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s n o i p Cham CROWNED:







Champions Crowned

Meet winners of the divisional ropings from the 2018 NTR National Finals IV, held March 5-10, in Wickenburg, Ariz.



Summer 2018

AQHA professional horseman Brad Lund and the 2013 bay gelding, Im Brad To The Bone, top the Horse Sale at Rancho Rio.

ON THE COVER: The 2018 National 9 Champion Heeler, Ketch Kelton. NTR Photo by Jamie Arviso / JA Snapshots. The Arena is published by Yost Events Inc. For National Team Roping membership information call 520.251.1495. Material may not be reproduced without permission from the Publisher.

National Team Roping Office: 520-251-1495 MST

NTR Founder NTR Office Manager Event Coordinator Editor & Art Director Contributing Writer

Ty Yost Teddi Hammock Jody Driver Kari deCastro Jennifer Pollmiller

Notes to the Nation

As this issue of The Arena hits mailboxes and inboxes we hope you're headed to one of our Cowboy Christmas events—whether it's Rapid City, S.D., Mormon Lake, Ariz., Buffalo, Wyo., or the Livin' for Ropin' Tour stop in Hamilton, Texas. These annual 4th of July celebrations are an explosive kick-off to our Somethin' About Summer Tour. As NTR membership continues to rise we are offering larger regional events with bigger payouts, friendly formats and unmatched prizelines. If you aren't yet familiar with our VIP program it's simple. Upgrade your membership at any of our events and be eligible to win added cash bonuses. We introduced the first #10 and #8 VIP Championships at the 2018 NTR National Finals with tremendous success. You'll find details on the VIP program along with an up-to-date event schedule, complete results and more on our website at Also new to this year's National Finals were the All-Girl Championships and #8 Open to the World Truck Roping along with direct entry options. Marking the end of our fourth season ropers came from all over the United States to compete for nearly $1 Million in cash and prizes—including a new Ford truck—in the Team Roping Capital of the World. The stories of our champions are vastly different—from retired Veterans to Arizona honeymooners to up-and-comers—we commemorate these ropers starting on page 6. The Horse Sale at Rancho Rio went viral after Lot #27, Im Brad To The Bone, sold for $79,000 under the big top. The bay gelding was owned by Melissa Miller, Belton, Texas, consigned to the fourth annual sale by AQHA professional horseman Brad Lund and purchased by Dale Little Soldier, Mandan, N.D. Lund explains how this historical sale is just plain good for the industry on page 30. Consignment forms for the 2019 sale will be available at on November 1. Labor Day weekend we are bringing a brand new event to Frontier Park in Cheyenne, Wyo. "The First Frontier" will re-introduce the NTR's Junior/Senior Slide roping. We will also offer VIP Trackside Trailer parking next to the arena (by reservation only). Details are on page 33. The National Team Roping Tour is your association and we want to hear from you. Send your feedback and ideas to or call us at 520.251.1495.

- Ty Yost



N A T I O N A LT E A M R O P I N G . C O M

Roughrider State North Dakotans Hubert Heart and Bill Eckroth roped three steers in 34.29 seconds to become the 2018 NTR #7 Champions. The duo took home $5,700 in cash along with trophy saddles by Cactus saddlery. Read their stories—including why Heart always wears a commemorative poppy—on page 23.

N A T I O N A LT E A M R O P I N G . C O M



2018 #8 Open to the World Truck Winner.

Santos Martinez



N A T I O N A LT E A M R O P I N G . C O M

Wickenburg, Arizona

MARCH 5-1o

COMPILED BY JENNIFER POLMILLER & KARI DECASTRO • PHOTOS BY RIC ANDERSEN & C BAR C PHOTOGRAPHY The fourth annual National Team Roping Tour (NTR) National Finals took place March 5-10, 2018, at Rancho Rio Arena in Wickenburg, Ariz. The six-day event consisted of 18 individual ropings over seven divisions. Nearly 4,000 teams roped in cash and prizes to the tune of $959,590. Prizes included trophy Cactus Saddlery saddles, custom Gist Silversmith buckles and a new Ford truck. Held each year in the Team Roping Capital of the World the NTR National Finals continues to be one of the highest-paying divisional ropings in the industry. The 2018 edition introduced the all-new #10 and #8 VIP Championships, a #10 All-Girl Championship, #9 Legends Only and a #8 Truck Roping, while still featuring the highly sought after NTR Finale ropings. Winners in the National Finales (#11, #10, #9 and #8) took home extra-fancy trophy saddles and buckles in addition to large cash payouts. Topping the average in the National 9—the highest-paying division of the Finals—were siblings Kenzie and Ketch Kelton of Mayer, Ariz., who pocketed $30,000 after coming tight on four steers in 35.48 seconds. Arizona cowboys John Kuban & Michael Brockett teamed up to rope four steers in 45.71 seconds and take home $30,300 in the National 8 Finale. These and additional division winners are featured on the following pages. We look forward to seeing ropers at the fifth annual event March 4-9, 2019.

N A T I O N A LT E A M R O P I N G . C O M



#13 Championships

JOHNSON & TUNKE J ace Jo h n s o N

The late Bill Parker bought a young Jace Johnson his first rope. “Several times a year we would go to the Billing Livestock Auction and I would rope the dummy five hours a day,” Johnson explained. “Bill was a real good family friend.” Johnson, now 16, grew up horseback from a very early age and while roping the dummy kept him occupied during long days at the auction, he really didn’t show as much interest in roping from a horse until later on. Dirt bikes were his first real passion—and something he still enjoys today. When Johnson was 12-years-old, ProRodeo Hall of Famer Mike Beers came to their home in New Town, N.D. to put on a clinic. “I was outside riding my dirt bike and driving the tractor around and Mike got me on a horse. I’ve been hooked ever since.” That first year Johnson practiced with Beers a few times and turned to his dad, Shane, and local roper, Robby Lindley, who have helped him quickly advance to a top-level competitor. In 2017 Johnson won the NTR National 9 with Tyler Jiron to the tune of $100,000. Following that win Beers invited him to rope at the 2017 Bob Feist Invitational making him one of the youngest ropers to ever compete at the prestigious event. At press time the duo was once again headed to “The Feist.” “I feel like I’ve improved quite a bit since last year,” Johnson said. “A lot of that is from my mom (Jaimie) and dad making me rope the Bones every day. There are cameras in the barn, so they know if I’m slacking off and not roping it.” The Johnsons bought Jace’s No. 1 head horse, Milkshake, from Kimber and Brandon Beers about three years ago. “He’s a top-notch horse,” Johnson said. “He’s Corona Cartel bred and fast. I’ve never clicked with a horse better than this one. He’s like my right-hand man.” As Johnson continues to work hard on his team roping he also has another goal in mind. “I’d like to learn how to ride saddle bronc horses. My dad and my grandpa were both saddle bronc riders and I’d like to carry on that tradition. I’m just going to keep working hard and place the rest in God’s hands and see where he takes me.”



