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Men's Rodeo Wins Consecutive National Championship

Submitted by Kashly Schweer on 06/17/2018 The Panhandle State Men's Rodeo team secured the University's second consecutive National Title on Saturday night, June 16th at the CNFR in Casper, Wyo. This championship took the University's tally to seven with previous titles in 1997, 1998, 2000, 2004, 2013, 2017, and now 2018. —Photo by Dan Hubbell The Panhandle State Men's Rodeo team secured the University's second consecutive National Title on Saturday night, June 16th at the CNFR in Casper, Wyo. This championship took the University's tally to seven with previous titles in 1997, 1998, 2000, 2004, 2013, 2017, and now 2018. —Photo by Dan Hubbell

Goodwell, Okla. — When a team rises above expectations and seizes an opportunity, grand achievements follow. The Oklahoma Panhandle State University Rodeo Team swept the men’s team standings in the Central Plains Region throughout the regular season and was expected to perform highly at the College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyo.; an expectation that they not only met, but exceeded by claiming the 2018 National Men’s Team Championship.

Unbeknown to Head Rodeo Coach, Robert Etbauer, the team had a good-sized advantage heading into the championship round ahead of Tarleton State University and Northwest Oklahoma State University, but still had their work cut out for them Saturday night.

“You know me, I don’t pay attention to the standings. We just try to win first in everything that we have a chance to,” Etbauer said of the team’s position leading into the final round.

Winning first is just what they did. With 750 points accumulated throughout the six days of rodeo action, Panhandle State was 100 points over second place TSU to bring the title back to Goodwell for the second consecutive year.

“I think, first and foremost, what winning does for our University is back up and exemplify the commitment to excellence we find in every corner of this campus,” Dr. Tim Faltyn, Panhandle State President, said.

Commonly dubbed as “Saddle Bronc U”, Jake Finlay and Dawson Dahm proved that the little Oklahoma town comes by its nickname rightfully. Finlay has found success inside the Casper Events Center by placing the past two years, but had his sights aimed higher for his final trip to the CNFR. The Queensland, Australia native made a big move in the third round when he scored 81 points to win the round and jump into first place in the aggregate heading into Saturday night’s championship go. He continued to have the throttle open during the short go where he marked his highest point ride of the week of 82 points to place second behind Brody Cress of TSU. With consistent high-marked rides, Finlay tallied 311.5 points on four head, 16.5 points ahead of his nearest competitor, and was named the 2018 National Champion Saddle Bronc Rider.

“I’m overwhelmed and so stoked,” Finlay said following his win. “I’m so happy for the team. It’s almost better than the (individual) national title in some ways.”

The Aussie wasn’t alone behind the Powder River bucking chutes. Teammate, Dahm, started the week strong by splitting the opening round win with a score of 78 points. He continued to make strong rides throughout the week to come back to the final round in third place. After spurring a dirty bucker that never gave him two jumps alike on Saturday night, the Canadian cowboy landed in third place in the round behind his senior teammate and was named the Reserve Champion Saddle Bronc Rider.

Panhandle State may be famous for the success in the saddle bronc riding, but the team excelled in multiple events to claim the team title. Will Martin showcased his all-around talents by competing in the bareback riding and the steer wrestling. Martin slipped into the championship round in the last hole of the bareback riding with his total of 218.5 on three head.

“The week started pretty slow,” Martin said of his bareback riding performance. “I had a weaker horse in the first round, but it gradually got better.”

Better is an understatement. Martin marked higher point rides with each horse he put his riggin on throughout the week and finished with a 79-point ride on Saturday night to split third and fourth in the short go and move up to eighth place in the national standings.

“Will started us out with an awesome bareback ride,” Etbauer said with Assistant Coach, Shelbie Weeder, adding, “After Will was 79 points in the bareback riding to start the night, I knew the boys were going to handle it.”

The final member of the PSU team in the championship round was Dustin Martinez in the bull riding. Martinez’s highlight came in the second round when he went 79.5 points to place second. That was enough to punch his ticket for Saturday night. Although Martinez failed to make the 8-second whistle, his performance earlier in the week gave the team the boost they needed to help secure the title.

“I’m just lucky to get to come up here to Casper and watch these kids,” Etbauer said. “They work hard at it in the practice pen all year and it is pretty special when it all comes together. I’m lucky to be along for the ride.”

In addition to the four individuals in the short round, Panhandle State had several other accomplishments during the week. Callum Miller broke the ice for the team by scoring 70 points in the opening round in the bull riding. He barely missed the short go by placing 13th. After separating his ribs on a big, stout horse in the first round of the bareback riding, Dylan Riggins had trouble in the following rounds but stayed in Casper to support his team on their quest for the national title.

Representing Panhandle State at the timed event end of the arena, Luke Meier competed in the team roping where he partnered with Sloan Smith from Southwestern Oklahoma State University. The duo never roped together before nodding their head in Casper on Monday morning, and although suffered penalties during the week, landed in 16th overall.

On the women’s team, Caitlyn Wiswell competed in the breakaway roping. After enduring a no time in the first round, she was gunning for first during the slack Tuesday morning. She stopped the clock in a rapid 2.1 seconds, but got a speeding ticket added on. She finished the week with a solid run of 3.0 seconds and hopes to return to Casper next year, and will do so in her new Dodge Ram that she was awarded during the performance on Saturday.

“Everyone who buys their NIRA card is eligible and they draw names out and give the truck away during the short go of the CNFR,” Wiswell said. She was notified of her good fortune in May when she received a phone call from the NIRA office. After tears of gratitude and excitement, Wiswell recorded miles on her new ride by following Coach Weeder back to Goodwell where she will return for her final year of studies.

Kaylee Smith also qualified for the big dance in the goat tying. She finished her first trip to the CNFR with a 7.0-second run in the third round. Although too long on three head to make the cut for the short go, Smith was recognized for her outstanding academic and civic performance by receiving two scholarships including the prestigious “Duke of the Chutes” scholarship in honor of the great Harry Vold.

“They didn’t have the week they thought they would in the arena, but Kaylee walked away with two scholarships and Caitlyn is driving off in a brand new pickup,” Weeder said. “We will get home on Monday and start all over again. We have had the best recruiting year since I have been around, so we will be a little young, but still have a chance next year to have two teams in Casper.”

Giving young athletes opportunities to grow, develop and prosper is something Etbauer and Weeder have a knack for with Etbauer now having three team titles under his belt and Weeder being onboard for the recent back-to-back championships.

“As President, it is an honor to work with everyone at the University, but Robert, Sue and Shelbie inspire me to be better,” Faltyn said. “The team’s academic advisor, Dr. Nels Peterson, had majority of the team on the President and Dean’s honor roll which means they’re not just getting it done in the arena, but in the classroom as well.”

As the tally moves to seven, the tradition of winning continues to hold strong in the Panhandle.