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National finals - Wyo ranch rodeo team travels to Amarillo

Written by Lacey Brott

Amarillo, Texas – Two eastern Wyoming ranches, Bootheel 7 and Hageman Ranch, together as one, made the 10-hour trek to Amarillo, Texas last week to try their hand at bringing home a world championship title at the National Ranch Rodeo Finals for the Working Ranch Cowboys Association (WRCA).

The cowboys had to be at the Civic Center by Nov. 11 for a mandatory team meeting, followed by dinner and calcutta. The team consisted of brothers Andrew and Eric Wasserburger and Nolan Brott of Lusk, Brett Hageman of Fort Laramie and Lance Hladky of Casper. This year, 23 teams participated in the rodeo, with a Nov. 12 rodeo kicking off the weekend.

At the WRCA event, the rodeo performances are broken up into four performances over four days. Half of the qualifying teams perform two or three exhibitions each day. The events of the ranch rodeo are mostly the same as any locally run show, with a few minor changes, and are based on what a day of working as a cowboy and rancher is like.

Competing in Texas

On the evening of Nov. 12, Bootheel 7 and Hageman Ranch was selected to do bronc riding, stray gathering and wild cow milking.

In the gather, they clocked in at 78.06 seconds. A fast time of 36.41 was recorded in the milking, and Hladky rode his first bronc, receiving the high score of 80.

Those events placed them in the middle of the pack for the evening.

The following night, the Wyoming boys had some tough luck with long times in team penning – 177.25 on two head – and branding, with a time of 105.53.

The Nov. 13 performance brought a no time, or disqualification, in the stray gathering because of the loop limit.

Wild cow milking left the team with a quick time of 28 seconds, but that quickly changed when the judges added on a 30-second penalty. It was determined that Brott crossed the starting line too early while in the arena.

Hladky had yet another qualified bronc ride of 73 points, placing him eighth overall.

Last night

The fourth and final day of the rodeo weekend was the best day for the boys from the Cowboy State.

Team penning situated them with a time of 73.45, and the team branding clocked a fast 45.16 second run, placing them second overall for the event in the second go-around.

WRCA works on the points-per-event system, so for every event completed, points are awarded. At the end of the rodeo, the team with the highest number of points wins. 

This year, the world champions came from a ranch in Kansas called Lonesome Pine. The boys from Wyoming came up short, landing in the middle of the pack for the weekend.

Positive experience

Hageman said, “Amarillo was really great. It’s the NFR of the ranching world, and I would encourage everyone to go see it if they ever get a chance. I’m really proud and fortunate to be on the team that I am. They’re the best ropers and toughest guys. Having the best bronc rider really helped make it one of the greatest times of my life.”

He noted that the experience was very positive, and captain Andrew Wasserburger motivated the team to perform at their best.

“It was a really great experience,” Hageman said. “Our team captain Andrew Wasserburger is the one who always keeps us going and gets us to perform our best. He’s always there to keep us upbeat, giving us Dr. Seuss quotes.”

Hageman continued, “One of the quotes Andrew gave us in Texas was, ‘Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if you only try!’”

WRCA Ranch Rodeo

The Working Ranch Cowboy’s Association (WRCA) Ranch Rodeo includes five events.

In team penning, teams must sort of a specific number of cattle into a small pen as a team.

In team branding, two small calves must be roped by a mounted cowboy and then dragged to three team members on the ground. The ground crew must flank and brand the calf, with the fastest time winning.

Ranch bronc riding is when one member of each team must ride a bucking horse for a total of eight seconds. The bronc rider is scored based on his ability to stay on the animal, gaining more points for “showboating” his ride. Activities such as spurring garner more points.

Stray gathering showcases the cowboys’ roping and horsemanship skills, much like doctoring cattle out on the prairie. This event is very precise, because only a certain number of loops are allowed to be thrown while in the arena. Teams must head and heel two steers and tie three of the animal’s legs together with a piggin’ string using a half hitch knot. Once the animal is tied down, an official will then time six seconds, making sure the steer stays gathered and does not get up.

What seems to be the crowd favorite, wild cow milking, demonstrates one cowboy’s roping ability and three other’s patience and strength with a mama cow. Once the cow is roped, the three muggers on the ground must attempt to hold her still as one squeezes at least enough of her milk to pour out into a bottle. Only a few drops are needed. The cowboy then runs to a designated area of the arena, where an official dumps out the collected milk, stopping the time clock.

Lacey Brott is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Brott also writes for the Lusk Herald. Send comments on this article to roundup@wylr.net.