(SHAWNEE, Okla.) − The 25th annual International Finals Youth Rodeo came to a close Friday at the Heart of Oklahoma Exposition Center in Shawnee. The world’s richest youth rodeo awarded more than $250,000 in prize money, championship saddles and buckles on Friday after the finals performance.
The IFYR commenced with more than 885 registered contestants and 1,452 event entries. After two long-go’s and 10 performances, the top 15 contestants with the highest averages from each event competed in the finals on Friday, July 14 for a shot at the championships.
The 2017 International Finals Youth Rodeo Champions are:
Bareback Bronc Riding Champion Jesse Pope of Garnett, Kansas
Pole Bending Champion Brooklyn Gunter of Sulphur, Louisiana
Breakaway Roping Champion Winter Williams of Copan, Oklahoma
Team Roping Champions Garett Chick of Salado, Texas, and Kirby Blankenship of Lampasas, Texas
Saddle Bronc Champion, Bull Riding Champion and All Around Cowboy Stetson Wright of Milford, Utah
Tie Down Roping Champion Ben Piazza of Twin Oaks, Oklahoma
Steer Wrestling Champion Chase Graves of Poplarville, Mississippi
Goat Tying Champion Beau Peterson of Council Grove, Kansas
Barrel Racing Champion Elizabeth Broussard of Estherwood, Louisiana
All Around Cowgirl Kaytlyn Miller of Dammeron Valley, Utah
“These athletes gave it their all this week, proving they deserve these hard-earned titles,” said Chris Dunlap, Assistant Director of the Heart of Oklahoma Exposition Center and International Finals Youth Rodeo. “With contestants from 34 states, Canada and Australia, the IFYR brings together the world’s top youth rodeo competitors. We would like to congratulate our champions and thank our sponsors, contestants and volunteers who made this event possible.”
For more information on the IFYR, please call (405) 275-7020 or visit IFYR.com.
The International Finals Youth Rodeo, held annually since 1993, is a 501 (c)3 non-profit organization that presents top high school athletes with a professional rodeo. The internationally-recognized IFYR is held annually at the Heart of Oklahoma Exposition Center in Shawnee, Oklahoma. The action-packed event includes hundreds of contestants vying to win more than
$250,000 in prize money, competing in 10 events running simultaneously in three arenas over six days. In 2016, more than 920 contestants and their families traveled from 34 states to participate in the IFYR. For more information, visit IFYR.com or call (405) 275-7020.
Jesse Pope, Bareback Riding Champion
Jesse Pope from Garnett, Kansas, rides bareback horses, saddle bronc horses and team ropes. He won both rounds and the short go in the bareback riding at the IFYR. “The competition is really good here; just like every other of the three years I’ve been here,” said the 18-year-old that just graduated high school and will head to Missouri Valley to rodeo. “You are getting on the next level horses at a youth rodeo and it pays good.” He competed against 17 other riders, 14 came back to the short round. He’s already put $1,300 in his account from the IFYR and figures he will end the rodeo with $2,000. Jesse has been riding since he was 8, attending a school that Will Lowe put on and competing on miniature horses until he was old enough to get on the big ones. Jesse has two little brothers, Ty (15), who competed in bull riding and Judd, 10. He is the son of Jennifer, and Bret. Jesse won the National Little Britches Rodeo last year and is heading to bigger rodeos. He’s been entering pro rodeos now and has already won a check. His plans for the future are simple. “I want to be somebody that kids can look up to and be an example of how to be successful as a rodeo cowboy.”
Brooklyn Gunter, Pole Bending Champion
Brooklyn Gunter won the pole bending with a 19.9. The 16-year-old from Sulphur, Louisiana, is riding the famous Blaze, who has carried her to two IFYR championships as well as National High School Finals Champion and Louisiana High School Finals. She holds the record for the fastest run (19.3) and average at the IFYR. Blaze came from Skylar Ragan – she knows her job and gets it done every time. “She’s different from all the other horses I’ve ridden, she gives her all every time and is fun to ride. The first round she got thrown off with the gate, and the second round was me working her up. But it all worked out – I settled down and focused on what needed to be done.” Brooklyn will be a junior in high school this year and competes in barrel racing too. She is the second of seven children and has 42 cousins that all compete in rodeo and play
basketball. Her parents are Jessica and Jason. Brooklyn is planning to become a criminal lawyer. “I like to argue.”
