Whiz Kids: The Best in the Junior Ranks
We asked the pros which kids are the best in their respective disciplines.

Tie-down Roping

Credit: Courtesy of RFD-TV’s The American

Westyn Hughes

16 years old, Caldwell, Texas

Biggest win: This year I was the first qualifier for The American. I was the first guy to win a qualifier, and I was also the youngest to get invited to the San Angelo Roping Fiesta. I won the Joe Beaver Roping over Easter weekend, and I won the Barry Burk Roundup Memorial Day weekend.

Influence: My dad. I wouldn’t even be able to rodeo without him. He’s been so helpful for me and given me the best help and horses he could. Rodeo costs a lot, and we travel a lot. Diesel and horses are expensive, trailers, trucks, calves, barns, arenas, it all adds up. I’m appreciative of what he’s done for me. It’s not normal for a parent to give their child as much as he’s given me. Justin Maass has helped me, Joe Beaver, Steven Perry, Lanhan Mangold and Fred Whitfield have all been huge in helping me.

Career plans: Right now, I’m a sophomore in high school. I go to the UPRAs and CPRAs, but no high school rodeos. I was the youngest to win the CPRA and the UPRA, and I qualified for the CPRA Finals after I turned 15. When I turn 18, I plan on rodeoing. College is up in the air. My mom wants me to go, and I may have a shot if I have some good horses. We’ll see what happens with college, and hopefully I’ll get to go.

Best horse: I got him from Seth Rodriguez. His name is McLovin. We’ve been very fortunate to have him. Good horses are hard to find and great ones you don’t come across very often. It’s not every day you get to ride a horse like him. He’s 10 years old and he’s got a really good mind on him, he scores like a rock, he can fly and he will drag his tail every time he stops.

Favorite place to rope: My favorite setting I’ve ever roped in is the San Angelo Roping Fiesta. They get a few thousand people to watch it, and it’s a long score with big calves. The top 40 guys in the world are there, and it’s a really cool atmosphere to rope in. Just to see your name there with Tuf Cooper, Justin Maass and Fred Whitfield is a blessing.

Best piece of advice: Score first, rope second, flank and then tie. Your scoring leads to a great neck catch. A great neck catch leads to great flanking and great flanking leads to a great tie. Joe Beaver, Fred Whitfield and Justin Maass have all told me that.

Marcus Theriot

17 years old

Poplarville, Miss.

Biggest win: The year I won the four national titles at Gallup was pretty big. Last year at Rock Springs I won the calf roping. The Barry Burk Calf Roping, Roy Cooper’s, Joe Beaver’s, I’ve won all of them. When I won in Gallup, that was the first big thing I’d ever won. Everybody knew about it, so it really meant a lot.

Influence: My dad, Herbert. He’s been everywhere rodeoing, and he won the world in 1994. He knows rodeo, and he knows the conditions. He’s a lot of help. 

Career plans: I’m planning on college rodeoing. I think I’d like to go to Weatherford. I’m a high school junior right now, so I have another year. I bulldog a lot, and really I do all three (team roping, bull dogging and tie-down roping) about equal. I don’t know, whenever the time comes I’ll figure out which event I am going to really focus on. 

Best horse: Big Red. He’s my calf horse, and he’s 19. My dad and I both ride him. We’ve won a lot on him, and he fits us both good. He can run, and he works the same every time. At one roping, I ran 16 calves on him in one day, and he just got stronger and stronger with every calf. 

Favorite place to rope: Shawnee, Okla. I like that place. It’s a big youth rodeo, and I’ve been there twice. I did really good my freshman year there in the team roping, and it’s one I really want to win. 

Best piece of advice: Always put God first. He’s given me the ability to be successful and we’ve got to give Him the credit.

Zach Jongbloed

Credit: Jennings Photography

15 years old, Iowa, La.

Biggest win: This past year I was third overall at Junior High Nationals. This year, I won Joe Beaver’s Superstar Roping in the 13-15 group, and I won Barry Burk’s 13-15 roping. I also placed fourth in the average in the alumni roping.