T re nt T unke

Trent Tunke, Medicine Hat, Alberta, first met Jace Johnson while roping at Dynamite Arena this past winter. Tunke was short on headers and teamed up with the North Dakota cowboy to win a #15 roping about a week before topping the NTR National Finals #13 Championships. “That was the first time I had gone to Ty’s finals,” said Tunke. “I actually didn’t know about them before or I would have been here. I was warming up and had a header not show up. Jace wasn’t full so they let us get in last minute.” Born and raised in Canada, Tunke is the only one in his family who ropes. “My mom and sister are barrel racers. I had no interest in being a rough stock rider, so I went to a team roping school.” Tunke now raises a few longhorns so he always has cattle around to rope when he’s home. A horse shoer by trade he spends his days travelling the highways and backroads with his French Bulldog Argus. Come winter he heads south and spends most of the season in Cave Creek roping as much as he can between the clients he’s picked up in the area. “I went to farrier school in Tucson a couple of years ago,” he explained. “But I’ve been shoeing my own horses since I was 19.” A three-time Canadian Professional Rodeo Association Finals qualifier he was the Reserve Champion Heeler in 2013 with Roland McFadden, Vulcan, AB, heading. In 2010 he won the Canadian Cowboy Association heeling for Travis Nickolson. Now that Tunke is tuned in to the NTR National Finals he plans to be back vying for his #13 Championship title in 2019.

#13 Championships

1st in Ave - 31.16 on 4, Jace Johnson & Trent Tunke - $6,940 2nd in Ave - 31.36 on 4, Francisco Martinez & Casey Dunham - $5,200 3rd in Ave - 31.65 on 4, Dan Denmark & Jimmi Jo Montera - $3,460 4th in Ave - 32.96 on 4, Bryton Scheller & Chad Espenscheid - $1,740


1st not placing in Ave - 7.40, Tim Nelson & Chad Turner - $300

N A T I O N A LT E A M R O P I N G . C O M

#12 Championships



Top hand, Barrie Smith, Stephenville, Texas, backed in the head box at the 2018 NTR National Finals with the same goal she always has. “I just like to win when I go,” she explained. “I don’t care if it’s a little backyard jackpot or a big Finals. I just want to do as good as I can.” Yet, Smith remains a realist when it comes to reveling on a big win. “Everything is a favorite right then and there, but then it’s history and no one cares, and you move on to the next one.” Her positive attitude and competitive spirit had her winning at a very early age from her hometown of Gilbert, Ariz. In high school (and college) she competed in the Goat Tying, Barrel Racing, Breakaway and Team Roping where she earned the NHSRA Goat Tying Championship three consecutive years. Smith went on to college rodeo for Central Arizona College and became a two-time NIRA Women’s All-Around Champion. She has won every major All Girl roping in the country as well as being named the USTRC Cruel Girl Champion header—twice. Smith is quick to credit the many influencers in her life and roping career including her husband Brad, a former World Champion, and her brother, three-time WNFR qualifier Bret Beach. The Smiths recently bought a place in Wickenburg and spend as much time there in the winter as they can. “When we’re at the ranch we have cattle and we’re haying, so it’s pretty time consuming. We probably rope a lot more when we’re in Wickenburg.”

Barrie and Brad have two kids who have both found their own success. Their son, Sterling, qualified for his first WNFR in 2013 and again in 2015 in the tie-down roping. He also owns and operates his own business, Sterling Construction. Their daughter, Shelby, graduated with a marketing degree from Tarleton State University but has been successfully riding and training horses. In fact, she consigned a wicked heel horse to the 2018 The Horse Sale at Rancho Rio and you can expect to see her consign additional horses in the future. Smith rode her well-known grey, affectionately known as “Richard,” to her #12 Championship win. “I’ve had him since he was 1 and he’s 17 now,” said Smith. “I trained him but I’m pretty sure anyone could have trained him. I owe so much to him."


Brady Black is a familiar face at Rancho Rio. The Twin Falls, Idaho, cowboy is in and out most of the winter. “I usually spend two weeks there right before Vegas and then I’m back and forth as much as I can.” Not only that, you’ll see him embellished on the back of the newest NTR hauler coming to an event near you. When he’s not roping, Black sells commercial insurance for HUB International and trains a few horses on the side. “I take outside horses and I always have a few of my own,” he explained. “I’ll start them from nothing and then I’ll buy some that are a little farther along too.” This past winter Black won nearly $12,000 on his first trip south, between Ty Yost’s Las Vegas in Wickenburg and a couple of other local jackpots. That set him up perfectly to head to the World Series of Team Roping Finale in the real Las Vegas where he picked up another $90,000—his biggest win coming from a third-place finish in the #11 Finale with Nora Hunt-Lee, Fallon, Nevada. The duo picked up $167,000 for their efforts.

