Dalton Kasel had hoped to compete at the College National Finals Rodeo last year. He qualified for the rodeo, but when a bull stepped on him and injured his kidney a few weeks before the CNFR, he had to miss the trip to Casper.
Now he’s making up for lost time.
The Howard College Hawk took the average lead in bull riding on Monday with a ride of 74.5 points.
“I’m excited to be out here,” he said. “It’s a blessing.”
Kasel’s injury kept him out about 2 1/2 months, he said, and he’s feeling healthy now.
On Sunday, he scored a 78.5, tied for third in an opening go-round that featured 14 completed rides.
“I love bull riding, so I just go out there and do my job,” Kasel said. “I didn’t know there were 14 guys that covered. Just going with it.”
The two riders who bested him in the opening round — Western Texas College’s Colten Fritzlan and Panola College’s Daylon Swearingen, both of whom scored 82 — have yet to mount their second bulls.
Kasel, meanwhile, might have already done enough to punch his ticket to the final go-round.
“I got two down after two of them,” Kasel said, “so you can’t go wrong with that.”
He’s is a man of few words — and plenty of points.
“Man, just the good Lord up above,” Kasel said when asked what he’s done well so far. “He’s a good guy.”
Two other riders covered bulls Monday, both in the first section. Beau Southern hung on for 8 seconds and not a tick more before careening off to the side, but those 74.5 points were especially meaningful to him.
“Well, it’s my first time here, so it just felt really good to finally know that I belong here,” the Colorado Northwestern Community College cowboy said. “It felt good to get one down.”
Southern was bucked Sunday, and as he left the arena Monday, he did so with a limp.
“I did get two chute fighters, and they kind of beat me up in the chute,” he said. “Afterwards they were good, so I can’t complain about that, but I kind of got beat up in the chute a little bit. Legs hurt, a little sore, but nothing that can’t be fixed.”
He knows from experience.
“I actually went and sat in the hot tubs for a while (Sunday), and then I’ve got a stim machine,” Southern said. “Did a little shock work on my ankles and legs and also on my shoulder. By the time I got on today, I was feeling pretty good.”
The electrotherapy isn’t exactly a walk in the park.
“To be right honest, it doesn’t feel very great,” Southern said, “but when you do wake up the next morning, it is definitely worth it.”
That’ll be especially true Tuesday, when he wakes up with a score at the CNFR to his name. “All the hard work and determination, it’s just finally paying off, and I’m happy,” he said.
Chico State’s Jake Peterson also rode a full 8 seconds Monday, adding a 76 to his Sunday score of 64.
“He was a lot better-feeling bull than I had yesterday, and the score reflected it,” Peterson said. “Just a good one to have, to keep me going into the week.”
Peterson didn’t know what to expect from Southwick’s Funk 49 coming in. That’s the way he prefers it.
“I think it depends, but it’s best just to go in with a clean slate, that way you don’t set yourself up for any traps or anything like that,” he said. “Just keeping it simple is the biggest thing.”
Peterson is currently second in the average behind Kasel after having the lowest-scoring cover of the first go-round.
“It feels good because last year I got bucked off of everything here,” Peterson said. “So it’s a good feeling to get both of my bulls rode so far. It kind of takes the weight off my chest.”