Winter Williams, Breakaway Roping Champion
Winter Williams has tried for four years to be the champion breakaway roper at the IFYR. “This is the biggest youth rodeo,” said the 18-year-old from Copan, Oklahoma, who was a youth director last year. She came into the short round in 7th place. “A bunch of girls under me missed and it just worked – my time was 1.8 to tie the record just set here.” She knew she had to go for it – and has posted a time of 1.5. “I used to have a horse that gave me one shot out of the box and that taught me how to throw fast.” Now she rides a gelding named Hooch – he was a heading horse for a neighbor and she didn’t have a breakaway horse so she borrowed him. “We just clicked.” Winter will attend Southwestern Oklahoma State University to major in biology and concentrate on sports medicine. She’s been roping since she was 9 and she also ties goats. She is heading to some IPRA rodeos after leaving here. She is currently in 5th place in the IPRA. She has a little sister, Tatum, 14, who runs barrels and ties goats. Her mom and dad are Wendy and Travis.
Garett Chick & Kirby Blankenship, Team Roping Champions
Garett Chick from Salado, Texas, and Kirby Blankenship from Lampasas, Texas, won the IFYR team roping. The high call back team was pleased with the steers at the IFYR. “It was an even pen,” said Kirby. The team has been roping together since the 6th grade. Garett is a junior in high school and has made three trips to the IFYR. “This is a good rodeo, probably the toughest one.” They placed in two rounds and won the average. “There are lots of good teams from all around.” After he graduates, he’s going to keep roping. “I’m going to try to make a living at it.” He is the son of Darin and Debby and he has a sister, Sam, who is 20. Garett started roping when he was 9. He met his roping partner through the family. “They are all friends.” They practice together three times a week. Kirby graduated high school this year and is headed to Weatherford Junior College in Texas. “They have a great rodeo team and everybody around there ropes.” He will get a degree in Ag business and become a loan officer or welder. His parents are Macy and JJ and he is an only child. Garett invests his roping money in goats; he has 1,000 of them. He feedlots them and sells them. Kirby invests his earnings in horses and more things to make him a better roper. Darin and Debby Chick, They would like to thank their sponsors Classic Ropes, Coats and Purina.
Stetson Wright, Saddle Bronc Champion, Bull Riding and All Around Cowboy
Stetson Wright from Milford, Utah, won the saddle bronc riding, bull riding and all around cowboy titles. He rode saddle broncs twice this morning and came back to the short go to ride two more. He knew he had the bronc riding won. “I was the only one to ride three,” said the 17-year-old. Riding broncs is in Stetson Wright’s blood. His dad, Cody, is the 2008 and 2010 Saddle Bronc World Champion; his brothers, Rusty, and Ryder have been to the WNFR, and younger
brother, Statler, is 13 and heading in the same direction. He has a younger sister, Lily, who is 8. That’s not the entire list of Wright’s that compete. His uncles: Jake, Jesse, Alex, and Spencer all compete. “I like bulls a lot too,” he said. He won his state in the bull riding as well. He started riding bulls when he was nine, getting on big bulls when he was a freshman. Even though the
Wright family is known for saddle bronc riding, they all rode bulls at one time. “Their career would last longer with broncs,” he said. This is his first time to the IFYR. “I heard how fun it was and the money’s great.” When he’s finished with high school, he hasn’t decided between PBR and the PRCA. “I’ve got two more weeks to figure it out.” He will buy his permit at the end of the month and go for Rookie of the Year next year in the PRCA.
Ben Piazza, Tie Down Roping Champion
Ben Piazza, from Twin Oaks, Oklahoma, won the tie down roping on his first trip to the IFYR. “This was my last year so I thought I would try it.” He had a lot of fun. “I hung with friends and entered the jackpots, the calves were great,” said the 18-year-old. “They all started out pretty even.” He will head to Northeastern Oklahoma College this fall to study poultry science. Ben entered his first roping when he was 10. “My dad (Chris) roped and I was always around it.” When he backed in the box, he had to be a 8.5 and he was 8.4. The two that roped after him were too long. He had won $960 by the time the short round happened and plans to take $2,000 home. “I’ll save it for school,” he said. “I want to focus on roping and study for school so this will help a lot.” He also entered the team roping, but missed both of the steers. After the IFYR he will head to Gillette, Wyoming, to represent Arkansas, where he was the state champion calf roper. The win at the IFYR helped Ben a lot. He had a rough Fourth of July run – he went to Kansas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Missouri, entering about 10 rodeos. “I didn’t think I was ever going to tie an 8 again and I had to keep a positive attitude.” His mom, Jennifer, and older sister Emily were cheering him on.