#12 Championships

1st in Ave - 32.21 on 4, Barrie Smith & Brady Black - $8,920 2nd in Ave - 32.80 on 4, Mark Jones & Jay Ellerman - $5,960 3rd in Ave - 33.09 on 4, Barrie Smith & Brad Smith - $4,700 4th in Ave - 33.81 on 4, Colton Martinez & Brooks Dahozy - $3,460 5th in Ave - 33.83 on 4, Randy Anderson & Brady Black - $1,740


1st not placing in Ave - 6.59, Colby Bradley & Brodey Serres - $300



N A T I O N A LT E A M R O P I N G . C O M

National 11



Winning the National 11 Finale was just what James Hutton of Loma, Colo., had in mind to jump start his summer. Hutton plans to rope as much as possible while balancing his ever-growing business along with quality family time. He and his wife, Kayla, have two sons, 5-yearold Porter and 1-year-old Payson. “That was the first roping Lynn and I got to go to this spring, and it worked out really well for us,” Hutton said. The Colorado cowboys took home $27,100 along with trophy saddles and buckles. Not only are they successful roping partners, Campbell works for Hutton’s company, Taylor Construction. “My current business stemmed from a previous endeavor,” Hutton explained. “We started in recycling construction with a company called Hutton Organics in 2009. We always had heavy equipment around, so it kind of just grew from there. Now we work primarily in the oil industry, setting conductors and building the pads for drilling.” While working together has its perks, both agree they’d almost always rather be roping.

Champion Heeler Lynn Campbell, Fruita, Colo., grew up on a ranch, roping and riding for as long as he can remember. As a construction worker for Hutton’s company, the two get to spend a lot of time together, both for work, roping practice and hauling to jackpots. “James and I don’t live too far apart, so we get to rope together quite a bit. We’ve been practicing and hauling together for at least ten years now. We rope everyday if we have the chance, but right now it’s only been a couple times a week depending on what job we are working on.” Though Campbell used to head to Arizona in the winter for many of the NTR and other regional events he’s scaled back some the last couple of years. “We don’t go as often now, but the Finale is always a great roping, so we drove down there just for the National 11. We entered a few of the add-on ropings but didn’t have much luck in those.” Last March Campbell married his wife, Sarah, who also grew up in a rodeo family and enjoys roping—often joining Hutton and her husband in the practice pen. The families plan to travel to some local rodeos and jackpots throughout the summer and return to Wickenburg to defend their National 11 Championship title.

National 11 Finale

1st in Ave - 32.78 on 4, James Hutton & Lynn Campbell - $27,100, Saddles & Buckles 2nd in Ave - 33.72 on 4, Shane Johnson & Sam Garside - $18,060 & Buckles 3rd in Ave - 34.31 on 4, Jamie Payton & Brock Kipp - $13,940 4th in Ave - 35.27 on 4, Francisco G Martinez & TJ Mercer - $9,840 5th in Ave - 36.79 on 4, Johnathan Lipps & Sterlin English - $7,400 6th in Ave - 36.82 on 4, Blue Ray Gutierrez & Brock Kipp - $5,740 Round 3 Fast Time 5.33, Trevor Alves & Blue Ray Gutierrez - $1,000 Shortgo 1st not placing in Ave - 6.10, Ketch Kelton & Sam Garside - $2,000

#11 Consolation



Colorado ropers James Hutton and Lynn Campbell collect their $27,100 paycheck at Rancho Rio following their National 11 Finale win on March 7, 2018.

N A T I O N A LT E A M R O P I N G . C O M


1st – 22.65 on 3 – Coby Littlesoldier & Jim Matlack - $3,000 2nd – 23.62 on 3 – Todd Bishop & Tom Hirsig - $2,000

National 10

Lipps & MERCER National 10 Finale

1st in Ave - 36.04 on 4, Johnathan Lipps & TJ Mercer - $28,640, Saddles & Buckles 2nd in Ave - 36.43 on 4, Skylar Gishie & Karlis Yazzie - $19,100 & Buckles 3rd in Ave - 38.11 on 4, Sergio Garcia & Dale Woodard - $14,760 4th in Ave - 38.84 on 4, Tristan Hall & Tommy Hall - $10,420 5th in Ave - 38.85 on 4, Bill Jorgenson & Russ Schirado - $7,800 6th in Ave - 40.42 on 4, Logan Cullen & Michael E Calmelat - $6,080 Round 3 Fast Time - 6.26, Fred Ennist & Klay Mangis - $1,000 Shortgo 1st not placing in Ave - 7.44, Bryton Scheller & Arye Espenscheid - $2,000


National 10 Finale Consolation

1st - 24.22 on 3, Kenzie Kelton & Cody Stewart - $3,000 2nd - 18.26 on 3, Don Schmeling & Russ Schirado - $2,000

-Johnathan Lipps


Johnathan Lipps, a 20-year-old snowbird from Casper, Wyo., makes the trip to Wickenburg each winter. Despite their obvious differences both locations offer Lipps the opportunity to rope every day. “That’s really about all we do while we’re at the farm,” Lipps joked. “We work, and we rope, so we don’t really have time for any other hobbies.” Living and working on his grandparent’s hay farm, Lipps began his competition career in the cutting going on to be a two-time Wyoming State High School Rodeo Champion. A few years ago, his uncle, Jeff Clark, introduced him to the sport of team roping and he has been hooked ever since. When he’s not working on the farm, Lipps helps Clark with his reclamation business, which is responsible for going in to oilfield sites and revegetating the land after the work on the site is complete. “We’re very fortunate to get to go to Wickenburg every year,” Lipps said. “I was second high back in the #11 and then won the #10. Not a bad weekend for being five minutes from the house.” Lipps and Arizona’s TJ Mercer split $28,640 for the National 10 Finale win and he finished fifth in the National 11 with Sterlin English, Belen, N.M., to the tune of $7,400. Lipps is back in Wyoming to farm hay for the rest of the summer but looks forward to returning to Arizona in October.


November repeatedly looks to be a good month for TJ Mercer of Yuma, Ariz. In 2015 he won a NTR Trailer at the Thanksgiving Classic. Fast forward to November 2017 where he won the NTR Livin’ for Ropin’ Tour Truck at Rancho Rio and went on to enter 2018 with big goals. Last year, an injury had caused Mercer to sit out from roping for a while. In his down time, he worked for the NTR opening chutes and helping with the production side of things. A venture that just increased his desire to compete and win. “Obviously, I prefer to be horseback competing, but helping behind the scenes was good experience,” said Mercer, who hails from an avid team roping family. “On my mom’s side all the boys rope and it’s just something I’ve always done. I have always ridden horses and team roping is the event that I just always liked the best.” Mercer spends his days building fences and barns, riding horses and jackpotting as often as he can. Now, with a handful of big wins on his record Mercer has some new goals in mind. His best mount, cleverly named “Bay Mare” was hurt at the time of the Finale, forcing him to borrow a horse. “Luckily it worked out borrowing a horse for the Finale but it’s tough,” Mercer explained. “For the rest of the year I want to focus on stocking up on horses. It’s hard when you only have a few, because if you’re roping a bunch they get tired or hurt. Next year I hope to have quite a few ready to go.”



