As the regular season of the 2014-15 college rodeo season winds down, once again Weatherford College is in position to earn a berth in the College National Finals Rodeo.
But then, what else is new? In each of the past 10 seasons Weatherford College has been represented at the CNFR, including sending an entire team (men) last season for the first time ever. The most consistent part of the Coyotes program over the years has been roping. A look at the current standings in the Southwest Region of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association once again reflects that.
Entering April 17-19, the WC program had six men ranked in the top six in their respective competitions and one woman. Also, the WC men were ranked third in the region with 2,420 points, trailing Tarleton (4,617.50) and Western Texas (2,695).
The top two teams, top two all-around competitors, and top three in each of the event standings qualify for the CNFR in Casper, Wyo., in June. Those places will be determined at the Tarleton State Rodeo in Stephenville.
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The WC team is coached by a member of the Texas Rodeo Hall of Fame, Johnny Emmons, a great roper of nearly a quarter century. He has qualified for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR) five times: 1989, 1998, and 2001-2003. A former Texas Circuit All-Around and three time Tie-Down Roping Champion, Emmons qualified for the Texas Circuit Finals 20 consecutive years (1988-2007), including five appearances in team roping. The 1988 PRCA Texas Rookie of the Year has over $800,000 in career earnings.
He's also the reigning NIRA Southwest Region Coach of the Year.
Emmons took some time to answer a few questions about why Weatherford College rodeo is so successful annually, and how roping has helped the program excel.
Why is WC always so good in the roping events?
Well, I would like to think that having a coach who made a living roping and qualified for the WNFR five times has something to do with it (chuckling). But even going back to the beginning when Mike [Brown] was the coach, he is a roper, his son-in-law Matt Tyler was a multi-time WNFR qualifier, so over the years, we have just drawn and had our pick at the best ropers out there. I get a lot of requests from students and parents alike that want to come to Weatherford because they think I will help and improve their roping. Plus, we have a good practice facility, and maintain quality practice cattle for the students.
Another reason is the area we live in. I've said many times the Weatherford-North Texas area is a rodeo haven, and especially with the roping events. There are a lot of opportunities for students to compete on a regular basis within an hour’s drive of the campus.
Where do you consistently find good high school ropers?
I look at the high school rodeo associations nationwide, but I pay close attention to the Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico ropers. That’s where most of the top ropers seem to be from. I get calls from some of my past rodeo buddies, word of mouth and our current students help me recruit and be aware of the top ropers that are out there.
How important is it to be consistent in roping, and what does it take to be consistent?
The roping events are probably the most intricate of all. It takes an extreme work ethic to be at the top. It takes great horsemanship, athletic ability and the determination to practice, practice, practice. As far as points go, the roping events are the hardest to win points in because it is so competitive.
We have some of the best ropers in the country right now, all here at the same time. It has been a blessing and a lot of fun to have these guys (Kyle Macy, Cole Wheeler, Casey Tew, Seth Cooke, Kody Mahaffey, Kyle Harmon) all here at once. Most of the time we're not going to beat the other schools with just ropers, but for now, we have a good chance with these guys and we will just continue on being good at what we are good at, and work on getting some help on the rough stock end.
Last year, having Jared Parsonage winning in the bull riding had a lot to do with us making nationals [as a team]. We don’t have that this year, but hopefully our ropers can pull it out.
I am excited about next year, too, because not only are we getting a former national high school champion calf roper and team roper, we are also getting an outstanding bull rider – Pistol Preece, who is already winning at the pro level. So I think our men’s team will remain very strong next year as well…the aforementioned guys we have now will all be back next year.
Are there any dangers in roping events? What sort of ways can a roper get hurt?
All rodeo events are dangerous. In calf roping, the most common injuries are usually knees, and occasionally wrists or fingers if they get caught in the slack. Team ropers lose fingers sometimes when dallying.
What makes a guy/gal choose a particular roping event? Are some more physical? Do some require more finesse?
Calf roping is an individual sport that requires a lot of physical work and finesse. Team roping is easier to participate in and requires less physical work.
What was it that drew you to roping and what makes you love it so much?
I was born into it. My dad roped a lot when I was a kid, and we owned a rope company. So there were always cowboys coming by our place. Sometimes they would rope with us. I was exposed to many top cowboys/world champions at a young age, and it became a dream of mine to make it to the top.
What advice do you have for a youngster interested in roping?
My advice to a youngster who wants to rope is to develop a very strong work ethic. Work hard every day, practice every day, get quality help, pointers/lessons from other top ropers, study the good ropers, try to learn something from each run, invest in good horses, and maybe one of the most important things is to have good horsemanship.
All good ropers know how to ride/rope on their horse the proper way that will allow the horse to do his job consistently over a long period of time. Roping horses are very expensive, $10,000 to $100,000. A rodeo cowboy cannot afford to buy a new horse every year, so one of the best things a kid could do is to learn good horsemanship so that his/her horse will last a few years.