Winkelman, Arizona’s John Gaona and Casa Grande, Arizona’s Trevor Nowlin hopped on a flight from Arizona to South Dakota to compete at Rodeo Rapid City (South Dakota) in the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center, Feb. 4–6, 2021, for Gaona’s first-ever PRCA Pro Rodeo.

Gaona, 21, and Nowlin, 22, were the 18th team out in the Thursday morning slack and laid down a run in 4.1 seconds to move into the lead. After sweating four performances, they won the rodeo, adding $6,255 to each of their earnings, and filled Gaona’s PRCA permit.

“My partner told me that we were going to fly to Rapid City. He said it was one of the highest paying rodeos,” said Gaona, who has a degree in agricultural business and is working toward obtaining a certificate for heavy equipment from Central Arizona College. “I go to a bunch of amateur rodeos, so I wasn’t too nervous. It was a last-minute deal.”

The Rushmore Plaza Civic Center is a small indoor arena, so for Gaona and Nowlin to draw the steer they did helped them to secure the win.

“I felt like he was one of the best ones they had,” Gaona said. “He broke perfect, to where I could just get my swing off in the box and get it on him nice and tight. When I’d seen my heeler rope him, I just kind of tried to keep everything tight and moving so we could get a faster flag.”

“I was kind of a jump behind and had to reach a little bit at him,” said Nowlin, who is working toward a degree in agricultural technology management at the University of Arizona. “I caught him and missed my dally a little bit and finally got that and still ended up being 4.1.”

Gaona borrowed Cyle Denison’s 14-year-old, sorrel mare, SL Dainty Lena, also known as Beyoncé.

“She’s really nice and easy to head on,” Gaona said. “That horse ducked left real nice. She kind of did all the work for me. I just rode.” 

Cyle Denison's Mare Beyonce.

“It was good to see somebody else win on her—just to know that she’s good enough that anybody can hop on her and go that fast,” Denison said.

Nowlin hopped on Jace Engesser’s 8-year-old, sorrel heel horse, KR Badger Zack, also known as Trump.

“I’ve never rode him before and I saw that he was going to be up over there,” Nowlin said of Engesser. “I asked him one night at the jackpot in Wickenburg if I could ride him and he said yes.”

Jace Engesser's horse KR Badger Zack

Engesser got Trump as a 4-year-old, when he was already started heeling and in breakaway.

“He’s super quick-footed,” Engesser said. “Trevor rides a lot of quick-footed horses. When he asked me if he could ride him, I figured they would get along good. It’s kind of his style.”

Gaona is now No.1 in the team roping heading permit standings with $6,255.47, and both Gaona and Nowlin are No.1 in the ProRodeo Tour standings with 500 points each. 

Trevor Nowlin reaching out over the top of "Chump" to heel the paint steer at Rodeo Rapid City.

Trevor Nowlin reaching out over the top of "Chump" to heel the paint steer at Rodeo Rapid City.

Full Results:

1. John Gaona and Trevor Nowlin, 4.1 seconds, worth $6,255 each

2/3. Brenten Hall and Chase Tryan, 4.2 seconds, worth $5,268 each

2/3. Hayes Smith and Justin Davis, 4.2 seconds, worth $5,268 each

4. Aaron Tsinigine and Ryan Motes, 4.3 seconds, worth $4,280 each

5. Jon Peterson and Riley Curuchet, 4.7 seconds, worth $3,622 each 

6. Clint Summers and Ross Ashford, 4.8 seconds, worth $2,963 each 

7/8. (tie) Jace Johnson and Jake Beard, 5.0 seconds, worth $1,975 each

Brandon Webb and Kollin VonAhn, 5.0 seconds, worth $1,975 each

9. Nick Sartain and Coleby Payne, 5.1 seconds, worth $988 each

10. Rhen Richard and Jeremy Buhler, 5.4 seconds, worth $329 each

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