Chase Graves, Steer Wrestling Champion
Chase Graves, from Poplarville, Mississippi, made the short round in the steer wrestling for the first time in his four years of coming to the IFYR. “This is the first time I’ve entered the bull dogging – I just started a little over a year ago. Everybody around me bulldogs and I started so I could go for the All Around.” He lives about two miles from Marcus Theriot and he helped him a lot. He came to the IFYR in the team roping, tie down roping and steer wrestling. He and his partner, Cash Miller, came in second in the team roping. “I try not to pay attention to the placing, I just go at it like I did all week.” He needed to be a 5 when he backed in the box and he was a 4.7. He’s riding a horse that he just bought four months ago; a head horse. “He’s 21 and just a good old, nothing fancy, just easy to ride horse.” He’s heading to Pearl River Community College to start his education to become a civil engineer. “They just started a rodeo team. My momma still cooks and washes my clothes for me, so I’m going to stay around.” He plans to go rodeo for a living as soon as he’s done with school. “I want something to fall back on when I’m done with school.”
Beau Peterson, Goat Tying Champion
“I just wanted to go make a solid run, and that’s what I did,” said 16-year-old Beau Peterson, from Council Grove, Kansas, who won the Goat Tying. This is her first trip to the IFYR. “We’ve heard a lot about the added money and thought this would be a good one to come to.” Beau won the Kansas High School title this year and will head to Gillette, Wyoming, next. She learned how to goat tie with a lot of help from her sister, Michaela. Her secret is simple. “Make solid runs and stay hustling.” She will be a high school senior next year and plans to head to college and the nursing field and rodeo. She also competes in breakaway roping, barrel racing and pole bending. She got started in rodeo through her parents, Dustin and Matt, who both high school rodeoed. “It’s our lifestyle,” she said. Her favorite event is breakaway roping. “I love when hard work pays off,” she said. “We practice every day. I continue to get better and I’m always fixing things to make it better.” She rides Zanny, a 20-year-old gelding that was brought out of retirement. “He’s done it all. He is the most honest goat horse that I’ve ever owned and seen. He does his job every time.”
Elizabeth Broussard, Barrel Racing Champion
Elizabeth Broussard from Estherwood, Louisiana, won the barrel racing. She was screaming all the way back to the alleyway when she heard the announcer say she was the champion. There were 240 barrel racers at the IFYR this year, and this was her fourth year to try for a win. “This is my first year to make the short go,” said the 18-year-old who has been coming to the IFYR since she was 3. This is her family’s 15th year coming to the IFYR. “I grew up in the stands,” she said. She’s riding Brand Me Lucky, a horse she has had for four years. “He’s the most unlucky horse I’ve ever had,” she explained. “I’ve only ridden him for two years - he has coliced, had a trailer accident and an abscess.” She has worked very hard to get with him; he’s more push and hustle and I had to focus on him. I was riding a bunch of horses at the time I got to ride him, but he was the only one I knew I could win on, so I stopped and focused on him. She will head back home after the IFYR and hit some rodeos locally before leaving for college at Western Texas College in Snyder, Texas. She will study political science. “I eventually want to go to law school and become an equine lawyer.” She is the youngest of four and her parents are Scott and Julie.
All Around Cowgirl
Utah is taking both trailers home this year. Kaytlyn Miller made it back to the short round in pole bending and breakaway. “I knew I had to come out and be fast or I wasn’t getting anywhere,” said the 17-year-old from Dammeron Valley, Utah. “I ended up with a 1.9 in the breakaway and a 20.4 in the pole bending.” The combination took her to the winners circle in the All Around with $4,642. “I only won money in the short go.”Kaytlyn went from 14th to second in the breakaway. She is not new to the All Around title, she was the National High School All Around champion two years ago. She’s heading to Gillette, Wyoming again in two events. This is her second trip to the IFYR.