D aymond L L O Y D


Daymond Lloyd and his wife, Laurie, make the 23-hour trek every year from Gull Lake, Saskatchewan down to Arizona. Lloyd has been roping with the NTR since its inception. “Coming down from Canada I don’t know a whole lot of people, so I like the option to draw a partner at all of the Yost events,” Lloyd said. The #9 Legends Only Over 50 format gives ropers an option to compete against a select few for big cash payouts. This was Lloyd’s first time entering the Legends Only Finale and his draw partner worked out just right splitting $11,160 with Colorado’s Blake Nelson. “The Finale is such a great event,” said Lloyd. “As much as I like it in Arizona though, my favorite place to rope is Billings. It isn’t too far from our home in Canada, and myself, my son, and my daughter have all won NTR saddles roping there and two of my grandkids have won a buckle in the dummy roping.”

#9 Legends Only Championship

1st in Ave - 44.25 on 4, Daymond Lloyd & Blake Nelson - $11,160 2nd in Ave - 44.83 on 4, Ray Gilbert & Sammy Gilbert - $7,760 3rd in Ave - 45.27 on 4, Dave Yost & Doug Funk - $5,740 4th in Ave - 45.35 on 4, Jamie Payton & Mike Weatherly - $4,040 5th in Ave - 45.69 on 4, Ken Lyon & Ernie Jaquez - $3,040 6th in Ave - 46.03 on 4, David Soppe & Irv Bard - $2,040

For the second year running, Blake Nelson claimed the Legends Only title at the NTR National Finals—a feat that he places at the top of his roping career. “When I left the arena, I thought I would be lucky to be fifth. The next thing I knew, everyone started congratulating me. It took me a bit to put it together that I had won,” Nelson said. In 2017 he topped the Legends Only division with fellow Coloradoan Bob Dineen. “I hadn’t realized they switched the Legends class to a #9 this year and had all my partners lined out for a #10. When I realized it had changed I threw my name in to the draw and it worked out,” Nelson said. Though he wasn’t originally prepared for a #9 roping, Nelson admits he liked the format better than having it as a #10 because of the diverse ropers it attracts to the class. Nelson is all too familiar with providing the ideal formats for ropers, having produced team roping events in Colorado for over 35 years. Blake and his wife Tammy just wrapped up the NTR’s June Front Range Classic and will host a second NTR Roping at Blake Nelson’s arena in Longmont in August. They also prouce a Saturday Night buckle series throughout the summer as well as several special events. Nelson credits his second Legends Only win to his wife Tammy, who has, “always been his number one supporter.”


1st not placing in Ave - 9.28, Rich Johnson & Danny Cole - $300

Legends Only!




Branham & Martin #1o VIP Championships L aRAE BR A n H A M


The new direct entry format of the NTR National Finals was enough to convince LaRae Branham of Phoenix, Ariz., to come rope for the first time. Although a regular at many of the Yost Events, Branham had yet to attend the Finals. “We do rope with them a lot so upgrading to the VIP membership was obvious,” Branham explained. “We’re all about winning and who can resist that cash bonus.” Branham and her father, Earl Higgins, are indeed winners, pulling checks nearly everywhere they go, most often competing together. Higgins and his wife Gail had been out to Rancho Rio and seen the tall Texan, Joey Martin, rope. They immediately told their daughter she need to team up with him. After some luck at Dynamite Arena the duo went on a winning streak that they certainly hope to continue. They pocketed $14,080 in the #10 VIP Championships and two weeks later won another $14,000 for fifth at the Perfect 10 in Las Vegas. “We plan to rope together in Cheyenne this summer and at the WSTR Finale as well,” said Branham who is currently spending her summer in Jackson, Wyoming. “I’m here with my daughter and son-in-law, Kelsie and Mick Rammell, and their 4-year-old son Shaun. Daddy and I rope at the Jackson rodeo two nights a week. It’s a great way to spend the summers.”

Slaton, Texas, wouldn’t be the same without Joey Martin and neither would Rancho Rio. Martin kept his horses there from September through March and stayed just down the road. “I like the cattle. Ty Yost does the best job with the cattle of anyone I’ve ever seen,” Martin explained. “Excellent steers, excellent help and you don’t have to haul your horses all the time.” You could usually catch Martin sneaking off in the afternoons for a chocolate milkshake at Screamers Drive In—his favorite Wickenburg watering hole—but you’d never know it by the looks of him. Martin worked for the BNFS Railroad for 20 years and quit about eight years ago. Now, he keeps a few horses around to train on. “I’ve had a couple of outside horses, but I really prefer riding my own,” Martin said. “I heel all the time; funny thing is I train more head horses than I do heel horses. I try to get them going real good and sell one about every two to three years.” Martin’s main mount is a horse he calls “Peanut” and he received more than a few offers for the brown gelding this winter. “I bought him as a 2-year-old and never did rush him. He turned 8 this winter and he paid his way out there in Wickenburg.” Now that Martin’s two granddaughters, Reese and Ryan, ride Peanut, he may be a keeper. Back home in Texas Martin doesn’t compete much. “I still rope every day, usually tracking steers around by myself, but I found a good place to rope seven months out of the year and that’s good enough for me.” #10 VIP Championships