Influence: My parents. They’ve helped me and pushed me to strive to do better. 

Career plans: Well, I plan to go to Nationals throughout high school and be successful. I want to go to college, and I’m thinking about being a physical therapist. I want to rodeo, but I haven’t really thought much about it. I’d like to for a couple of years at least.

Best horse: It’s one that I’ve owned. His name is Lil Ray. He’s 12, and I’ve been riding him for about three years. He’s one of the best calf horses I’ll ever have. He scores really great, and we’re just now getting where we fit together and I have learned how to ride him better.

Favorite place to rope: It would be at Jade Conner’s. He lives right down the road from me, and he’s the one who helps me rope. All of my success is due to him. He gives lessons down here and he’s got me to where I am now. 

Best piece of advice: Let go and let God.

Breakaway Roping

Credit: Jennings Photography

Deena Norell

18 years old, Meeker, Colo.

Biggest win: Winning the state the last couple years in Wyoming. At Nationals, I was high call but I didn’t win it, but I ended up eighth. That’s an accomplishment. At Nationals in the short go, you can see my dad excited. That meant a lot.

Influence: My dad, Dee. He’s always helped me to get better, and he’s always worked really hard and that made me want to work hard.

Career plans: I plan to go to Casper College (Wyo.) and major in engineering, and go on to a university and rodeo there and get my bachelor’s degree and find a job and try to rodeo as much as I can.

Best horse: His name was Badger, and I rode him for seven years. He was my breakaway horse and I’d tie goats on him a little bit. He died last July, but he was super easy to ride and ran really hard and had a lot of try.

Favorite place to rope: At my house. No matter if it’s good or bad, you can still back into the box and take the pressure off and turn it around. My dad’s always here, he’s always helping me, and he’s always making it fun but serious at the same time.

Best piece of advice: Just let things happen, don’t try too hard. When you overthink things, that’s when it goes bad.

Brandi Hollenbeck 

Credit: Jennings Photography

18 years old, Pretty Prairie, Kan.

Biggest win: The National Junior High Championship in 2010 and the 2011 National High School Finals. 

Influence: Probably my whole family. My grandpa, Junior Lewis, and my dad, Shawn, I’ve always been around roping and rodeo. My grandpa went to the NFR in the calf roping, and my dad ProRodeoed. My mom went to the NFR. They’ve always been there to help me get the winning edge and learn how to win and lose graciously. 

Career plans: I’m going to Garden City Community College in Garden City, Kans., on a rodeo scholarship for my roping. I’m unsure on what I’m going to study, and the first year I’ll get my basic classes done. 

Best horse: His name is Dynamite. My grandpa helped finish him and train him. I got to ride him from 2009 until the beginning of 2013. He helped me win the two championships and helped me step up my roping. He did his job and he let me do mine. He got hurt April of last year, he tore his meniscus and his stifle and had surgery in June. He’s probably 20, so we don’t think he’s going to come back, but if he does it will be a while.

Favorite place to rope: Probably a tie between the NHSFR and the practice pen. The practice pen is what rewards me for my hard work and gets me to the NHSFR. And the atmosphere at Nationals is pretty much like the NFR for high school kids. It’s exciting, you’re there all week, it’s one run at a time. It’s definitely my favorite. 

Best piece of advice: Never let success go to your head and never let failure go to your heart. That’s something I always look at before I rope and in life, in general. My grandpa passed away four years ago, right before the junior high finals. I told my parents at his funeral I’d win Nationals for him. They told me to do the best I could. I had the right stock, and I used them, and I did what I wanted to do. He always told me in the practice pen, “Stand up and rope.” I have that imprinted on my saddle horn.

Cadi Wood

Credit: Jennings Photography

18 years old, Tarzan, Texas 

Biggest win: Winning the breakaway at the National High School Finals. I was just excited to be there. I was hoping to do well, and I didn’t want to let my region or my state down while I was up there. I had a bunch of friends there, and it was just an amazing time. 

Influence: I would have to say my dad, Wayne. He was a calf roper, and he’s always helped me and got me started. He’s always helped me fix something and he’s shown me everything I know. He’s pretty much everything. Everything I’ve learned is what I’ve learned from him. 

