With perennial world all-around champ Stetson Wright sitting out another six months, a couple of young headers have risen to the top of the PRCA’s all-around standings.
Leading the charge is defending College National Finals Rodeo (CNFR) header Slade Wood of New Ulm, Texas. The 21-year-old, who won the national championship last year as a freshman for Southwest Texas Junior College (with Logan Moore), also currently sits fourth in the world in the steer roping. He’s a two-time National Finals Steer Roping qualifier already, after claiming the 2020 Resistol All-Around and Steer Roping Rookie of the Year titles.
“I’ve got almost $20,000 won in the tripping now, so I’ll go to those, and I’ll try to make the Texas Circuit Finals again in the heading,” said Wood.
He’s been turning steers for Moore and fellow tripper Thomas Smith, plus could possibly head a few for Gage Williams this summer. In the meantime, he’s back to school in Uvalde, Texas, hoping for a return trip to the 2024 CNFR with Moore. The sophomore criminal justice major has two steer horses and two head horses (one of which he also trips on).
Just a couple thousand bucks behind him is South Dakota’s Bodie Mattson, also 21, who placed fourth in the 2023 CNFR tie-down roping after he and former CNFR champ Carson Johnson went out in the first round of team roping. This fall, Mattson stomped the Open ropers at the Wrangler Team Roping Championships but is also currently ranked 11th in the world in the tie-down roping.
“I’ll see how the winter goes, but I’m planning to go more than last year,” said Mattson, a senior now at the University of Wyoming also hoping for a return trip to the CNFR, this time with Troupe Coors.
Mattson is fresh off winning the year-end tie-down and all-around titles in the Badlands Circuit and also made the RAM National Circuit Finals in the team roping with fellow South Dakotan Cash Hetzel. Mattson’s head horse, Let R Buck Pendleton, was named Badlands Head Horse of the Year. Bodie’s dad, Jay Mattson, had also trained Banker, the sorrel gelding that Trevor Brazile bought and rode to win the BFI.
“People have been on me to be out there going, with Stetson out,” said Mattson, who will graduate this spring with double bachelor’s degrees in marketing and business management. “Depending on what we get done this winter, I’ve talked to my coach about possibly flying back for college rodeos from the California run.”
The pair of college boys will likely face stiff competition in the all-around race this season from the third-ranked guy–former NFR Average Champion Heeler Paden Bray, who’s earned more 2024 paychecks roping calves than he has heeling.