degrees in hand

Time is Right: Chase Graves in 2024 Resistol Rookie of the Year Hunt
Chase Graves has his sights set on the 2024 Resistol Rookie of the Year title after waiting for the right time.
Chase Graves heeling behind Koby Sanchez at the 2024 Resistol Rookie Roundup.
Chase Graves heeling behind Koby Sanchez at the 2024 Resistol Rookie Roundup. | Kay Miller photo

Chase Graves has been around the ProRodeo world his entire life and, in 2024, he’s finally making his run at the Resistol Rookie Heeler of the Year title.

Graves, the 25-year-old son of three-time NFR qualifier Frank Graves, sits No. 3 in the Resistol Rookie of the Year race with $16,135.06 won on the year. After waiting a few years for the right time to buy his rookie card, Graves knows the significance behind the title.

“I’ve kind of waited around until I felt like I had a good chance, and I still feel like I do,” said Graves, who won the 2020 PRCA Permit Member of the Year Challenge. “It’s just one of them deals you only get one shot. You have one chance your rookie year, and you either get it or you don’t. You have to bow up and get it.”

Strategic Delay

Graves rodeoed on his permit while in college and has made the Southeastern Circuit Finals over the years. Despite his successes, he made the conscious decision to wait and buy his card until he graduated college.

“You see guys that make super long careers out of it, but I didn’t want to be that guy,” said Graves, who made multiple trips to the CNFR for both Pearl River Community College and the University of West Alabama. “When I get done rodeoing or when I get tired of it, I didn’t want to have nothing to do. You see so many guys that when rodeo’s over, they have to start from scratch. So, I definitely wanted to go to college.”

READ: College Matters: How Higher Ed Changed 6 ProRodeo Ropers’ Lives

He also wanted to wait until he had a serious chance at winning the Resistol Rookie of the Year title, which isn’t an easy feat for a kid who’s just breaking out.

“I also didn’t feel like I was ready when I was 18,” Graves admitted. “I probably thought I was, maybe, but looking back now, I definitely wasn’t ready at all. I’m glad that I went to college and circuit rodeoed, and I grew up a little bit.”

Product of his raising

Graves had more exposure to the rodeo road as a child than most, flying out to some summer rodeos and tour finales to watch his dad. He was a little too young, though, during his dad’s three trips to Las Vegas—2001, 2002 and 2004—to truly remember much of his career. 

Still, having an NFR header and 2002 Olympic Command Performance Rodeo bronze medalist for a dad, Graves was bound to rodeo. But it took some time for the Poplarville, Mississippi, kid to get the roping itch.  

“Honestly, I wasn’t that interested with rodeo until I was probably 10 or 11—I honestly could have cared less,” Graves said with a laugh. “Looking back now, I’m like, ‘Golly, I wish I would have paid more attention.’ But, I didn’t. I remember going to the rodeos and stuff like that, but not a ton of it.”

While Graves’ Poplarville stomping grounds are small, it’s a rodeo community. He grew up down the road from 1994 World Champion Tie-Down Roper Herbert Theriot and his family, so Graves spent the majority of his childhood and teenage years in the arena with his own dad, Herbert and his son, Marcus, who made his first NFR trip in 2023. 

LISTEN: The Short Score: Marcus Theriot’s First NFR

“Me and Marcus, we were lucky to have Herbert and my dad helping us,” Graves said. “We kind of had an advantage getting started off on the right track. You see a lot of kids just go rope and they don’t really know what they’re doing, but [our dads] always kept us on some good horses and at least taught us how to make horses, how to practice to get better and how to win.”

Graves quickly became a standout in the arena, taking home the 2013 National Junior High School Rodeo Association heeling title. And make no mistake, he was raised to be an all-around contender, too, which he demonstrated when he won the 2017 IFYR (International Youth Finals Rodeo) steer wrestling title. But heeling was always No. 1, and he was lucky enough to spend a few teenage years amateur rodeoing with his dad.

“Looking back, I realize how cool that was getting to rope with him for them few years,” Graves said. “He kind of taught me how to get around and how to win, basically. Then when I was 16 or 17, he kind of cut me loose. We were just lucky to have that.”

Navigating his rookie year

Now in his rookie season, Graves started 2024 heeling for three-time NFR qualifier Jake Cooper, and they picked up some early checks in Rapid City and San Antonio.

“I feel like it’s went pretty good, but it’s definitely a big learning curve, for sure,” Graves said. “We got into San Antonio and got to go to some of the good rodeos and did good. It’s definitely been really fun. I’m just excited for the rest of it.”

In between partners right now, Graves is back in Mississippi helping with things around the house. He is entering some amateur rodeos to stay sharp and holding onto the goal of hunting the Resistol Rookie of the Year title.

“I [claimed] the Texas Circuit this year, so I’m thinking about going Texas Circuit rodeoing and maybe going to some of the Kansas rodeos,” Graves said. “Just kind of seeing what we’re looking like. If I get a good partner and a good chance to go out to the Northwest or something, I would to try and win [Rookie of the Year].”

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