Career plans: I just want to come work with my uncle, Phil Donaldson. He rides cutting horses for a living. That’s the plan for the moment. He’s up around Cleburne, in Rio Vista. 

Best horse: Probably the one I took to Nationals. Her name is Cheyenne. We bought her as a 2-year-old, and we’ve pretty much raised her. My uncle broke her, and my brother trained her in the calf roping. She’s 12 now. She’s gotten me everywhere I needed to be. She’s consistent. She’s real watchy on her barrier. I hardly ever breakout on her. She’s very consistent. My sister also rides goats on her, and that keeps her consistent. Some people think you shouldn’t use your calf horse as your goat horse, but it hasn’t taken any stop out of her. 

Favorite place to rope: I like going and seeing new places. I don’t really have a favorite place. I like Abilene, where they have States. I guess I’ve done well there so I like it.
Best piece of advice: That would most likely be from one of Joe Beaver’s speeches at Nationals. He says leave your run in the arena and get ready for the next run. I’ve lived on that one. Trevor Brazile says to nod with confidence, and that was my motto at Nationals.

Team Roping

Mason Boettcher

#6 header, 18 years old, East Bernard, Texas

Biggest win: I placed good at the U.S. Finals in the #12 last year. I roped with Ross Ashford. It was big because it was one of my first times roping for that much money. We came back like 23rd and made a really good run. I’ve won a lot locally, but I’ve never won anything on the national level and it was really special.

Influence: Probably Turtle Powell. He’s my mom’s brother. I like to go rope with him because he helps me a lot. He’s one of my heroes because he went to college before he started rodeoing and got his degree, so he’ll have something to fall back on when he’s done rodeoing. He never gets cocky around kids and he always takes time to talk to people—he’s never too good for anyone.

Credit: Jennings Photography

Career plans: I’m going to go to college to team rope at Wharton County Junior College to major in ag-business, and I’ll rope with Ty Arnold (Madisonville, Texas). I might get my permit and go to a few rodeos around here. I want to rodeo after school, and one of my goals is to make it to the NFR.

Best horse: That would have to be Turtle’s horse, Rooster. He’s really, really fast, and he’s got a really good move. He’s pretty strong. I rode him at the U.S. Finals two years ago.
Favorite place to rope: Definitely Turtle’s house.
Best piece of advice: Basically, it’s just never give up. Keep trying and if you work hard enough, you can achieve your goals.

Brett Stuart

Credit: Jennings Photography

#6 header, 15 years old, Bridgeport, Texas

Biggest win: I won the 2012 Nationals in Gallup with Tyson Thompson, and I was reserve last year with Cade Bray.

Influence: My parents. They’ve always supported me with good horses, and every time I get down on myself they always have good information to tell me and lift me back up to keep on going.

Career plans: I think when I get out of high school I’m going to go to Tarleton and college rodeo there. I’d like to try to ProRodeo.

Best horse: A black horse that I got about two months ago from Sean Barnett. Her name is Lena. She scores really good, runs really hard and she can really face.

Favorite place to rope: Probably Ken Bray’s house. They’re really great people and every time I go over there, they always help me with my roping and help me improve.

Best piece of advice: “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” –Tim Notke

Dax Barnson

Credit: Jennings Photography

#5 header, 17 years old, St. George, Utah

Biggest win: I won the NHSFR last year. I won it with Brody Adams. It fulfilled all of my goals that I set.

Biggest influence: Probably my brother, Zayne. He makes me push harder and try harder.

Career plans: I’m going to diesel mechanic school. I might go to Texas for college, I just haven’t decided yet. I’m going to buy my permit and try it and see what happens next year.

Best horse: My dun horse that I ride right now. His name is Everest. I’ve ridden him since I was in 6th grade. I won state on him in junior high twice and I made it to the National High School Finals on him every year.

Favorite place to rope: At my house. I just like roping there. I can just work on what I need to work on as long as I need to.

Best piece of advice: Just never quit until your goals are fulfilled.