1st in Ave - 34.35 on 4, Larae Branham & Joey Martin - $14,080 2nd in Ave - 36.58 on 4, Sam Garside & Ketch Kelton - $9,820 3rd in Ave - 39.45 on 4, Tye Reed & Danny Cole - $7,500 4th in Ave - 40.16 on 4, Smokey Staal & Rick Steed - $5,620 5th in Ave - 40.34 on 4, Johnathan Lipps & Arye Espenscheid - $4,200 6th in Ave - 42.31 on 4, Jose M Coronado & Clayton Torres - $3,260 7th in Ave - 43.38 on 4, Michael Brockett & Ronald Beard - $2,340


1st not placing in Ave - 9.21, Fred Ennist & Ketch Kelton - $500

N A T I O N A LT E A M R O P I N G . C O M



National 9

Kelton & Kelton KE T C H KE LT O N


Kenzie and Ketch Kelton have grown up working alongside their father, three-time WNFR team Roping qualifier, Chance Kelton, on their family’s Cordes, Ariz., ranch. Being homeschooled has allowed them to spend as much time as possible in the saddle and it’s no surprise that both siblings will be competing in multiple events at the 2018 National Junior High Finals in Huron, S.D., at press time. In her final year as an Arizona Junior High Rodeo Association member 14-year-old Kenzie competed in the barrel racing, pole bending, breakaway, goat tying, ribbon roping and team roping events and qualified for the finals in four of her six events. “My goal this summer is to just be the best I can be,” Kelton said. “I am excited for the Junior High finals and winning the NTR Finals was a great start to the summer.” Kenzie and Ketch roped in $30,000 in the National 9—the highestpaying division of the Finals. “Roping with my brother is always easy because we practice together every day at home.” Kenzie will be a freshman this coming school year where she’ll advance to the National High School Finals Rodeo Association and is sure to be a tough Rookie competitor. When she’s not ranching, roping or rodeoing she plays volleyball for the area middle school and will continue to play at the high school level this Fall.

There are a lot of things that set 12-year-old Ketch Kelton apart, one being the incredible pony power he competes on. “I really enjoy riding and training ponies,” said Ketch, who seeks out prospects at the many ropings and rodeos he attends. Once they are trained he generally sells them, with one exception. “My black and white pony that I heel on is named Fancy Pants. I got her from another junior high rodeo family and she’s really good,” he said of his main mount. The Kelton family runs about 500 head on their ranch in Cordes Lake, keeping them pretty busy and giving Ketch ample training opportunities. “I also gather and brand cattle on my ponies at our ranch,” Kelton said. “My dad is teaching me to train horses like he does.” Ketch has had a rope in his hand since before he could walk and hopes to follow in his father’s footsteps competing as a professional team roper. Short term, his summer goals include winning the National Junior High Finals—he qualified in three events—and attending as many ropings as possible. Ketch is currently a top contender heeling in the Junior NFR Open and #10 and hopes to be competing in Las Vegas, December 7-16.

National 9 Finale

National 9 Consolation

1st - 25.02 on 3 - Kenzie Kelton & Quirt Peterson - $3,000 2nd - 27.19 on 3 - Ramon Gomez & Kaine Kittelmann - $2,000



N A T I O N A LT E A M R O P I N G . C O M


1st in Ave - 35.48 on 4, Kenzie Kelton & Ketch Kelton - $30,000, Saddles & Buckles 2nd in Ave - 39.23 on 4, Dallas Morgan & Clayton Overson - $18,000 & Buckles 3rd in Ave - 39.79 on 4, Sandy Suter & Art Gallais - $14,600 4th in Ave - 40.30 on 4, Steve Mcdaniel & Jace Thorstenson - $12,120 5th in Ave - 40.48 on 4, Paje Turner & Arye Espenscheid - $11,000 6th in Ave - 40.96 on 4, Rhianon Lieberwirth & Arye Espenscheid - $9,500 7th in Ave - 41.35 on 4, Shane Johnson & Ketch Kelton - $8,500 8th in Ave - 41.83 on 4, Chris Navarro & TJ Mercer - $7,300 9th in Ave - 42.54 on 4, Sondra Williams & Jesse Driskill - $6,100 10th in Ave - 42.86 on 4, Jim Matlack & Bonnie Matlack - $4,800 Round 3 Fast Time 6.54, Brady Denmark & Spud Denmark - $1,000 Shortgo 1st not placing in Ave - 8.34, DJ Martin & Blake Nelson - $2,000

National 8



John Kuban of Flagstaff, Ariz., is a former rough stock rider turned team roper. “I’m going on my fourth year, so I haven’t been roping long,” Kuban said. “When I was young I did junior rodeo, but I rode bulls. I played sports in high school and then rode bulls again in college and later at amateur events.” When his wife Rosalie finally told him riding bulls was no longer the smartest idea, he agreed and turned to new ventures. “I started doing a lot of triathlons and Olympic runs and I competed in the IRONMAN Arizona in 2012.” Kuban now works as a Senior Escrow Officer for Pioneer Title Agency and still enjoys running and biking—though mountain bikes and trail runs with his dog are more his style. “Winning the Finals was a lot like when you cross the finish line of the Ironman and they announce, ‘John Kuban YOU ARE an Ironman.’ It’s a fun feeling.” Four years ago, an old rodeo buddy, bareback rider, Casey Wood, suggested they pick up team roping. “We went out and got ourselves some horses and just started roping,” Kuban laughed. “I miss riding bulls but it’s two different spectrums. Bull riding is more adrenaline based and roping is more of a thinking sport.”

