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Rodeo

Las Vegas, Nev. – Cowboys and cowgirls across the world are traveling to Las Vegas, Nev. this week to compete at the 2017 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (NFR) and will perform on the biggest rodeo stage in the world Dec. 7-16.

Brody Cress of Hillsdale is the newest member of Team Wyoming Professional Cowboys and has qualified for his first NFR in sixth place for saddle bronc riding.

Cress is a senior at Tarleton State University and will graduate in December with a bachelor’s degree in agribusiness. He plans to pursue a master’s degree in agriculture consumer science.

Rodeo season

According to Cress, the 2017 college and professional rodeo seasons have been great.

“The end of last season was a little rough after I hurt my ankle in St. Paul, Ore. but I got through Cheyenne Frontier Days then stopped to get ready for college rodeo,” says Cress. “I think it helped a lot to take a step back and reset, so I could work on the basics and focus on getting ready for the next season.”

He credits taking a break for helping jump-start the 2017 college rodeo season and professional rodeo season, as well.

“I’ve been lucky enough to draw some really good horses and still do well on the horses that weren’t so good,” he states.

Cress says he was able to win a check almost every weekend this summer, which was helpful on his road to NFR.

“Keeping the money and momentum rolling was really beneficial when trying to make the finals,” he adds.

This season, Cress won the California Rodeo Salinas, Cheyenne Frontier Days and the Pendleton Round-Up in Oregon.

“Being able to go out and win rodeos like Cheyenne, Pendleton and Salinas and draw good horses really helped pave the way for the finals,” Cress notes.

He says the season has been amazing, and he is pleased with the great traveling partners and guys he rodeoed with all summer, which kept the season fun.

Challenges

Cress states his biggest challenge this rodeo season was keeping up momentum and enthusiasm.

“This is the hardest I’ve ever rodeoed, so staying positive and driving up and down the road so much has been a challenge, along with keeping things fun,” he says.

The most difficult part is driving, according to Cress, “I think we drive more than 90 percent of the time, so finding ways to have fun, keep the momentum going and staying determined is important.”

Staying focused is also important to Cress, and he says finding focus was pretty easy this season.

“It doesn’t matter if I’m having a good season winning rodeos because there are so many guys in the PRCA who are winning, too. It’s important to keep that momentum moving and stay focused,” states Cress.

The finals

The opportunity to go to NFR is a dream come true for Cress, who has been around rodeo his entire life.

“I’ve been riding horses since before I could walk, and my parents always kept me involved,” he states. “I’ve dreamed of being at the finals. I love watching the NFR.”

Growing up, Cress says NFR was the one time of year he was allowed to stay up late.

He believes being at the NFR is a reward for all the hard work he put in, and being around so many high quality people and riding top-ranked bucking horses is also a reward.

“It’s rewarding for me and all the hard work I’ve put into it but also for the people who have sacrificed so much for me and those who have helped me get to this point,” Cress states.

The most exciting part for Cress is being able to ride in front of so many people. As a kid, he remembers visiting the Thomas and Mack Center and how loud and exciting the atmosphere was.

“Everyone was pumped up. Cowboys don’t get to compete in that type of atmosphere very often,” he adds. “I’m really excited to ride the best stock in the world with the other top 14 cowboys, and being around a great group of people makes this a really exciting time.”

Preparation

Cress has been focusing on getting better, working out and trying to progress as a bronc rider in his preparation for NFR.

“I honestly have been trying to treat the finals like any other rodeo. Whether I’m getting on a horse in a practice pen, at a college rodeo or on the biggest rodeo stage, I try to completely focus on the process, and try to make the best bronc ride every time,” he says. “I can always improve and am just trying to get better.”

At his first NFR, Cress expects getting focused to be hard and thinks it will be nerve-racking.

“I think the most challenging part will be continuing to focus on the process and be able to zone-in while tuning everything else out. I’ll have fun and take it all in, but I’m at WNFR to take care of business,” says Cress.

Team Wyoming

As the newest member of Team Wyoming, Cress is excited and says it is awesome to be a part of the team.

