College rodeo returns to Brownwood

Kevin Holamon | Brownwood Bulletin
Weston Pierschbacher, a former Ranger College student, competed at the 2012 College National Finals, in Casper, Wyo. Saddle bronc riding will be one of ten events at the NIRA rodeo being held March 27, 28, and 29 at the Earl Q. Wilson Arena.

For those with a taste for the rodeo, that hunger is about to be satisfied.

Ranger College is hosting a regional National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association event at the Earl Q. Wilson Arena in Brownwood, March 27-29. Each night, events kick off at 7 p.m. and spectators can expect about two and one-half hours of rodeo entertainment.

The Southwest Region of the NIRA comprises 15 colleges, including Ranger, all of which will be represented here. 

Head Rodeo Coach for Ranger College, Llew Rust, said, "Last year we had 430 contestants at the Brownwood rodeo." He expects a similar showing again this year.

The region includes rodeo teams from as far away as Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Eastern New Mexico University in Portales, and New Mexico Junior College in Hobbs.

Rust said he began the semester with 53 rodeo program participants in the Ranger College system, including two from Brownwood. Danny Trowbridge, a team roper, is the only remaining Brownwood student. 

Ranger College restarted its rodeo program in 2005 and Rust assumed the head coach position six years ago. 

"I sent one of the boys to the NIRA College National Finals in 2011," Rust said, "and three in 2012."

The Ranger team is currently ranked eighth in the region, which Tarleton currently leads. Three of Rust's students are in the top six in their respective individual events, with promising shots at the finals. Zachary William Lomax, from Lexington, Tenn., is sixth in bareback riding, Kyle Robert Carson, from Evans City, Pa., is fourth in bull riding, and Justin Russell Johnston is third in steer wrestling.

Thursday and Friday nights are qualifying events, for the finals on Saturday, which will include the top 10 contestants in each of the 10 events. Admission to each of the nightly performances is $8 for adults and $5 for children over age five. Children 5 years old and younger are admitted free. Slack will be Friday and Saturday mornings, with no admission fee for spectators.

Concessions will be open for all performances and slack.

Bad Company Rodeo Co., from Del Rio, is the stock contractor and is known as the most award-winning contractor in their 30-plus years in the industry. Bad Company has been named the Stock Contractor of the Year in the PRCA, WPRA and PWRA and furnishes stock for every event in the PRCA Finals. 

Rust said the rodeo relies heavily on sponsorship funds and is happy to have received monies from the local hotel/motel tax fund, through the Brownwood and Early Chambers of Commerce.

"We really just break even," Rust said. "It costs about $35,000 to put on one of these rodeos and it will probably only bring in about $8,000 from the gate and concessions."

The tourism associated with the rodeo is a boon to the local economy, as well, attracting the contestants, their families, coaches and volunteers. 

"Last year, we booked 550 room nights in the local motels," Rust said.

Sunni Modawell, tourism manager for the Brownwood Area Chamber of Commerce said it is noticed.

"Last year, you could hardly go to a restaurant without seeing people from the rodeo," she said.

The events will be saddle bronc, bareback, and bull riding; tie-down, team and breakaway roping; steer wrestling, barrel racing and goat tying.

Student cowboys and cowgirls are eligible for rodeo scholarships, much like athletes in the traditional sports.