National 8 Finale

1st in Ave - 45.71 on 4, John Kuban & Michael Brockett - $30,300, Saddles & Buckles 2nd in Ave - 46.27 on 4, Larry Rice & Todd Bishop - $19,200 & Buckles 3rd in Ave - 46.45 on 4, Quincy Reeves & Whip Peterson - $13,000 4th in Ave - 48.65 on 4, Willy Vietor & Dave Bradley - $11,100 5th in Ave - 53.51 on 4, Ray Williams & Mike Miller - $9,100 6th in Ave - 54.48 on 4, Julie Ballek & Jesse Driskill - $8,080 7th in Ave - 54.73 on 4, Krista Baker & Steve Taylor - $6,060 8th in Ave - 55.00 on 4, Julie Ballek & Nathan Brown - $4,040 Round 3 Fast Time 6.29, Chance Kipp & Tyke Kipp - $500 Shortgo 1st not placing in Ave - 10.05, Jacky Brown & Denny Finch - $1,000

National 8 Consolation

At press time Prescott, Arizona’s Michael Brockett was getting set to rope at his favorite event—the Arizona Cowpuncher’s Reunion in Williams, Ariz. You must live or work on a ranch for a year to be a member of the association, but spectators are always welcome and it’s worth the trip. In addition to roping Brockett also competes in the Cowpuncher’s Bronc Riding. Several rodeos, such as Prescott ProRodeo, still feature the event that retains slightly different rules from traditional saddle bronc riding—mainly that the cowboys must use their own ranch saddle. In addition to doing daywork for local ranchers Brockett started his own fence company about three years ago. “We do all kinds of fence, mostly pipe and arenas but we do fence in town too—chain link, picket, custom fence—whatever you want.” Brockett was working for Jim & Duree Shiew on their Chambers Ranch several years back. After a profitable season Jim gave him a horse as a bonus. “I call him ‘Bonus,” Brockett laughed. “That’s who I was riding at the Finals. I can head and heel on him. He’s the best one I've got.” While Brockett enjoys heeling the most—and picked up the biggest win of his roping career on the back end—he admits he’s probably a better header and that Bonus is probably a better head horse. “I just got a new colt that’s going to make a nice heel horse. He’s 5 right now and I haven’t had much time to work on him, but he should be ready next winter.” By that same time Brockett will also have a newborn to keep him busy. “My fiancé Emily Cullen is due September 10. We’re going to wait until after the baby to set the wedding date though.”


1st - 25.59 on 3 - Ken Lyon & Tombo Kaufman - $3,000 2nd - 25.72 on 3 - Kenzie Kelton & Quirt Peterson - $2,000

N A T I O N A LT E A M R O P I N G . C O M



Jones & Slover

#8 VIP Championships C AS S S L O VE R


Kaprina Jones originally from New Castle, Wyo., made the 18-hour trek to Wickenburg from Weatherford, Texas, where she is a freshman at Weatherford College, planning to earn a degree in communications. Jones is currently a member of the rodeo team competing in the breakaway and team roping for the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association, but loves attending NTR events whenever she has the chance. After her two years in Weatherford, Jones plans to transfer to Tarleton to complete her bachelor’s degree and continue to rodeo. “This was the furthest I had driven to a jackpot before without my parents, so it was really cool to get to do that and end up with such a big win. It really proved to me how much I had changed since I started college,” Jones said. Though she had two traveling partners, Josie and Stephanie Durbin, Jones said she did most of the driving on the trip to Arizona. At home in Wyoming, she gets to rope with her brother, Kacy, and dad, Tim, who are both heelers, allowing her to get twice the practice. Though this win was one for the books, Jones says her most memorable win was in 2014 at the NTR All Girl in Rapid City, South Dakota, where she won a saddle with her good friend, Trudy Wadley, picking up the heel side for her. “Overall, I just want to keep roping and living the dream,” Jones said. “I love living in Texas and already know I want to live here even after college. The people around here are amazing and there is always somewhere to rope.”

Hailing from Elgin, Texas, Cass Slover is an electrician who made his way to Wickenburg for his first NTR Finals this year. After giving up roping for a long time, Slover found the lower-number jackpots the perfect place to pick back up. The 2,000-mile trip was far from lonely for Slover, who packed the pickup with his wife, Kara, his 3-year-old daughter, Rahely, six-monthold daughter Keaton, and his regular team roping partner, Kelly Taylor. “Surprisingly the girls did really well traveling that far,” Slover said. “We left at night thinking they would sleep through a lot of the drive, but we were very wrong there.” When Slover first returned to the roping pen, his goal was to win a saddle to give to his daughter as her fist saddle. He accomplished that feat just as his second daughter came around. Coincidentally, the very next roping he went to Slover won two saddles in one weekend. “It will always be a highlight for me that I was able to win each of my daughters a saddle,” Slover said. “The last saddle I won, I was roping with a 14-year-old kid that I drew in the draw pot.He had never won a saddle before, and it was really cool to see how excited he was to win."

#8 VIP Championships

1st in Ave - 38.92 on 4, Kaprina Jones & Cass Slover - $14,520 2nd in Ave - 40.05 on 4, DJ Martin & Clayton Overson - $10,160 3rd in Ave - 40.39 on 4, Hubert Heart & Clayton Overson - $7,740 4th in Ave - 42.64 on 4, Whip Peterson & Quirt Peterson - $5,800 5th in Ave - 43.13 on 4, Cliff Wixson & Layton Belcher - $4,340 6th in Ave - 49.56 on 4, Sergio Garcia & Kim Williamson - $3,400 7th in Ave - 50.18 on 4, Rohn Alder & Todd Bishop - $2,400


1st in Ave - 10.88, Malcolm Davis & Jody Crane - $500



N A T I O N A LT E A M R O P I N G . C O M

#7 Championships



Hubert Heart bought Ty Yost’s bay gelding, Doc Frost Leo, from The Horse Sale at Rancho Rio right after winning the #7 Championships on the Friday of the Finals. “I had tried him before the sale and he was awesome, ran right to the hip and stayed there,” recalled the New Town, N.D. cowboy. “Bill and I ended up seventh high call and won the #7 Championships, so I call him ‘Seven.’” Heart generally pulls into Wickenburg on Thanksgiving Day and spends the entire winter roping as much and as often as he can. “When we come home for the summer I do a lot of fishing but we still rope just about every day.” Heart is grateful for every opportunity he has to throw a leg over the saddle. In 2013 a horse wreck nearly kept him from ever riding again. “Eight months later I was miraculously back in the saddle. When I finally got the clear from my doc he basically told me there was nothing more he could do and to just keep doing what I was doing.” Heart wasn’t sure how to make the transition from being wheelchair bound just months prior to horseback and called on his friend and mentor, Allen Bach. “I flew down to Texas and ended up on his No. 1 heel horse. We roped the Smarty for about eight hours that first day,” Heart recalled. “I wasn’t scared at all. I grew up on horses and understand accidents can happen but I didn’t realize quite how bad it can break you.” Heart is retired from the Department of Health and Human Services where he worked for 20 years. Prior to working for the government he served in the Navy on a diesel electric submarine for two and a half years. Heart was also a volunteer fire fighter for ten years and served as the Volunteer Fire Chief.

