The 2020 ProRodeo season is nearing the end and rodeo cowboys like eight-time NFR qualifier Kaleb Driggers and 2017 World Champion Heeler Cory Petska and the 2018 Days of ’47 Cowboy Games & Rodeo Champions Kellan and Carson Johnson are in the hunt to enter as many rodeos as possible in hopes of qualifying for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo or their designated circuit finals, which called for a team split.
Driggers and Petska tapped the Johnson brothers for the Douglas County Fair and Rodeo in Castle Rock, Colroado, and the Kit Carson County Pro Rodeo in Burlington, Colorado, the first weekend in August since those two rodeos were only taking entries for Mountain States Circuit and first-year card holders.
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"Kaleb Driggers asked us if we would switch," Kellan, 21, said about the call he received. "When they called and asked to rope, it was a pretty exciting feeling. You always wonder what it would be like to rope with those guys. When they asked us to rope, I had no problem doing it. It wasn’t like we were trading in for anyone less talented. It was a pretty easy choice."
They all started out at the Douglas County Fair and Rodeo where Driggers and Carson made a 4.7-second run to win the rodeo, adding $2,666 to each of their earnings.
"Our steer was supposed to be a little stronger," said Carson, 19. I asked Driggers how he liked them and he said, ‘Just get into a spot to where you can heel him.’ The steer just broke over to the left on his own and Driggers reached and got him. The steer was kind of dead—hung back. My horse came off pretty good. I just heeled him and came tight fast."
Carson can usually be seen heeling on a little roan, but after a few weeks of struggling at the rodeos, he decided to switch to a 7-year-old heel horse named Remix.
"He’s a little more tight," Carson said. "I’ve only had him for about a year and a half now. I actually bought him from my cousin Jerren (Johnson). My dad always wanted me to ride him, so I finally gave him a shot."
What made roping with Driggers even more exciting for Carson was that his father, Jhett Johnson, was second partners with Driggers in 2012.
“Before we left this week to go rodeo, we were watching the 2012 Mike Cervi roping and he and my dad won it by quite a bit, actually," Carson said. "They were second partners that one winter. They never really rodeoed together, but they had been to a lot of jackpots. That’s one of my dad’s very best rodeo friends, so to be able to rodeo with him was very cool."
After Driggers and Carson won Castle Rock, Kellan knew he needed to make up some ground in Burlington to get into the Mountain States Circuit Finals to head for his little brother.
"We needed to do good that weekend to for sure get in and go to the circuit finals," Kellan said. "When Carson was 4.7, it was kind of a sealed deal—he was going to make the circuit finals, so I needed to be sure to do good and get in too, so we could rope at the circuit finals."
Kellan and Petska won the Kit Carson County Pro Rodeo with a 4.4-second run, worth $2,270 a man.
"We’ve never roped or anything," Kellan said. "Those were our first two runs together. We were 50/50. When we got to Burlington, they told us that we had the steer that Phillip Schuman and Josh Fillmore ran in the first perf. They said he was really good. We got the video of him and Cory and I talked about it and I said, ‘Man, I just like them to step to the left. That’s just the pattern I like.’ We agreed on it and he stepped out there and hazed the steer, and I got a good start. He was just loping right there, so I just took one more swing and headed him and Cory threw fast like he always does. We finished our run really well with being in the fence a little bit. I’m glad we didn’t mess it up for them and they got to win a little money."
Kellan headed on a 7-year-old bay gelding he calls Rootbeer.
"I got him from my head coach in Gillette—Will LaDuke," Kellan said. "I have a really good bay horse back at home that I call Cannonball, but [Rootbeer's] really good. I’ve been riding him a lot to get a good feel with him. I feel really comfortable on him, especially at one-headers."
Kellan is now fifth in the Mountain States Circuit heading standings with $2,367.32, and Carson is fourth in the heeling with $2,762.82. Driggers is now 19th in the PRCA world standings with $30,366.51, and Petska is 22nd with $22,588.96. TRJ
Current Circuit Standings Leaders:
Badlands: Cooper White, $10,124.02; Tucker White, $7,675.32
California: Pat Boyle, $6,763.89; Jared Hixon, $6,763.89
Columbia River: Trent Sorey, $789.60; Calgary Smith, $789.60
First Frontier: Eric Fabian, $2,858.68; Derek Carey, $2,858.68
Great Lakes: Payden Emmett, $2,848.20; Cody Andrews, $4,447.14
Maple Leaf: N/A
Montana: Delon Parker, $6,053.09; Ryan Zurcher, $5,098.99
Mountain States: Garrett Tonozzi, $10,575.80; Cullen Teller, $5,472.18
Prairie: Andrew Ward, $16,155.48; Buddy Hawkins II, $14,157.52
Southeastern: Clint Summers, $11,951.07; Britt Bockius, $10,683.19
Texas: Dustin Egusquiza, $16,734.01; Junior Nogueira, $16,761.42
Turquoise: Erich Rogers, $6,619.94; Logan Medlin, $7,133.89
Wilderness: Hagen Peterson, $4,720.21; Jace Nielsen, $4,720.21
Mexico: Jorge Hawkins, $546.06; Miguel Valenzuela, $1,011.23