Arvada cowboy Bryce Burnell gave the nod to begin the biggest ride of his life on Saturday night at the 65th annual National High School Finals Rodeo in Rock Springs.
The Wyoming state bull riding champion needed a monster ride and he wowed the capacity crowd at the Sweetwater Events Complex with an 82-point score to win the national championship.
Burnell became the first Wyoming bull rider in eight years to win a gold buckle since Clayton Savage did it in 2005. He joins Gillette’s Bobby Welsh on that list. When Welsh won in 2002, he became the first Wyoming bull rider since John King in 1970.
Burnell joins a short-list of Wyoming bull riders who have gone on to ride at the National Finals Rodeo.
In fact, only Laramie Mosley, Sublette, Kan., had a better ride all week The Kansas cowboy posted an 85 to win the short-go. But it was Burnell, who jumped from third in the average going in to national champion, with 225 on three.
Gillette bareback rider Justin Kissack had to sweat it out on the bubble to see if he was even going to get into Saturday’s show. He finally got the draw he was looking for with a Frontier Rodeo Co. horse called Bad Medicine.
But the Campbell County High School graduate, who’s headed to Gillette College, miss his spur out and the no score took away any hopes of moving up.
“I was excited when I found out I’d drawn a really good horse,” said Kissack, who finished 19th in the nation. “I got pretty excited and overwhelmed.
“You got to ride like you practice, but I wasn’t thinking and I didn’t ride as well as I should have.”
Kissack had gone online to see what kind of horse he was looking at in the NHSFR short-round. He discovered it had been ridden to an 84 in North Dakota on its last time out.
“Placing here has been one of my main goals,” Kissack said. “I didn’t reach my ultimate goal, but it was a good way to end my high school career.”
Rozet cowgirl Casey Rae Reimler also made the short-go of the rodeo that featured nearly 1,500 contestants from all across the United States, Canada and Australia.
She had been one of the quickest in the breakaway roping, but she missed her calf in the finals and finished 13th in the nation with a combined time if 5.77 seconds.
Wyoming finished ninth in the team standings with 3,770 points, which included a national champion.
Other Wyoming placers include:
Bareback riding: 14. Jeffery Zdziarski, Sheridan, 130
Saddle bronc riding: 7. Tanner Butner, Daniel, 134; 14. Brody Cress, Hillsdalke, 76
Team roping: 12. Cam Irwin, Buffalo, Weston Mann, Sheridan, 19.5
Goat tying: 19. Ashten Marchant, Newcastle
Breakaway roping: 19. Madison Haun, Torrington, 7.35
Idaho’s Garrett Smith made history when he became the first three-time NHSFR All-Around Cowboy. Garrett won his titles in consecutive years (2011-13) and even picked up a Rookie all-around cowboy title as a freshman in 2010.
This year, he competed at the NHSFR in six events, earning a trip to the short round in boys cutting (where he finished second overall), steer wrestling (sixth overall and won the short round) and saddle bronc riding (fourth).