“I’m from Wyoming, the Cowboy State, and I love it. I’ve always thought the coolest thing was seeing J.R. Vezain and Chet Johnson have Team Wyoming across the back of their shirts, so it’s always been my goal to be on the team and represent Wyoming,” Cress states.

As a Wyoming native, he believes he owes a lot of who he is to Wyoming and the opportunities and people in the state.

“To be able to represent not only Wyoming but also the residents and everyone who’s helped me get to this point is a blessing and a great opportunity,” says Cress.

Being raised around rodeo and ranching in Wyoming has helped him a lot, according to Cress.

“I’ve always been around rodeo, animals and amazing people who are involved with rodeo and ranching. It’s just amazing to have the opportunity to meet guys from Wyoming like Frank Thompson, world champion steer wrestler, who lives 15 minutes away from me,” he notes. “It’s awesome to be able to know those type of people.”

Heather Loraas is assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

On May 24, 1922, a rodeo legend was born in Federal, a small Wyoming town northwest of Cheyenne. James “Hyde” Merritt was the son a World Champion Steer Roper King Merritt, and he spent his childhood with a rope in his hand, gathering and working livestock and roping.

From there, Hyde’s influence in his community, state and across the country grew to impact the rodeo industry in many positive ways. As a result of his influence, Hyde will be inducted into the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in on Nov. 11 in Oklahoma City, Okla.

Starting young

Since his birth, Hyde has been entrenched in rodeo. His father King was well-known for his rodeo success. Hyde was the second child of six. His siblings include Sonny, Orlene, Cotton, Ginger and Ramona.

“Everything this man gave his cowboy touch to carried his brand for love of ranch, horses and rodeo,” says the Professional Rodeo Cowboy’s Association.

At age 19, Hyde left the family ranch to attend the University of Wyoming (UW), where he was instrumental in establishing the first UW college rodeo team, including writing the by-laws.

Merritt served in World War II as a bombardier. He flew 31 missions and was shot down over Belgium Dec. 24, 1944.

Industry involvement

When he returned to the U.S., he jumped back into the industry that he loved as co-founder and editor of The Rodeo News from 1947-49.

After that, he worked as editor and West Coast manager for Western Horseman magazine from 1949-50, until he became editor of Quarter Horse News in 1950.

At the same time, Hyde remained active outside the publishing industry.

“Hyde was one of the founders of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association, became an RCA member in 1945 and founded or served in various Quarter horse associations,” says Heidi. “He also became an esteemed Quarter horse judge and breeder.”

Hyde was instrumental in founding the Wyoming Quarter Horse Association, and he was began breeding horses in the late 1940s.

“Hyde was a co-owner of Blue Valentine with his father-in-law Buster Hayes,” Heidi says. “Hyde incorporated he and his father’s breeding program, along with that of his father-in-law, to develop and promote foundation Quarter horse bloodlines in the U.S.”

Family ranch

In 1950, Hyde and his wife Dede Hayes Merritt established their family ranch, where they raised four children, Chip, Heidi, Randy and Lory.

Lory says, “Hyde taught us work ethic from the start. We were riding horses before we were four years old. We did everything horseback, and he taught all four of us how to be cowboys from day one.”

“We worked really hard, and my siblings and I all made sure to teach the same work ethic we learned from Hyde and Dede to our kids,” he continues. “He worked hard at everything he did.”

Growing up, Lory emphasizes that everything they did was centered around family and the ranch, although Hyde also loved to duck off with his old buddies periodically.

“My mom was beside my dad every day, and we were right there, too. We did everything as a family,” Lory says. “It was a family affair, with lots of hard work and fun times.”

Hyde also had a joking streak, and Lory says, “Hyde loved to play tricks on us while we were growing up.”

“But no one can mention Hyde without mentioning Dede,” Lory says. “Mom passed away in 2011, but she was Hyde’s partner and right-hand man. I think that’s why all of us kids have remained close all these years.”

Rodeo influence

“Hyde’s influence on rodeo was from the ground up,” Lory says.

