by Joey Crandall
For most recent high school graduates, summer break is that one last chance to relax before launching headlong into college life. It’s those last few weeks to hang out with friends before saying goodbye.
For Minden resident Wyatt Denny, summer has been anything but a break.
Denny has competed in seven different rodeos already this month, with one of them being the week-long National High School Finals Rodeo, crisscrossing the map to close out his high school career. He’s also hoping to set up his college career and beyond with his aggressive schedule.
“College rodeo is on a whole different level than high school rodeo, and knowing that, I knew I’d have to step my game up this summer,” Denny said. “You always have to be seeking out tougher horses and tougher competition.
“That’s what my brother Grant (Currently at Feather River College) and I did when he was in high school. We’d go to these amateur rodeos and get on pro horses. You’d get to the finals out there and those were bucking horses. That’s where you have to be to get to the next level. You’re only as good as who you compete against.”
In the run up to last week’s National High School Finals Rodeo in Rock Springs, Wyo., Denny put up impressive showings at multiple rodeos in Oregon, Idaho, Washington and Oklahoma. All in the span of about 8 eight days.
“They call it Cowboy Christmas,” Denny said of the first week of July. “There are so many rodeos out there. Last year, I did eight rodeos in seven days. It can get kind of crazy. But, that’s where you make some money.”
This year, he started things off in Silverdale, Washington on June 30. He had the following day off, and then competed in Hailey, Idaho on July 2. He competed in Grangeville, Idaho on July 3, Vancouver, Wash. on July 4 and La Pine, Ore., on July 5.
“I drove all night and got home at 3 a.m., caught a plane out of Reno at 6 a.m. and competed in Shawnee, Oklahoma,” Denny said.
He won the bareback in Silverdale (85), took third in Hailey (78), second in Grangeville (82), won in Vancouver (80) and won in La Pine (81).
In Shawnee, he took second in the first performance, won the second performance and got bucked off at the very end of what would have been a winning ride in the short-go.
Denny followed by competing in the national finals the following week, posting a strong ride in the first round, and staying in the top echelon with a solid second round ride. He wound up taking fifth overall.
“It’s tough, because I feel like I should have won it, but my second two horses just weren’t great,” Denny said. “That’s rodeo. Sometimes it’s just the luck of the draw. Fifth isn’t bad, but I was going into it excited to win it. But fifth in the country, that’s OK.”
He’ll compete in a few more rodeos before heading out for Panola College in Carthage, Texas in the middle of August. He selected Panola after receiving 15 full-ride offers and whittling it down to eight schools.
“Panola has a good program and their coach is a really great guy,” Denny said. “The region as a whole is so good. I wanted to go up against the best, because that is the only way you get better.
“The coach’s cousin is Tildon Hooper, who is a really good pro bareback rider. He comes out to practices and I’m really looking forward to learning from him.”
The ultimate goal is to make a living as a professional bareback rider.
“There are guys out there that try to go straight from high school onto the pro circuit and it just never works out in the long run,” Denny said. “This way, you get a degree, and you get great experience. It’s just a stepping stone you have to take. If you make the college finals, you get to go in front of professional judges, and that’s how you really start getting your name out there.”
Along those lines, Denny will launch into competing in professional rodeos on the side next month when he turns 18.
“I’m just excited to get out there and compete at the next level, and then help my team and see what I can do at the college level.”