Coleby Payne

Credit: Jennings Photography

#8 heeler, 15 years old, Kemp, Texas

Biggest win: I won a truck when I was 12. At one time, that was probably the biggest I’d won. I placed in the #12 Shootout at the U.S. Finals two years ago, and I won the Texas state in the Junior High last year, and I won Region 7 the last two years. When I was little, I really didn’t know how big of a deal it was to win a truck. I think I won $12,000 or so at the U.S. Finals.

Influence: Here lately I spent a lot of time with Joel and Allen Bach and they helped me a lot on my roping. I always watch roping videos and stuff like that, too.

Career plans: I plan on trying to make it rodeoing. My goal is to try and make the Finals when I turn 18 and win a couple gold buckles if it all works out right.

Best horse: I own a horse named Cimarron that I bought from Arky Rogers. Cesar de la Cruz rode him at the NFR in ’07. A couple weeks ago I bought his full sister from Kollin VonAhn, and it’s hard to say which one is better. I have a really good one from Patrick Smith, too, and his name is Fletch.

Favorite place to rope: Two years ago, I went to a lot of amateur rodeos. Here lately I like going to big jackpots. I might go to a few more amateurs before I turn 18 to get some more experience before I try to go pro. As far as opens, I entered the Strait a couple years ago. I’d like to win that in the future.

Best piece of advice: Probably just not to get too upset when it’s going bad. Just keep going and eventually it’s got to get better. A lot of the really, really good guys say it seems like all you can do is keep on going and it will all work out.

Brady Norman

Credit: Jennings Photography

#9 heeler, 17 years old, Springer, Okla.

Biggest win: I won the #15 Shootout with Drew Horner when I was 13 years old. The most challenging were the two checks I won at the Windy Ryon. I placed with Casey Hicks, and last year I won 5th with Josh Torres. 

Biggest influence: Definitely my parents. They roped and they got me into roping and helped me with everything. When I was about 12 years old, they got me help and I lived with Allen Bach for two or three years. He helped me a whole lot. 

Career plans: I plan to go to college and college rodeo, somewhere in Texas probably. I want to figure out what I’m going to do and rodeo on my permit. When I can find a good enough partner to win, I’ll go and try to win Rookie of the Year and go from there.

Best horse: When I was about 14, I went to Allen’s and was looking for a horse. I was roping on a horse he had tied up, I rode him 10-12 times, and loved him. I bought him from Allen. He’s been the biggest thing to get me where I am. His name is Carmine, and he’s 19. 

Favorite place to rope: That’s tough. I haven’t gotten to travel and go many places because I’m not old enough yet, but probably the Windy Ryon. It’s a big roping against the best in the world.

Best piece of advice: No matter how much talent you have in rodeo, you won’t be able to sustain that if you don’t keep your spiritual and mental game up. That’s what sustains careers. People who can figure out the game and figure out.

Austin Carter

Credit: Jennings Photography

#7-plus heeler, 18 years old Las Vegas, Nev.

Biggest win: Probably at the U.S. Finals in 2009. I won about $40,000. Either that or making the short go at the Cervi this year with Cody Hall. 

Biggest influence: It would have to be my mom, Lisa, my dad Tex, and Randon Adams (Rambo). Randon has always been there when I’ve needed horses and when I’ve needed help. He lives 45 minutes from me and he’s always been a positive influence. He wants me to accomplish what he has, so he’s helped me a lot. 

Best horse: Probably my grey mare that I rope calves on. Her name is Bell, and she’s 8. She doesn’t make mistakes and you can make it happen. You can rope calves on her or heel, and whatever it is you can win on her.

Career plans: I have a full ride to go to Odessa College and rodeo and major in business. I’ll team rope and rope calves. 

Favorite place to rope: At my house. We get to have fun, practice, work on my horses, work on me. A big part of my roping is using my horses, and I like to rope through my horses. 

Best piece of advice: Probably from Rambo. He always told me to ride my horse, then rope. That’s something I’ve always tried to do. If you don’t ride your horse, you can’t rope. 

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