Wyoming Center (formerly the Casper Events Center) for the 2021 CNFR not only with a wealth of talent again in the timed events, but with the added bonus of two competitors on the other end of the arena.
That balance helped the Cowboys dominate the Central Rocky Mountain Region as they finished with 6,819 points during the 10-rodeo regular season to win the regional title for the third year in a row. Runner-up Gillette College was a distant second with 4,952 points.
“When you look at the amount of points we piled up that’s pretty impressive,” said third-year head coach Beau Clark. “But the kids just went out there and did what they do every day in practice. Their expectations were a little higher and we knew they weren’t going to win first every time, but we expect them to make good runs and compete at a high level.”
UW won the season-opening rodeo at Chadron State College last September and finished first or second in the team standings nine times, with the only exception being the regular-season finale at Colorado State when the Cowboys placed third.
Three competitors finished first in the regional standings, with Kemmerer native Donny Proffit winning the bareback bronc riding, Garrett Uptain claiming the saddle bronc riding crown and Jase Staudt winning the tie-down roping, partnering with Gillette College’s JC Flake to take the team roping honors and winning the all-around title.
Joining them at this year’s college finals — the week-long event begins Sunday — are two more dual-event Cowboys in Seth Peterson and Chadron Coffield, both of whom will compete in steer wrestling and tie-down.
With Staudt, Peterson and Coffield all competing in two events, the Cowboys have a chance to pile up some points in the timed events.
“It’s exciting that all three of those guys will have a chance at the all-around,” Clark said. “I don’t want to brag on them too much, but they’re capable of doing great (at the CNFR). You have to have some luck, draw the right ones and stay behind the barrier, but we’re really confident that they’ll do a good job.”
They did that all season. Staudt, Peterson and Coffield combined to nine regional rodeos and at least one of them finished in the top two in eight of the 10 rodeos.
Proffit was even more impressive in bareback riding. The former four-time state wrestling champ won the bareback competition at seven rodeos and finished in the top four all 10 times.
“Donny is just fun to watch because he’s going to let it all hang out and really go at ‘em,” Clark exclaimed.
Despite that aggressive style, or maybe because of it, Proffit covered all 18 bareback horses he got on during the season. The sophomore not only finished atop the CRMR standings but also enters the CNFR as the No. 1 bareback bronc rider in the nation. He accumulated 1,479 points during the season …
Uptain, meanwhile, made his move in the spring season. He won the all-around titles at one-head rodeos at Sheridan College and Gillette College on back-to-back days thanks to winning the bull riding and finishing second in the saddle bronc at both rodeos.
“It’s been fun to watch Garrett get better and better throughout the year,” Clark said. “That kid has a ton of experience at the pro rodeo level, going to the Dodge Finals and the Circuit Finals, and he’s ready to compete.”
Based on the way this season has gone for UW, the same likely holds true for the rest of the Cowboys.
Follow sports editor Jack Nowlin on Twitter @CASJackN