Sturgis cowboy wins Badlands Circuit Finals All Around

MINOT, N.D. – The gold buckles are on their winners’ belts, the championship saddles are packed in trucks headed home. The final rodeo of the 2023 season is over for Badlands Circuit cowboys and cowgirls.

The annual Badlands Circuit Finals Rodeo was held Oct. 13-15, with two champions crowned in each event: the year end champ (the cowboy or cowgirl who has won the most money throughout the regular season, and the finals champ (the cowboy or cowgirl who won the rodeo in Minot.)

Year end and finals champs qualify to compete at the NFR Open, held in Colorado Springs, Colo., next July. With a payout of over $600,000, the NFR Open is an exclusive opportunity for circuit winners from across the nation to win money and improve in the standings.

Some of the ’23 champs are repeats, continuing their winning ways, and some are just getting a good start to their pro rodeo careers.

Bareback rider Ben Kramer, Max, N.D. won his first circuit titles, claiming both the year end and finals spots. For the finals, he scored 240.5 points on three head, only two and a half points more than the number two man, Shane O’Connell, Rapid City.

The twenty-two year old has had the best year of his rodeo career. He won first place at Badlands Circuit rodeos like Clear Lake, Brookings and Watertown, S.D., and at the big shows as well, having won money at Ft. Worth, San Antonio, and Cheyenne (Wyo.) Frontier Days.

Kramer is a third generation bareback rider; his granddad, Jack Kramer, and his dad, Shawn Kramer, also rode. Shawn qualified for the Badlands Circuit Finals three times in the 1990s.

This was Kramer’s fourth circuit finals qualification. He is currently ranked 34th in the world standings.

Another new name topped the list for Badlands winners.

Saddle bronc rider Cash Wilson, Wall, S.D., went home with both the year-end and finals titles, having won the most money during the regular season and earning 242.5 points on three head to win the finals.

The twenty-one year old won checks in each round, tying for second in round one, winning second in round two, and taking first place in the third round.

On Friday night, in round one, he rode the Sutton horse Big E Macksteel. “I could have rode that horse a lot better,” he said. “but I came back Saturday night and made a really good ride. Today I knew I had to do my job. I had a good horse of Korkow’s named Bambino Vold, so I knew I had a good chance.”

Wilson acknowledged the history of North and South Dakota being home to excellent saddle bronc riders.

“I’ve always looked up to these guys,” he said. “There are so many good bronc riders in the Dakotas, it’s hard to name them all. There’s been a lot of great guys who have won the Badlands Circuit, and I’m just happy to add my name to the list.”

Wilson, who finished the 2023 pro rodeo season in 26th place in the world standings, is excited to be heading to the NFR Open. “It’s a great opportunity. There’s a lot of big money up for grabs there. I’m excited to compete at that.”

Steer wrestler Cameron Morman is no stranger to Badlands titles. The Glen Ullin, N.D. cowboy won his eighth and ninth gold buckles this year, having won the year-end and finals titles.

He was aboard Kenny, a seventeen-year-old sorrel who carried Morman to his 2022 wins.

The sorrel “is real quick across the line, and I feel like this arena fits his style,” he said.

Bily Bolden hazed for Morman and for several other steer wrestlers at circuit finals.

The indoor arena at the N.D. State Fair Center in Minot is also a good fit for another horse.

Breakaway roping champ Sawyer Gilbert, who won the finals with 7.7 seconds on three head, was aboard her nineteen-year-old paint horse named Roger.

“He really likes this building,” she said. “It’s indoor and a short setup, and that’s his game. The cattle were a little slower, and he does really, really good with softer cattle, the ones that stop at the end of the rope. He quarters and gets the rope broke away really fast.”

Roger also likes music, which is louder at indoor rodeos. “He likes loud music,” she said. “When we practice on him, we’ll play music, and he’ll play with the lead rope or the fence.”

Gilbert won first place in the second round and fourth place in the third round.

“I drew really good all weekend,” she said, and she was careful not to break barriers, which adds a ten second penalty and ruins any chance a breakaway roper has of winning the rodeo.

During the third performance, as she rode into the breakaway box, she heard the announcer say she had to make a three second run, or faster. “I could have tried to win the round tonight and win the year end (title), but the smart thing to do when you’re winning the average by that much is to get out of the barrier and rope your cow and that’s what I did.”

Gilbert is the 2021 WPRA World Champion breakaway roper. Brooke Howell, Belle Fourche, S.D., was the year-end winner.

