The champions are crowned and the top four qualifiers in each event are determined for the National High School Finals Rodeo in Rock Springs, Wyo. July 15-21.
The victors emerged June 21-23 at the Nebraska High School Finals at the Adams County Fairgrounds in Hastings.
Barrel racing, breakaway roping
For North Platte resident Brandy Brown, the higher the pressure, the better she does.
And even though there wasn’t a lot of pressure on her at this year’s state finals rodeo, she did very well.
Brandy entered this weekend’s finals in second place in the barrel racing and third in breakaway roping, and when the weekend was over, she claimed the year-end titles in both events.
This will be Brown's third trip to the National High School Finals Rodeo, held this year in Rock Springs, Wyo., and her past experience will help.
“Being there before, it really helps. You don’t have those first time jitters,” she said.
But even if she does get the jitters, she feeds on them.
“I like the pressure. It turns up the heat,” she said. The pressure applies to schoolwork, too; she often left homework assignments to the last minute.
“I can write papers pretty quick,” she laughed.
A graduate of Maywood High School, she will attend Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne this fall on a rodeo scholarship, competing in the breakaway roping, barrel racing, and possibly team roping too.
Her family network has a lot to do with her success. Her dad, Ray, is a multiple champion in the tie-down roping, and her mom, Kim, used to compete in barrels, cutting, and other events, as did her grandparents.
“The whole family, it’s a great support network,” she said.
Third time was a charm for Team Roping champions Rhett Nelson of Doniphan and Tucker White of Hershey.
White and Nelson roped together their sophomore and junior years -- Tucker as a header and Rhett as a heeler. This year, they changed their game plan.
In their third year of competition, they decided that Rhett should head and Tucker should heel.
The change paid off, as the cowboys claimed the 2012 Team Roping Championship.
They came into the finals in second place in the standings, and had three good days of rodeo in Hastings, finishing seventh on Thursday, fifth on Friday, and second on Saturday.
Tucker, who lives in Hershey, was complimentary of his partner.
“Rhett handles cattle the best of anyone in the association," he said. "He always gives me that good shot (to rope). I know I can come in there and rope them.”
This will be Rhett’s first trip to the National High School Finals Rodeo and he’s looking forward to it.
For Tucker, this will be his second trip, and he is confident.
“I think we can go down there and compete with them," he said. "It’s just three smooth runs. I think we can play with those boys down there.”
Tucker will attend Lamar (Colo.) Community College on a rodeo scholarship this fall and compete in the team roping and tie-down roping. He is the son of Jeff White and Joni White.
Rhett, who graduated from Doniphan-Trumbull High School this spring, will attend Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant and major in biology. He is the son of Rod and Monique Nelson.
Wyatt Gewinner entered this weekend’s Nebraska State High School Finals Rodeo in first place and never looked back.
The 16-year-old cowboy from Weeping Water won both go-rounds and placed second in the short go-round, wrapping up the year-end title.
He’s not your typical rodeo cowboy. His parents, Vince and Shelby, have never ridden a horse, and Wyatt had never been to a rodeo till January of last year.
But after he watched the bareback riding at a pro rodeo in Lincoln in 2011, he was hooked. He taught himself, and through sheer determination, athleticism, and practice, has won a gold buckle.
Now, before his first trip to the National High School Finals Rodeo this July, he’ll try to control his nerves. “I just have to picture it as just another rodeo,” he said, referring to the NHSFR, “so I don’t get too nervous.”
He has made friends with a famous Nebraska bareback rider: Steven Dent, who has competed at the National Finals Rodeo four times. One of his first phone calls on Saturday after winning the gold buckle was a call to Dent. Dent, a four-time state high school bareback champion himself, has mentored Wyatt, and someday Wyatt hopes to follow Dent’s footsteps.
“I just have to picture it as just another rodeo,” Gewinner said of the upcoming national high school finals.
Torie Opela gave herself a birthday present.
On her 18th birthday, she won the 2012 championship in the goat tying for the Nebraska High School Rodeo Association.
She also competes in the breakaway roping and barrel racing, and winning a title in the goat tying wasn’t on her radar.
“But once I won the first round, I tried to push a little harder to win every round,” she said.
She won first in both go-rounds, and finished second in the average.
The Opela name has been engraved on a lot of champion buckles in high school rodeo. Torie’s older sisters Maggie, Abby and Charlie won the breakaway titles, with Charli winning it all four years of her high school career. Older brother Quincy won the team roping and tie-down roping titles, and now Torie has her own buckle. Youngest child John rounds out the family.
They are the children of Jim and Kristy Opela.
Other year end champions crowned include:
• Tie-down roping Tanner Stec, Bassett;
• Pole bending Cati Stanko, Gordon;
• Steer wrestling Dillon Simonson;
• Girls cutting Lindsay Adamson,
• Boys cutting Sterling Atkins.
• Chauncey Hesseltine of Thedford, won both the saddle bronc and bull riding titles.
• The 2012-2013 Nebraska State High School Rodeo Queen is Kayellyn Hall of Minatare.
For more information on the state finals and national finals, visit www.AdamsCountyFairgrounds.com, www.hsrodeo-nebraska.com, and www.nhsra.com.
Cutline: The top five finishers in the barrel racing pose with their back numbers. They are Brandy Brown, Kayellyn Hall,