#7 Championships 1st in Ave - 34.29 on 3, Hubert Heart & Bill Eckroth - $5,700 & Saddles 2nd in Ave - 35.01 on 3, Ken Huseman & Dennis Hengel - $3,600 & Saddles 3rd in Ave - 35.17 on 3, Billy Barnett & Brian Raper - $2,860 & Saddles 4th in Ave - 35.41 on 3, Everett Reeves & Gary Olson - $2,380 & Saddles 5th in Ave - 35.57 on 3, Mike Wolf & Jody Huff - $2,190 & Saddles 6th in Ave - 35.87 on 3, Rudy Mendiola & Aquilla Martinez - $1,900 7th in Ave - 37.25 on 3, Ken Huseman & Jody Huff - $1,600 8th in Ave - 38.13 on 3, Ray Lafromboise & Orrin Nelson - $1,400 9th in Ave - 38.33 on 3, Billy Del Irvine & Dennis Hengel - $1,200 10th in Ave - 39.66 on 3, Ryan Mcbride & Tom Krupinski - $1,000

“When I do something I want to do it 100 percent,” Heart said. “When the crew elected me as Chief I figured I had to step up and be a leader. I really enjoyed that.” You’ll never see Heart without a remembrance poppy in his cowboy hat—it’s his way of keeping a family tradition alive. “My dad passed in ’83 and I had just graduated high school. He used to buy those a lot and I just want to keep the chain going.”

B i l l E c kro t h

Although Bill Eckroth and his #7 Championship partner, Hubert Heart, both hail from the Roughrider State of North Dakota they had never roped together before they pulled up in the draw at the National Finals. “Actually, I head more than I do anything but I enjoy heeling also,” Eckroth explained. “I was struggling heading this winter. I couldn’t get everything to come together so I went to heeling. I went to Jordan Olson’s school there at Rancho Rio a couple of times. After the first one I was still pretty frustrated but after the second one things finally started falling in place.” Bill and his wife Jess spent a majority of the lat winter months in Wickenburg and returned to their place in Mandan, N.D., just after the Finals. “I came home and worked for a month and announced I was going to retire at the end of the year,” exclaimed Eckroth, who will have worked for Miller Insulation for 31 and half years when he retires. “My last day will be January 11. We’re looking forward to having real weekends. I’ll be able to hay and work around the place during the week now. We’ll pry spend a little more time in Wickenburg too."

All-Girl Championships


M iche l l e T h o m a s

Am and a Ko o i ke r

Hailing from Manuelito, New Mexico, Michelle Thomas surrounded herself with horses and roping as often as she could, as early as she could. Her siblings, Randy, Ronnie and Tamera all rope as well and the four of them practice at their parents’ house whenever they get the chance. Thomas was working in child care but recently stepped away to be a stay-at-home mom to her 3-year-old daughter, Kashley. Her husband, Sheldon, doesn’t rope but joined Thomas for the trip to Wickenburg in March, along with her parents and sister as her support system. She originally planned just to enter the National Finals Truck Roping and put her name in for the All-Girl on a whim. “I would love to win a truck which is why I love going to the big NTR ropings,” Thomas said. “I decided to take a chance on the All-Girl roping that morning, so I got in that once and drew Amanda. It was pretty cool to get to win it from there.” Before really committing to team roping, Thomas also participated in the breakaway roping, and has always been coached by her dad. For the rest of the summer, Thomas plans to enter a few local open rodeos as well as all of the NTR events in her area—especially the Mormon Lake Truck Ropings.

What started out as a honeymoon trip for Amanda Kooiker and her husband Kirk, nearly seven years ago, has turned in to an annual roping expedition to Arizona. Each year they make the trip from their home in Adrian, Minnesota. “When we first told people that we were going to Arizona to rope for our honeymoon, they told us not to because we would get hooked. Sure enough, we have planned a trip once or twice a year since,” Kooiker said. “Luckily, it always seems to work out in time to hit the Finals.” At home, Kooiker works as a calf and heifer specialist for Purina, which requires on-site communication with farmers, helping with calf-management and feed programs. Kooiker interned with Purina out of college and has been with them for the last nine years. A Wisconsin native, Kooiker attended University of Wisconsin River Falls, where she competed in the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association in the barrel racing and breakaway. “After college, I realized it’s either go rodeo or start team roping,” Kooiker said. “I had to relocate for my job and when I did, I had the opportunity to team rope a lot more so that’s what I did.”

All-Girl Championships

1st in Ave - 44.21 on 4, Michelle Thomas & Amanda Kooiker - $3,500, Buckles & Jackets 2nd in Ave - 44.67 on 4, Larae Branham & Sammy Gilbert - $2,620 3rd in Ave - 47.25 on 4, Kaprina Jones & Kim Williamson - $1,760 4th in Ave - 47.77 on 4, Darcie Stewart & Kim Williamson - $880



