To say the University of Wyoming men’s rodeo team dominated the 2021-22 Central Rocky Mountain Region would be an understatement. The Cowboys won nine of 10 rodeos to finish atop the region with 8,350 points. Casper College was a distant second with 5,670 points.
The only regional rodeo the Cowboys didn’t win was Eastern Wyoming College’s Lancer Rodeo in late March when they finished five points back of the Thunderbirds. UW was second in the final regular-season national standings behind Missouri Valley College.
The Cowboys are hoping that regular-season success transfers to this year’s College National Finals Rodeo, which starts Sunday and runs through June 18 at the Ford Wyoming Center in Casper. UW finished eight at last year’s college finals.
“We’ve got a couple two-event guys and we’ve got guys with a ton of experience,” UW head coach Beau Clark said. “Pretty much all of these guys have all been to Casper so they know what to expect this week.”
The Cowboys’ point-scoring team for the CNFR consists of Garrett Uptain (saddle bronc riding, bull riding), Brice Patterson (bareback bronc riding, steer wrestling), Donny Proffit (bareback), Chadron Coffield (tie-down roping), Austin Hurlburt (steer wrestling) and Cameron Jensen (steer wrestling).
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Patterson is the only CNFR rookie on the team, but he won both the bareback and all-around regional titles. The Cowboys had the top five finishers in the all-around, with Uptain placing second followed by Jensen, Coffield and Hurlburt. In addition, Uptain was the regional saddle bronc champ, Coffield captured the tie-down title and Hurlburt won the steer wrestling.
Proffit, who finished 11th at last year’s CNFR, and Patterson battled all season for the top spot in bareback, with Patterson edging his roommate for the title in the final rodeo.
“Those two pushed each other all season,” Clark said. “Last year Donny didn’t really have that competition during the season so I think having Brice pushing him in practice and at the regional rodeos really helped him. And I know it helped Brice.
“What’s even more impressive is that those two are each other’s biggest supporters,” Clark added. “They room together, they travel together and they cheer for each other.”
Clark said that’s a common theme in the UW rodeo program.
“It goes for the whole team, but these six guys understand what it takes to make this a complete rodeo program,” he said. “They act professional in and out of the arena, they compete with class and they’re great leaders. They also know they are student-athletes first and they help out at school and in the community.
“The university and the state of Wyoming should be proud of these guys and how they represent the sport of rodeo.”
The UW women’s team also won the CRMR, although the Cowgirls needed a strong spring to overtake Gillette College for the regional crown.
Once again, though, the Cowgirls will finish their season in Casper.
Unlike in years past, though, fans won’t see UW competitors in either the barrel racing or the breakaway roping. This year, all four Cowgirls at the college finals will be competing in the goat tying.
“That’s just how it worked out,” Beau Clark said. “That’s the way they qualified.”
Eastern Wyoming College’s Karissa Rayhill won the regional title, but four Cowgirls finished in the top six and all four will compete this week. Riata Day was the regional runner-up, followed by CNFR veterans Taylour Latham in third, Kelsey Lensegrav in fourth and Faith Hoffman in sixth.
Latham is competing in her fourth CNFR, Lensegrav in her third and Hoffman in her second.
“We’ve got lots of experience so I’m extremely confident in all four of them,” Clark said. “Faith has been super strong the last two years. Riata and Taylour have also been regional champs. And Kelsey has been on fire in the goat tying this spring.
“Goat tying is always a fierce competition at the college finals, but I think these girls are ready.”