After starting Rodeo News, Hyde began writing a series of articles promoting the creation of an organization to provide an umbrella for college rodeo, which got the ball rolling to form the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA). He also helped to write NIRA’s by-laws.

“He was well educated and had a passion for rodeo,” Lory explains, noting that Hyde was also a stock contractor for timed events at many rodeos through the years. “In the fifties, sixties, seventies and eighties, Hyde supplied Mexican steers and roping calves for Cheyenne Frontier Days.”
Lory fondly remembers the hard work his father put into sorting steers.

“Hyde wanted to produce the best product all the time,” he says. “He worked so hard to keep his cattle even and sort out the bad ones.”

Legacy

Lory says that Hyde’s influence and legacy still lives after his untimely death.

In 1983, Hyde was in a family ranch accident that took his life.

“A respected family man, businessman, rancher, calf and steer roper, Quarter horse breeder and judge, stock contractor, steer roping producer and more, Hyde was a man who represented the western way, who loved the land and nature and believed in the good Lord above,” the Merritt family says.

James Allen, Mel Potter and Pake McEntire, among numerous others, speak fondly of Hyde, saying he “changed the history of steer roping,” “stood out among many” and was “a man full of integrity.”

“We’re so proud of Hyde and Dede,” Lory says. “Hyde’s induction into the National Cowboy Hall of Fame means so much to our family.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Colton Miller, a recent graduate from Central Wyoming College (CWC) in Riverton, spent ample time on campus in the week prior to the College National Finals Rodeo, just to get a few more practices in before the big event.

Following the tradition of rodeo in his family, Miller is a third generation saddle bronc rider from Lance Creek. 

“Everyone in my family has something to do with rodeo. Both my dad and my granddad were saddle bronc riders, and I grew up watching my dad rodeo,” says Miller. “I started riding when I was a sophomore in high school, and it just went from there.”

Choosing to compete in saddle bronc was an easy decision for Miller to make when he started.

“I had seen pictures of my dad and my granddad riding when I was growing up, and it stood out to me as one of my favorite events,” says Miller. 

The road to CNFR 

Gaining momentum throughout his rodeo career, Miller won the saddle bronc event at the Wyoming State High School Finals Rodeo in his senior year of high school and has won the regional title in the Central Rocky Mountain Region both years he attended CWC, also in the saddle bronc event. 

He claimed the 2013 title with 795 points.

“Colton has had an outstanding season,” Andrew Schrock, head coach for the CWC Rustler rodeo team, says proudly. “He had a decent fall, but he dominated this spring and is doing really well right now.”

Both regional titles guaranteed him qualification to the CNFR for 2012 and 2013. He placed 15th in the 2012 CNFR with a no score in the first go. 

“I’m pretty excited about going to the CNFR,” Miller says. “It is the Rose Bowl of college rodeo.”

Preparing for the competition, Miller has been practicing with broncs at his home at CWC.

“Before I get on my horse, I like to go through what to do in my head,” say Miller. “I just keep telling myself to keep lifting and charging.” 

Three Rustlers qualify for CNFR

Miller will be joined by two of his teammates, Blain Mathews, a saddle bronc rider, and Shaylee Hance in goat tying, at the CNFR. 

“Blain came in this year and had a really good fall,” says Schrock. “Blain just has an outstanding attitude and never hangs his head when something doesn’t go his way.”

Mathews tied for third in the region for saddle bronc with Travis Nelson of Gillette College with 475 points.

“Shaylee is our women’s team captain and is such a hard worker. Goat tying is definitely her forte,” continues Schrock.

Hance won the regional title for goat tying, with over 130 points separating her from second place Jordan Thurston of Gillette College. 

Schrock says he is proud of all of the Rustlers that are going to the CNFR this year and they all have the potential to do really well in the competition. 

“The Central Rocky Mountain Region is a tough one, and I am really proud of every one of them,” Schrock adds. 

Continuing to rodeo

Miller recently completed his time at CWC and will be heading to Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas in the fall to be coached by Mark Eakin. 