N A T I O N A LT E A M R O P I N G . C O M

Open to the World Truck Roping

1st in Ave - 25.71 on 3, Trey Nez & Santos Martinez - $11,600 2nd in Ave - 27.17 on 3, Marty Schlumberger & Santos Martinez - $7,200 3rd in Ave - 28.12 on 3, Ivan Jorge Chavez & Adan Jr Quezada - $5,780 4th in Ave - 28.14 on 3, DJ Martin & Cashton Weidenbener - $4,820 5th in Ave - 28.67 on 3, John Kuban & Octavio Vega - $4,340 6th in Ave - 28.81 on 3, Manuel Huerta & Tyler Pennington - $3,900 7th in Ave - 28.89 on 3, Efrain Jr Marquez & Don Charging - $3,370 8th in Ave - 28.94 on 3, Lee Keams & Diego Villarreal - $2,890 9th in Ave - 29.24 on 3, Bailey Bates & Brad Moreno - $2,410 10th in Ave - 29.25 on 3, Tate Eck & Ram Hughes - $1,900 11th in Ave - 30.16 on 3, Daymond Lloyd & Anthony Salazar - $1,000 12th in Ave - 30.31 on 3, John Kuban & Anthony Salazar - $1,000 13th in Ave - 30.34 on 3, Tate Eck & Jesus Bustillos - $1,000 14th in Ave - 30.44 on 3, DJ Martin & Rigo Delatorre - $1,000 15th in Ave - 30.58 on 3, Tamber Shiew & James Arviso - $1,000 16th in Ave - 30.84 on 3, Alex Pallanes & Kyle Phillips - $500 17th in Ave - 31.67 on 3, Olivia Hatathlie & Gonzalo Granillo - $500 18th in Ave - 31.86 on 3, Greg Singletary & Elwood Dick - $500 19th in Ave - 32.00 on 3, Bubba Lehi & Wade Stevenson - $500 20th in Ave - 32.19 on 3, Jake Lester & Matt George - $500


Fast Time - 7.71, Efrain Jr Marquez & Don Charging - Saddles


National Finals Truck Roping


Trey Nez was in the zone as he prepared for the NTR’s Open to the World National Finals Truck Roping. “I roped the dummy and practiced every day,” explained the young Rough Rock, Ariz., cowboy. While he didn’t take home the high point truck his practice still paid off as he topped the average with Santos Martinez to pocket $11,600—not a bad paycheck for an eighth grader. Nez enjoys roping at NTR events and small amateur rodeos on the Navajo Reservation anytime he has an opportunity. When he isn’t roping, he also participates in baseball and football through his school. Team roping is a Nez family ritual with nearly every member participating in the sport including Nez’s brother, Rance, who is a former Mormon Lake Truck Roping Champion. “My only goal this summer and next year is to win a truck,” Nez said. “The NTR always has good truck ropings. My brother won a truck and my partner won one, so I hope Ty has a truck for me too.” Nez and Martinez were friends through the National High School Rodeo Association before the Finals and are now looking forward to more opportunities to rope together.


In true team roper fashion, we all know most other obligations rank below the possibility of winning a truck. Such was the case for Santos Martinez of Tucson, Ariz., who decided to forego his driver’s permit test to rope at the NTR National Finals IV. The need for a driver’s license increased dramatically as Martinez rolled out of Rancho Rio in a new Ford F350. Knowing he’d be driving soon Martinez’s dad, Guero, had given a truck to his son before he won the new ride. “I kind of hope he lets me keep both,” Martinez laughed. “But I really love the new NTR truck.” Guero Martinez bought a few Corrientes years ago and has been building his herd. The younger Santos grew up helping his dad and they now have a production company that produces local jackpots. “It was really exciting for me to get away for a while and win this roping,” Martinez said. “Raising the Corrientes and hauling them around sometimes makes it hard to get away. Winning the truck really helped me realize how much I like to go to those big ropings.” Martinez decided not to high school rodeo this year but instead focus his efforts on larger team roping events with big prizes and added money—and, of course, getting his driver’s license.

2018 Sale Results:

Total Consignments - 56 Horses Sold - 43 Sale Average - $15,541 Top Selling Horse - $79,000 Top 10 Average - $29,250 Top 20 Average - $22,500

An Annual Tradition

The fourth annual The Horse Sale at Rancho Rio took place on March 9, in Wickenburg, Ariz., in conjunction with the NTR National Finals IV. The annual sale drew spectators and buyers from all over the U.S. and Canada. With 56 consignments averaging $15,541, it continues to be the premier sale of the Team Roping Capital of the World. The fifth annual sale will take place Friday, March 8, 2019. Consignment forms will be available online at starting November 1.



s renowned auctioneer Steve Friskup, Muleshoe, Texas, dropped the gavel on Lot #27 consigned to The Horse Sale at Rancho Rio the AQHA bay gelding registered, Im Brad To The Bone, became the single highestselling rope horse of his longtime career. The 2013 model sired by Roo Star out of Probably Not Ashiner was purchased by Dale Little Soldier of Mandan, N.D., for a whopping $79,000. A finished head horse, he was consigned to the sale by Melissa Miller, Belton, Texas, and ridden by La Cygne, Kan., horseman Brad Lund. “He’s what we call a Triple Super,” explained Lund who’d had the horse in his barn since his 2-year-old year. “His dad was a Super Horse and his mother was by a Super Horse and out of a Super Horse and I showed all three of them. “Melissa keeps anywhere from 6-10 horses in training here,” Lund added. “I’ve been riding horses for her for about nine or ten years. It was a blessing to be honest with you. She has put a lot of money back into the industry so it is great to see her rewarded like that.” This was the first time Miller and Lund had consigned a horse to the annual sale. “I had heard good things about it. Melissa had a lot of horses and decided she wanted to sell a few so I told her let’s try it and see what happens. We have a full brother to this horse we plan to consign next year.” A professional horseman who specializes in roping, reining and all-around horses, Lund has multiple AQHA world championships including three in junior heading and one in senior heading. Training professionally since age 18, Lund has built a reputable program. “There’s a little bit of skepticism about putting a horse in an auction. For me the most inspirational part is that this horse was home raised, he’s gone through a real program and we took him to a reputable sale with only 56 horses. We didn’t buy him six months before. He was a quality individual and there was no funny business. It was all real. That’s good for the industry.” Little Soldier had bought a horse from Lund some five years ago. “Dale won a truck and got along with that horse really well,” Lund explained. “It’s funny, he knows I go down to the Sun Circuit and called to see if I was there and wanted to come see me. I was actually on my way home from the preview and told him and he said, ‘What horse sale? You have anything good?’” The rest is history, literally. Little Soldier made his way to Wickenburg the following day with his mind made up. “I’ve sold some horses to Brazil for quite a bit, but that’s the highest selling at an auction that I’ve known about—for sure that I’ve been a part of. I was like did that really just happen,” Lund recalled. “Whoever has to sift them is going to have a little harder job next year and that’s what you want.”

N A T I O N A LT E A M R O P I N G . C O M



2019 National V Finals March 4/10  
2019 National V Finals March 4/10