At the 2022 Wilderness Circuit Finals Rodeo, held in Heber City, Utah, Nov. 4–5, second cousins Hagen Peterson and Dylin Ahlstrom swept all three rounds of competition by a massive margin to take the average title and become the year-end champions before they split for the 2023 ProRodeo season.
“We’ve both been four or five times and that was the first check we’ve ever won at the Circuit Finals,” said Ahlstrom, 24, of Hooper, Utah. “It feels surreal to have that kind of year.”
The Peterson-Ahlstrom team demonstrated consistency throughout the entire competition, winning the first round with a 5.7 for $2,050 each, the second round with a 5.1 for $2,050 each and the third round with a 5.1 for $2,050 each. With a total of 15.9 seconds on three, they finished first in the average by a margin of nearly 5.0 seconds for $3,075 each. This put each of their total earnings for the Wilderness Circuit Finals Rodeo at $9,226, good for the year-end title.
“We were just going in saying, ‘Let’s get three good, clean runs and see how it plays out,’” said Peterson, 22, of Delta, Utah. “We just drew really good, and we were just roping our steers. I wouldn’t say we were trying to go fast. It just worked out the way it did.”
Second place in the average went to the team of Chubbuck, Idaho’s Pace Freed and Lake Shore, Utah’s Cole Wilson, who finished with a total of 20.2 seconds on three for $2,307 a man.
“I got a guy I really look up to and I’m really good friends with named Cole Wilson,” Ahlstrom said. “He was kind of the one that we were battling it out toward the end of the year. I’ve looked up to him for a long time and it was cool to battle with him and come out on top.”
For the win, Peterson rode Jerry, an 8-year-old, grade gelding that he purchased from three-time NFR qualifier Quinn Kesler as a 2-year-old.
“He was a hard horse at first, but he’s turned into one of the best ones I’ve ever ridden,” Peterson said of the horse he relied on as his No. 1 throughout the 2022 season. “He’s just so forgiving and free. He’ll run as hard as he can for me every time. I can throw fast every time and he’ll never start ducking or get short on me. He’s always going to run and not go left until I send him.”
Ahlstrom also rode his No.1, Desert Jack Rabbit (“Rabbit”,) a 12-year-old, bay roan gelding. After starting the 2022 season on Rabbit, the gelding was injured at Logandale, Nevada’s Clark County Fair & Rodeo early in April. He returned to the arena at Heber City, Utah’s Mountain Valley Stampede early in August, just in time to get tuned up for the Wilderness Circuit Finals.
“He’s all or nothing,” Ahlstrom said. “He’s aggressive. Probably the most aggressive horse. He’s goofy and [has] got lots of quirks, but I’ve never ridden a horse that tries his guts out. He’s like tying off to a post when you dally. He finishes runs really well; I think that makes a big difference.”
This was the last big win for Ahlstrom and Peterson before they split for the 2023 ProRodeo season. Peterson plans to head for 2021 Resistol Rookie Heeler of the Year, Caleb Hendrix.
“We are definitely going to make a run for it,” Peterson said. “Go as hard as we can. Hopefully, get into some of those bigger winter rodeos and get a head start on the summer season.”
Ahlstrom’s plans for the 2023 season are still undecided.
“It’s still kind of up in the air right now,” Ahlstrom said. “Good headers are hard to find.”
The team will reunite in Colorado Springs, Colorado, for the 2023 Ram NFR Open next July.
“We’re really excited about the money,” Ahlstrom said. “Caleb Hendrix, a good friend of mine, went last year and said it’s one of the coolest rodeos he’s ever been to. I’m really, really excited for it.”