The Casper College men’s rodeo team had a forgettable start to the 2018-19 Central Rocky Mountain Region season. The Thunderbirds failed to score a point in the season-opening rodeo at Chadron State College in September and managed to finish just ninth and sixth, respectively, in the following two rodeos.
The T-Birds did win the rodeo at Lamar Community College in Colorado in early October, but closed the fall season with another sixth-place finish. All of that left Casper College closer to the bottom of the CRMR standings than to the top heading into the spring season.
“We kind of dug ourselves a hole,” Casper College head coach Jhett Johnson said. “We had a lot of ground to make up.”
The T-Birds have been doing that this spring. Heading into this weekend’s Ropin’ and Riggin’ Days Rodeo at the Central Wyoming Fairgrounds, the T-Birds are still fifth in the region, but a second-place finish is within reach. Casper College, which has finished in the top three at all three spring rodeos, has 2,623.3 points for the year and trails second-place Sheridan College by just 321.7 points.
Spearheading the T-Birds’ turnaround are roughstock cowboys Lane Schuelke, Cole Reiner and K’s Thomson. All three were key contributors to Sheridan College’s regional championship team last season and spent the first semester competing for the Generals before transferring to Casper College.
“These guys are winners,” Johnson said. “They were winning in Sheridan and they came down here and just picked up right where they left off. It’s been a nice fit.”
It’s definitely proved to be a productive one for the T-Birds. Casper College has scored more points in three spring rodeos than it did in the five fall rodeos. Schuelke currently leads the CRMR saddle bronc riding standings with Reiner sitting third in bareback bronc riding and Thomson fourth in bull riding.
“It’s been awesome,” said Reiner, a former state champion wrestler at Buffalo. “Jhett and (assistant coach) Sandy Bob (Forbes) are great guys to be around because they’re positive all the time.”
Added Schuelke: “It’s been a good move for all of us. I was kind of on the teeter-totter for a while, but I just thought it would be the best thing to do.”
The addition of Schuelke, Reiner and Thomson gives Casper College one of the more balanced teams in the region. Outside of saddle bronc rider Garrett Buckley, all of the T-Birds’ points in the fall came from timed event cowboys: tie-down ropers Wyatt Tarver and Logan Brown and team ropers Wheaton Williams, Cash Hetzel, Jerren Johnson and Brown.
“Everybody knows we’re a roping school,” said Jhett Johnson, who won the world championship as a heeler in 2011, “but it gets the word out of how good our roughstock program is.”
Johnson credits a lot of that to Forbes, who is in his first year as an assistant coach. The Kaycee native has competed on the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association circuit for years and comes from a family of bronc riders. His brother, Morgan, and his father, John, both qualified for the National Finals Rodeo in years past.
“I never had roughstock kids calling me until Sandy Bob got here and now they want to be in Casper,” Johnson said.
Both Reiner and Schuelke have at least two more rodeos wearing the T-Birds’ signature red vests. It will be three if they hold on to their current positions in the standings and qualify for the College National Finals Rodeo in June at the Casper Events Center. Both cowboys also are considering returning to Casper College next year, but that decision could depend on how they do on the PRCA circuit this summer.
Reiner is currently fifth in the Ram Rodeo permit standings in the bareback and is No. 2 in the Mountain States Circuit standings. He finished fifth in the average at the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo in Denver in January and also won money at the Rapid City (South Dakota) Rodeo in February and at the Grand Island (Nebraska) Rodeo at the beginning of March.
“I haven’t been to a pro rodeo without doing OK,” Reiner said. “And I’m looking forward to getting back out there this summer. But Casper has been a good transition. This is just another step in the direction I want to go.”
Schuelke finished No. 18 in the Ram Rodeo permit standings and No. 21 in the Badlands Circuit saddle bronc standings last year, but has focused primarily on college rodeos this spring. Once summer hits, however, he plans on hitting the road with his brother Taygen Schuelke, the 2014 CNFR all-around champ.
“I’m going to wait until I get out of college and then get my card and rodeo with my brother pretty hard,” the younger Schuelke said.
For now, though, Schuelke is enjoying spending time with his former and current teammates.