In addition to rodeoing for the college, Miller will be pursing his degree in rangeland ecology and management. 

However, after graduation, Miller plans to rodeo professionally. 

“Once I get out of college, I plan on getting my rookie card and going at it hard,” Miller adds. 

Kelsey Tramp is assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Las Vegas, Nev. – Al Schultz of Cody grew up ranching and roping. In the 60 years he has been roping, Schultz didn’t expect to see the success that he reached this year during the World Series of Team Roping (WSTR)Finale.

“We’ve always competed in team roping,” says Schultz. “Roping has been part of the ranch, as it is a part of every ranch everywhere else.”

At this year’s WSTR, Schultz and his roping partner and son-in-law Mark Aragon took home first place and $240,000 in the #9 Cactus Ropes Short Round.

The competition

Schultz and Aragon qualified for the WSTR finals last year in Livingston, Mont. 

Schultz says, “The entry fee is $2,000 per man to get into Las Vegas. Once we won that, we sent in our entry fees. People don’t get the chance to rope at that kind of event for that kind of money very often.”

“Mark and I both figured we were winners by just getting to Las Vegas,” Schultz says. 

After arriving at the WSTR, Schultz notes that they were broken down into 100-team rotations. Each rotation competes against the others in the rotation for a slot in the Short Round. The top 10 percent of ropers from each rotation advance.

“We ran our three steers on Saturday, getting ready for the Short Round on Sunday,” he explains. “When we got done, we had won our rotation, but there were still 400 teams to rope. I knew we were going to be close to making the Short Round.”

At the end of the evening, the pair was sitting at number one in the average. 

“The next morning, we went and took care of our horses and prepared for the Short Round,” Schultz says.

As the finals wrapped up, Schultz and Aragon needed a time of 11.46 to win the event.

“Going into the arena, I had no doubt that my header was going to catch,” Schultz continues. “I knew that I needed to rope the legs to wind up with a check. We came back in as the high team. When I came around the corner, the steer gave me a dirty dive, but I picked up and rode through it.”

The result was a 11.38 time – 0.08 seconds faster than the time they needed to win.

“I was lucky enough to rope two feet,” Schultz says. “When I rode out of the arena, I knew we had done well.”

Deep meaning

Schultz says winning the event means a lot to both ropers. 

“My son-in-law and I both lost our wives to cancer in the last five years, so it is very special to win with him,” he says. “I give all the praise in the world to God who gave me the ability to be there, and I know our wives were looking down on us.”

Schultz has remarried and says that he is fortunate to have a wonderful wife cheering for his success. 

“Mark has been a part of our family for about 10 years,” he continues. “We’ve been roping together since then.”

After the passing of his daughter, Mark continued to be an integral part of their family. Though he lives in Pagosa Springs, Colo., Mark returns to Cody every summer to spend time with the Schultz family.

Schultz also notes that he has also been humbled by the phone calls, texts and acknowledgement coming in.

“It is very humbling to know that I’ve touched that many people’s lives,” he says. “I’m still not sure I can grasp what we’ve accomplished.”

Continuing to rope

The pair plans to continue to rope together, and Schultz says he is healthy and has no reason to quit. 

“This is one of the few sports that a family can do together,” Schultz says. “There is no age limit. Kids can start as soon as they are old enough to swing a rope until they are too old to.”

Schultz adds, “This goes to show that no matter how old we get, everything is possible. Never give up on a dream.”

World Series of Team Roping

The World Series of Team Roping (WSTR) is an organization that allows ropers from across the country to compete against ropers of their own skill level. 

“To qualify to go to Las Vegas, ropers have to win at least $2,500 in the qualifier ropings,” Al Schultz, team roper from Cody, mentions.

The WSTR offers five divisions at their qualification ropings, and each division has a 21-year-old age minimum.

“The way they have it set up means that ropers are competing against other ropers of their own caliber,” he continues. “It is a fantastic deal.”

 

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Las Vegas, Nev. – For Tuker Carricato, bareback riding is his passion, and he plans to make it back to Las Vegas, Nev. as a professional cowboy one day.

