Kendra Santos: I got to watch you work at the College National Finals Rodeo in June. Tell me about that.
Kolton Schmidt: It was pretty cool to finally make the College Finals, then to win it was a huge accomplishment for us. It was everything we went there for. I went to Western Oklahoma State College in Altus my freshman year, then transferred to Durant as a sophomore. I didn’t make the College Finals my first two years. We had 7.5 on our last steer to win it, and we were 6.2. It was a big sigh of relief. Sawyer and I have roped a bunch. We’ve roped good and have won little things, but never something big. We’re great buddies, so for us to finally have a great win together was awesome.
KS: What’s your college career looking like on the academic side?
SCHMIDT: I’m not going back on a rodeo scholarship. As a Canadian, they make us have a visa to go to school. And with a visa you have to have at least 12 hours of school where you’re actually in class, as opposed to doing the work online. I’m in the process right now of getting a sports visa, which allows me to stay in the States legally for 365 days a year. With that visa, I’m allowed to study online. I’ll finish my degree online without a rodeo scholarship. So I’m done college rodeoing, but I will finish school. I’m getting a communications degree from Southeastern Oklahoma State.
KS: How long have you been roping?
SCHMIDT: I’m a third-generation team roper. My grandpa, Leonard Schmidt, gives our family endless opportunitites to live this life we have. He had an indoor arena that just burned down. He’s so willing to put our futures first that we’ve already started the process of building a new indoor arena. Our family can’t say enough good things about my grandpa.
KS: I got to visit with your dad over lemonade at slack at Reno this year. He must be the second generation to rope in your family then, right?
SCHMIDT: My dad (Ronald Schmidt) won the CFR in 2000, which was the first year they ever had team roping there.
KS: When I think of Canadian sports, I think of hockey. Did you grow up playing hockey?
SCHMIDT: Yes. My mom (Elaine) and dad both grew up playing hockey. They won’t say it, but they’re both pretty good. My dad played on a junior team, which is two steps below the NHL. My mom was on a traveling team that went to Europe playing hockey from Western Canada. I was never as good as them. I love the sport, and started playing when I was little. I played until I was 16. That’s when we got our place in Arizona, and it got to the point where I needed to pick to be serious about one or the other. It was obvious I had no future in hockey.
KS: What’s life like for a young team roper in Canada these days?
SCHMIDT: It’s the perfect time to be a team roper starting his career in Canada. There have been a lot of guys who’ve done a lot for the sport, who came before us and put us where we are now. The Finals have started to become a really good deal. They’re allowing us to rodeo for a full year, and provide us with a good finals and lots of money at the end of the year. In two more years, we’ll have equal money for the team ropers at the CFR.
KS: I’ve been asking for decades why there’s no team roping at the Calgary Stampede. Why is that?
SCHMIDT: Honestly, the reason is unknown. Rodeo as a sport in Canada has finally started to open its arms to team roping, and we are so grateful for that. The Calgary Stampede has always been this way, and their committee sees no reason why their rodeo needs to add an event. They get so many people and tourists to watch it the way it is. Us team ropers have our fingers crossed that someday they’ll let us into their world-class event.
KS: You and Tyrel Flewelling have had a lot of success up in Canada, eh?
SCHMIDT: He’s been a big deal up in Canada for a while now. He’s one of the only guys I know in the team roping who’ve won an NHSRA (National High School Rodeo Association) title from Canada. He’s also been the reserve champ at the College Finals. For him to give me the opportunity to rope with him when I was only 17 is something I’m very grateful for. He’s one of the only guys who believed in me when I was that young.
KS: I’ve typed Murray Linthicum's and Rocky Dallyn’s names into rodeo results more than any other Canadian team ropers, and I was in Salt Lake City to see them win the Olympic Rodeo in 2002. They’re the cat daddies of Canadian team ropers, right?
SCHMIDT: Those are the two guys who started it all for team ropers up there. They were the first guys to come down here and rodeo, then bring the event back up to Canada on the professional level. Rocky was a major part of getting team roping into the Canadian Finals. I made the Canadian Finals with Rocky last year, and I bought one of the horses I’m riding from Murray.
KS: What’s next for you?
SCHMIDT: I’m going to rodeo and try to make the NFR (Wrangler National Finals Rodeo). I’m rodeoing with Dustin Searcy. We’ve been going hard since Reno. We haven’t had much luck yet, but we did win Ponoka, which kind of saved us in a way. The plan is to keep rodeoing for the rest of this year, see where we end up and start back at Denver. This is my first year to really rodeo, and I love it. We’ve had a few reality checks. This sport is definitely a challenge every day. But I sure love it, and you get to meet tons of awesome people and see new things. We mean it when we say we’re living the dream.