“We’re pretty tight so coming here was a lot easier because we did it together,” he said. “We kind of do everything as a pack. We’re always helping each other out in the chutes and giving last-second advice. We’re always there for each other.”
They’ll be there behind the bucking chutes this weekend, pushing each other to succeed.
“We’re all trying to get to the same spot,” Reiner said. “And when there’s a group of you trying to do it it’s easier because you’re getting support from all your buddies. Winning translates to every event, so that’s what you need to do. If one person is winning you look pretty dumb if you’re not.”
For Johnson, who is now in his fourth year as the Casper College coach, expects that winning attitude to carry over to the rest of the T-Birds.
“It’s been a learning process, but it’s definitely getting easier and more enjoyable,” he said. “This is only going to get better. I don’t want to do this if I’m going to lose.”
Through 8 rodeos
Team: University of Wyoming 4,120 Sheridan College 2,945 Gillette College 2,717 Chadron State College 2,655 Casper College 2,623 Laramie County Community College 2,580 Central Wyoming College 2,150 Eastern Wyoming College 1,325 Otero Junior College 1,190 Lamar Community College 440 Colorado State University 230 Northeastern Junior College 20.
All-Around: Seth Peterson, UW, 945 Caden Camp, UW, 910 Brady Thurston, CWC, 785 Ty Everson, UW, 765.
Bareback Bronc Riding: Kyle Bloomquist, CSC, 1,000 Chance Ames, SC, 885 Cole Reiner, CC, 875 Rowdy Moon, CSC, 645 Jake Kesl, GC, 460 Thomas Davis, CWC, 420.
Saddle Bronc Riding: Lane Schuelke, CC, 758.3 Jacob Kammerer, GC, 643.3 Garrett Buckley, CC, 460 Carter Elshere, GC, 433.3 Brady Thurston, CWC, 380 Trevor Clark, SC, 365.
Bull Riding: Coby Johnson, SC, 650 Nate Hoey, LCC, 420 Miles Englebert, CSC, 400 K’s Thomson, CC, 240 Keali’I aukai Kaai, CSU, 230.
Steer Wrestling: Ty Everson, UW, 385 Kalane Anders, CSC, 350 Kade Greer, UW, 325 Brady Thurston, CWC, 305 Seth Peterson, UW, 295 Gage Greer, UW, 295 Jake Fulton, UW, 290 Caden Camp, UW, 285.
Tie-Down Roping: Chadron Coffield, EWC, 695 Jase Staudt, UW, 475 Rance Johnson, LCCC, 405 Seth Peterson, UW, 370 Jon Peterson, GC, 305.
Team Roping (header): Wheaton Williams, CC, 565 Caden Camp, UW, 455 Cooper White, GC, 350 Braden Pirrung, EWC, 320 Seth Peterson, UW, 280.
Team Roping (heeler): J.C. Flake, UW, 455 Ty Everson, UW, 360 Denton Shaw, UW, 350 Cash Hetzel, CC, 320 Jace Engesser, GC, 320.
Team: Eastern Wyoming College 2,099.8 University of Wyoming 2,080 Gillette College 2,030 Chadron State College 1,428.3 Casper College 1,123.3 Northeastern Junior College 950 Laramie County Community College 618.3 Central Wyoming College 605 Colorado State University 415 Sheridan College 315 Otero Junior College 90.
All-Around: Teisha Coffield, UW, 1,055 Jacey Thompson, EWC, 1,012.
Barrel Racing: Ravhael Calvo, UW, 575 Karson Bradley, CWC, 565 Makayla Seely, CC, 370 Lake Mehalic, CSU, 350 Makenna Balkenbush, CC, 315.
Breakaway Roping: Teisha Coffield, UW, 570 Brooke Howell, GC, 415 Jacey Thompson, EWC, 397 Hanna Hostutler, CSC, 280 Quincy Segelke, CSC, 260 Payton Donnelly, UW, 252 Chase Kiker, NJC, 250.
Goat Tying: Taylour Latham, GC, 855 Karissa Rayhill, EWC, 662.5 Jacey Thompson, EWC, 615 Kaycee Monnens, CSC, 595 Faith Hoffman, NJC, 590.