Working the Plan: Ketch Kelton Takes Command of JR Ironman after Second Round
Arizona high school junior Ketch Kelton just took command of the 2023 Ironman after two rounds inside the Lazy E Arena.
Ketch Kelton competes in the heading in team roping at the 2023 JR Ironman at the Lazy E Arena.
Ketch Kelton in Round 2 of the 2023 JR Ironman. | Image courtesy Lazy E Arena by James Phifer.

Reigning NHSRA All-Around champion Ketch Kelton topped the second performance of the JR Ironman at the Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Oklahoma, stealing the lead from frontrunner and reigning JR Ironman, Clay Clayman.

Arizona native Kelton (17) was a blistering 32.7 seconds on four in the heading, heeling, tie-down roping and steer wrestling to earn $750 and firmly secure his position in the aggregate on eight head with a time of 72.4 seconds.

“I feel pretty strong in both the heading and heeling, because that’s what I do most frequently. Bulldogging is definitely my weakest event. Before I came, my goal was just to avoid any 60’s and do my best each run.”

Ketch Kelton

The high school junior from Arizona is stacked against cowboys with ProRodeo experience, but he didn’t let nerves get in the way of his performance. In the team roping, he had friend and world champion header Aaron Tsinigine and two-time Ironman champion, Kyle Lockett on the heels. Kelton also had his personal gelding, “Boon,” beneath him on both ends.

“We got him about a year ago,” kelton said. “My dad got him to head on, but I took him over and started heeling and heading on him.”

Kelton is sticking to the plan.

In the first performance of the 2023 event, Kelton was just over three seconds behind Clayman. When it was time for the second round, he kicked things off with the top heading time of the day, then saw the opportunity open up to make his move whenever Clayman pulled out a second loop in the tie-down roping.

Kelton was rock solid in the heeling, and all eyes turned to his self-proclaimed weak event of steer wrestling, which saw nearly half the field chasing down steers on foot in an effort to avoid a 60-second time. Kelton further separated himself from the pack by taking the opportunity to slam one in 5.0 seconds with world champion Tyler Pearson on the hazing side.

Ketch Kelton competes in the steer wrestling at the 2023 JR Ironman.
Kelton went 5.0 seconds in the bulldogging, his “weakest event,” to secure his performance win in Round 2 of the JR Ironman. Lazy E photo by James Phifer.

Clayman, who is seated No. 2 in the aggregate with just 1.3 seconds to make up on Kelton, isn’t planning on letting off the throttle come the final round on Saturday.

“I messed up today, and Ketch is a great competitor,” Clayman said. “What’s in my control is that I can keep doing my job. I can’t control anything outside of my performance tomorrow.”

Kelton will also plan on staying in his own lane with a similar strategy. His parents, Chance and Tammy, grandparents and other family are in full support, and he’s trying to keep blinders on to avoid the pressure.

“I’ve got a lot of family here cheering me on, which is great,” Kelton said. “Now I just have to take it run-by-run tomorrow and keep knocking them down.”

Keep up with full 2023 Cinch Timed Event Championship Results here.

JR Ironman Round 2 Winners (on four head)

  1. Ketch Kelton 32.7 seconds, worth $750
  2. Clay Clayman 37.4 seconds, worth $250
  3. Mason Appleton 38.5 seconds
  4. Dylan Hancock 58.4 seconds
  5. Conner Griffith 59.6 seconds
  6. Caleb Lake 59.9 seconds
  7. Wyatt Williams 87.9 seconds
  8. Jake Holmes 88.5 seconds
  9. Kreece Dearing 154.5 seconds
  10. Evan Bottini 155.3 seconds

Aggregate After Round Two (on eight head)

  1. Ketch Kelton 72.4 seconds
  2. Clay Clayman 73.7 seconds
  3. Dylan Hancock 118.1 seconds
  4. Conner Griffith 118.7 seconds
  5. Mason Appleton 129.2 seconds
  6. Caleb Lake 157.6 seconds
  7. Wyatt Williams 191.8 seconds
  8. Evan Bottini 204.6 seconds
  9. Jake Holmes 229.7 seconds
  10. Kreece Dearing 266.5 seconds
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