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Ketch Kelton: Big Dreams, Small Towns and Good Horses
"Winning the Cinch Timed Event is definitely a goal. And I’d like to win the College National Finals Rodeo."
Ketch Kelton won his second straight Jr Ironman at the Lazy E in March.
Ketch Kelton won his second straight Jr Ironman at the Lazy E in March. | James Phifer photo

Ketch Kelton of Mayer, Arizona, won his second straight Jr Ironman Championship at the Lazy E Arena in March. The 18-year-old timed-event cowboy is the son of three-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo team roper Chance Kelton, who’s also roped at five National Finals Steer Ropings, and his wife, Tammy.

Q: The Jr Ironman Championship is three rounds in four events—tie-down roping, steer wrestling, heading and heeling. What’s your favorite event?

A: Probably the heeling. 

Q: How much do you do the other events on a year-round basis?

A: I do everything but the bulldogging every day at home. 

Q: What do you like most about a versatility contest like the Jr Ironman?

A: It’s just so fun to do all those events at once. And I love that big Lazy E Arena

Q: When your Jr Ironman days are behind you, do you have your sights set on an invite to the Cinch Timed Event Championship?

A: Yes, I would love to go to the Timed Event. It just looks like so much fun, and I want to steer rope. 

Tyler Pearson hazing for Ketch Ketch Kelton at the Lazy E.
That’s Tyler Pearson hazing for Ketch at the Lazy E. | James Phifer photo

Q: What’s it been like growing up in Mayer, Arizona with your big sister, Kenzie, and what’s she up to these days?

A: We live out in the middle of nowhere on a five-mile dirt road, and the country on the ranch ranges from desert to mountains. The closest little town to where we live is called Cordes Lakes. Kenzie’s still roping, and she’s living in Wickenburg and going to cosmetology school five days a week.

Q: What are your favorite highlights of your young career?

A: Winning the Jr Ironman twice was really cool. Winning the all-around at the (National) High School Finals (Rodeo) in 2022 was pretty neat, too. 

Q: What events did you place in to win the all-around at the NHSFR?

A: I placed in the team roping, calf roping and reined cow horse. 

Q: What’s your status in school? 

A: I’m a home-schooled high school senior this year. I’m headed to Cisco College in Cisco, Texas, in the fall. 

Q: What was it that attracted you to Cisco?

A: I’ve always wanted to go to Texas because that’s where everything is. It’s an hour from Stephenville and an hour from Abilene. So it’s kind of in the middle, and it’s a small town. I wanted to go to college in a small town. 

Q: What are your cowboy hopes and dreams?

A: I honestly don’t even know. I’ve never really thought much about it yet. Winning the Cinch Timed Event is definitely a goal. And I’d like to win the College (National) Finals (Rodeo). 

Q: Have you grown up with any cowboy heroes? 

A: My dad and my grandpa (Willy Kelton). I’ve worked with them and looked up to them my whole life. 

Q: Any other strong influences?

A: My dad has helped me the most with my roping. My mom’s been the one who helps me with all the rest of it, like planning and entering. 

Q: What are your plans for this summer?

A: I think we’re going to go to (the International Finals Youth Rodeo in) Shawnee (Oklahoma), the Best of the Best (Timed Event Rodeo) in Gallup (New Mexico), the World Championship Junior Rodeo (at the Lazy E), and hopefully Nationals (the NHSFR) in Rock Springs (Wyoming). 

Q: How many events do you enter on a regular basis?

A: I enter the calf roping, team roping and bulldogging everywhere, and also the reined cow horse at the high school rodeos.

Q: Who are you team roping with right now?

A: I’ve mostly been heading for Denton Dunning. I really like to heel, but I have a partner who can out-heel me right now, so I head for him. 

Q: Do you see yourself as more of a header or a heeler moving forward?

A: I don’t know yet. 

Q: What’s your horse herd look like right now?

A: It’s really good. I feel like I have a good one in every event. I have a couple good head horses, a good heel horse and a good calf horse. I borrow a bulldogging horse. 

Q: Do you feel like growing up in Arizona has been an advantage because of the year-round roping and warm weather?

A: The warm weather and year-round roping are definitely an advantage. You can rope seven days a week all year long, and there are so many jackpots to go to all the time. It’s definitely an advantage. 

Q: What do you hope to see in your rearview mirror 10 years from now, when you look back on these good old days?

A: That’s hard. I’m kind of going with the flow for now. I don’t really have a set plan yet, but it’ll probably involve roping and training horses.

Team Kelton surrounded by friends and family in the winner’s circle of the Jr Ironman in 2024.
Team Kelton in the winner’s circle at the event’s end. | James Phifer photo

—TRJ—

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