wild and rich

Andrew Ward, Kollin VonAhn Win First Reno Rodeo Titles, Climb 2024 World Standings with $17K Payday
Andrew Ward and Kollin VonAhn jumped to No. 3 and 10 in the world, thanks to their $17,214 win at the 2024 Reno Rodeo.
Andrew Ward and Kollin VonAhn took the 2024 Reno Rodeo title. | Hailey Rae photo

Andrew Ward and Kollin VonAhn took home their first Reno Rodeo titles Saturday, June 29, 2024, pushing VonAhn inside the Top 15 with Ward.

Ward and two-time World Champion VonAhn walked away with the coveted Reno Rodeo spurs in hand and $17,214 in their pockets, jumping Ward to No. 3 in the world standings with $75,303.60 and VonAhn to No. 10 with $48,737.54, marking the first major win of their new partnership.

“Roping with your buddy, you want to see him do good and, of course, you want to do good for yourself,” said Ward, the 2021 NFR average champion. “Big wins like that set our year up and make it easier on us. It was a lot of fun to get to rope with Kollin over there and our first year we win Reno, that was fun.”

One of the most prestigious wins of each year, Reno kicks off their summer run and is a win VonAhn has been striving toward.

“Reno is what starts the summer run to me—that’s when rodeo gets serious, and it’s a great rodeo,” VonAhn said. “It’s a real professional, badass rodeo, and so guys want to do good there. I haven’t done very good at Reno hardly at all; I’ve won some, but borderline I have no reason to enter it if you want to go off statistics. But it’s one of those you always enter because it’s such a great rodeo, so to finally get it won and to finally do good there, that’s a fun rodeo to win.”

How the Reno Rodeo was won

Ward and VonAhn roped in the first set in Reno, Saturday, June 21, and they didn’t have the first-round run they hoped for. Ward was off the barrier more than he would have liked to be on a stronger steer. Having used more rope than needed, it took some time to get their steer turned, but they stopped the clock clean in 6.7 seconds.

They weren’t thrilled about their steer in the second round after watching him with J.C. Yeahquo and Buddy Hawkins in Round 1 that morning, but they were pleasantly surprised at how he performed that night.

“If there’s one we don’t want, we don’t want Buds’ because they had run all the runners in the slack that morning, so basically we had a ton of good steers in our set,” Ward explained. “But then when we did run him, he was an outstanding cow, honestly, for us. I thought we made a really sweet run, got a good start and, it wasn’t risky, but there wasn’t any wasted time in the run.”

READ: The Pre-Run Prayers That Keep Andrew Ward’s Mind Right

Their 4.6-second run pocketed them $5,806 a man, and they moved on to the short round with an 11.3 on two, tied at eighth, ninth and 10th. While there were only nine-tenths of a second separating them from the No. 1 team, Ward wasn’t sure of their chances at the Reno Rodeo title.

“I didn’t really think there was any way we were going to win the rodeo,” Ward admitted. “I just thought it’d be nice if you could put a 4-second run on them and end up fourth or fifth. I just think we drew enough better than a lot of guys and we made a sweet run, so it allowed us to keep bumping up there.”

Knowing they drew a runner, Ward focused on getting a good start.

“I didn’t want to be late, so I was just planning on being aggressive at the barrier,” Ward said. “I almost broke the barrier but that’s what kind of made the run easy for us, and we could just block him in and catch him in 4 seconds without taking much risk after I took all the risk at the barrier.”

They won the short round with a 4.8 for $1,392 a man and took home the Reno Rodeo title with a 16.1 on three.

Reno Rodeo horsepower

The Reno win wasn’t just special for Ward but also for his equine counterpart. Ward’s 13-year-old gray gelding RLJ CASHNCZECHTAFAME was pivotal in their success in Reno, and while his famous Cole E Man, akaBiscuit,” gets a lot of credit throughout the year, the horse he calls Henry is just as important to him.

Andrew Ward's RLJ CASHNCZECHTAFAME

“It was pretty sweet getting the win on him,” Ward said of the horse he calls Henry. “He deserves it, and he needs to get some credit because I do still ride him a ton of places; even though Biscuit gets most of the highlights, he’s won us a bunch of money this year.”

The 10-year-old roan VonAhn rode on the heel side is a trusty gelding that’s ran his fair share of steers, but he hasn’t seen the bright lights of the rodeo road as much as others. VonAhn and World Champion Kaleb Driggers bought WYO Royal N Shiny five or six years ago, but he’s now solely in VonAhn’s herd. With futurities and big ropings under his belt, VonAhn felt it was WYO Royal N Shiny’s time to see the rodeo world.

“I think he’s great, but he’s got a cool personality, and he’s really just a cool horse to be around to where I really, really like that horse,” VonAhn said. “I honestly haven’t rodeoed on him much, but I’ve rode him at a lot of jackpots. He’s kind of a trusty.”

Kollin VonAhn's WYO Royal N Shiny

Long time coming

Reno Rodeo may be Ward and VonAhn’s first major rodeo win together, but this partnership has been a long time coming. Second partners for nearly a decade, the two live just 40 minutes from each other and have done a lot of practicing and roping together over the years.  

“He’s a really good friend of mine, we rope all the time and I think he’s one of the best headers there is,” VonAhn said of the four-time NFR header. “To get the opportunity to rope with him is a big deal to me. I’m at the spot in my career, if you don’t have a great partner, I’ve pretty much seen what all the rodeos look like anyways. I still feel like I want to go—it’s not any of that—but to have the opportunity to rope with somebody that good, that makes this fun.”

VonAhn’s last trip to Vegas came in 2015—the same year he won his second world title—but his absence wasn’t because he didn’t want to rodeo. His rodeo plans the last five years allowed him to spend more time at home while also building a solid herd of horses through the futurity world. Now having a lineup of good horses and Ward spinning steers for him, VonAhn feels lucky to be back.

“Everything’s kind of lined out,” VonAhn said. “My kid’s at the perfect age that she still likes to go to the rodeos, and I’m sure when she’s 14 she’s going to be over it, but to me that’s kind of God’s timing, that everything fits perfect. And to get those opportunities at the perfect time, that’s why I think I’m one of the luckiest guys out here.”

Despite not getting into the winter rodeos this year, VonAhn now sits inside the Top 15 going into one of the busiest times of year, Cowboy Christmas, making that Reno momentum all the more important.

“You have to make up ground somewhere and, consequently, the guys that get into all the rodeos are the best guys, too,” VonAhn explained. “So, it’s hard to make up ground unless you win at one of these big rodeos. There’s a handful of them that I think are the biggest ones, and to do that at this time of year and give us a little momentum, get the ball rolling in the right direction, that’s a kind of a sigh of relief.” 

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