At the 2017 Junior National Finals Rodeo (JNFR) in Las Vegas, Nev., held Dec. 1-10, Tuker won the miniature bareback championship. 

The 12-year-old started in rodeo in 2015 after his parents, Tony and Trisha, brought home a video from the JNFR.

“My parents showed me a video of this mini bareback riding event from Las Vegas, and I just thought it was cool,” says Tuker. “My dad rode bareback, and I wanted to get involved, so I did.”

Getting started

Carricato was born and raised in Saratoga and has spent the past two years dedicating himself to the sport of rodeo.

“After we discussed getting into bareback bronc riding, Tony measured Tuker’s hand, then ordered a rigging, chaps and bought him a glove,” Trisha states. “We got all the equipment in March 2015, and Tuker got on his first horse in the same month.”

In 2016, Tuker rode 20 horses and won JNFR qualifier rodeos in Rocks Springs to make it to Las Vegas and compete at JNFR.

“He made it to JNFR in 2016, his first year in rodeo, and did well,” recalls Trisha. “Tuker was determined to do whatever it took to get back to JNFR in 2017, and he went crazy and did great.”

2017 year

Throughout 2017, Tuker went to 32 rodeos across the country and won 22 of the rodeos he competed in, notes Trisha.

“There are eight pro series rodeos that qualify for JNFR and Tuker won four of those qualifiers to make it to Las Vegas in 2017,” she adds.

“Tuker qualified for JNFR through the pro series and a few other ways because he went to so many rodeos,” Tony mentions. “He just did so well this year.”

Overall, the Carricatos traveled to 10 different states on Tuker’s quest to be the world champion mini bareback rider. 

Tuker also holds multiple rodeo sponsorships, including sponsorship from the American Hat Company, Golden Tiger, Chancey Williams and the Younger Brothers Band, Schnee’s Boots, the Carricato family outfitting business Battle Pass Outfitting and Champions GO 9-Oh by Kelly Timberman.

“I got started with Kelly when I went to one of his bareback riding schools in South Dakota,” says Tuker. “After that, I kept training with him every weekend in Casper.”

Timberman asked to sponsor Tuker and continues to coach and support Tuker through his rodeo career.

JNFR

Tuker said the 2017 JNFR was a lot bigger than any other rodeos he had competed in, and the event was bigger than even the 2016 JNFR.

“There was a lot more competition and more people than I’m used to,” Tuker says.

Regardless, Tuker rode all three of his horses at JNFR, with a high score of 85.75 in the short go.

“On the first day, Tuker placed second by a quarter of a point. The next day, he was second by three quarters of a point but was winning the average going into the short go by three points,” Trisha says. “He ended up winning the average by nine points, won the third round and the championship.”

“It feels good to be the JNFR world champion mini bareback rider,” Tuker states. “There are a lot of world champion bareback riders from Wyoming, and I’m just happy to be one of them.”

Future Plans

Tuker plans to win the bareback championship again but this time in the senior division at the 2018 JNFR.

“I’m also going to get involved in National Junior High School Rodeo, then compete in high school, college and make it as a professional cowboy,” he adds.

Along with rodeo, Tuker also shows livestock in 4-H and competes in multiple sports.

“I’ve been showing steers, sheep and goats for four years in 4-H,” adds Tuker. “Mostly, I’m into wrestling, but I play basketball and football, too.”

Tuker’s favorite sports are rodeo, wrestling and football, but he loves to go hunting when he’s not in school.

Of the 2017 rodeos, Tuker says his favorite rodeos were the Doxa Extreme Rodeo in Alex, Okla. and the Sandhills Stock Show and Rodeo in Odessa, Texas.

“In Odessa, Texas the rodeo was in this giant coliseum, and it was really cool to be around the professional bareback riders. They helped me, especially behind the chutes,” notes Tuker. “The Doxa Extreme Rodeo was pretty cool because there are five arenas with different events going on at the same time in a giant pasture.”

Outside of rodeo, Tuker plans to stick with 4-H and