In the barrel racing, two veterans claimed wins. Jessica Routier, Buffalo, S.D., won the year-end title aboard her popular palomino horse Fiery Miss West, “Missy,” and Lisa Lockhart, Oelrichs, S.D., won the finals rodeo, on her well-known gray horse, Promise Me Fame Guys, “Levee.”

Mason Moody dominated the bull riding from the start.

The Letcher, S.D. man came into circuit finals with a commanding lead, and was the only bull rider to make three qualified rides; no one else rode two bulls, and only two men covered one bull (Riggin Shippy, Colome, S.D. and TJ Schmidt, Belle Fourche, S.D.) For his efforts, Moody won both the year end and finals titles.

Bodie Mattson

Other 2023 champions include tie down ropers Bodie Mattson, Sturgis, S.D. (year end) and Austin Hurlburt, Norfolk, Neb. (finals), and team ropers Jon Peterson, Belle Fourche, S.D. and Cash Hetzel, Lemmon, S.D. (year end) and Jon Peterson, Belle Fourche, S.D. and Trae Smith, Georgetown, Idaho (finals).

The Badlands All-Around of the Year title went to Bodie Mattson, Sturgis, S.D. The Badlands All-Around title was won by Austin Hurlburt, Norfolk, Neb.

Both year-end and average champions will represent the RAM Badlands Circuit at the NFR Open, formerly known as the National Circuit Finals Rodeo, to be held in Colorado Springs in July of 2024. In the event that the same person has won both titles, the second person in the year-end race qualifies for the NFR Open.

Year end and average winners for the Badlands Circuit:

3rd performance results from Oct. 15, 2023

All-around Champion: Bodie Mattson, Sturgis, SD

All-around champion for the Finals: Austin Hurlburt, Norfolk, NE

Bareback riding:

Bareback Riding Year End Champion: Ben Kramer, Max, ND

Bareback Riding Average Champion: Ben Kramer, Max, ND

3rd round results:

  1. Ty Breuer, Mandan, ND 85 points on Sutton Rodeo’s Deets; 2. Clay Jorgenson, Watford City, ND 83; 3. Chase Yellow Hawk, Blunt, SD 80; 4. Steven DeWolfe-Shedeed, Buffalo Gap, SD 78.5.

Average results:

  1. Ben Kramer, Max, ND 240.5 points on 3 head; 2. Shane O’Connell, Rapid City SD 238; 3. Chase Yellow Hawk, Blunt, SD 228; 4. Steven DeWolfe-Shedeed, Buffalo Gap, SD 222.5.

Steer Wrestling:

Steer Wrestling Year End Champion:  Cameron Morman, Glen Ullin, ND

Steer Wrestling Average Champion: Cameron Morman, Glen Ullin, ND

3rd round results:

  1. Justice Johnson, Bismarck, ND 3.8 seconds; 2. (tie) Cameron Morman, Glen Ullin, ND and Reed Kraeger, Waco, NE 4.0 each; 4. Austin Hurlburt, Norfolk, NE 4.2.

Average results:

  1. Cameron Morman, Glen Ullin, ND 12.1 seconds on 3 head; 2. Scott Kleeman, Killdeer, ND 13.7; 3. Austin Hurlburt, Norfolk, NE 14.6; 4. Tyler Thorson, Manning, ND 14.7.

Team Roping:

Team Roping Year End Champion Header: Jon Peterson, Belle Fourche, SD

Heeler: Cash Hetzel, Lemmon, SD

Team Roping Average Champion Header: Jon Peterson, Belle Fourche, SD

Heeler: Trae Smith, Georgetown, Idaho

3rd round results:

  1. Jon Peterson, Belle Fourche, SD/Trae Smith, Georgetown, Idaho 4.5 seconds; 2. Jr Dees, Aurora, SD/Ross Ashford, Lott, Texas 4.8; 3. Clay Holz, Niobrara, NE/Matt Zancanella, Aurora, SD 4.9; 4. Trevor Olson, Mud Butte, SD/Jace Engesser, Spearfish, SD 5.0.

Average results:

  1. Jon Peterson, Belle Fourche, SD/Trae Smith, Georgetown, Idaho 20.7 seconds on 3 head; 2. Jr Dees, Aurora, SD/Ross Ashford, Lott, TX 21.0; 3. Guy Howell, Belle Fourche, SD/Riley Curuchet, Kaycee, WY 22.4; 4. Cooper White, Hershey, NE/Tucker White, Hershey, NE 25.4.

Saddle Bronc Riding

Saddle Bronc Year End Champion: Cash Wilson, Wall, SD

Saddle Bronc Average Champion: Cash Wilson, Wall, SD

3rd round results:

  1. Cash Wilson, Wall, SD 80.5 points on Korkow Rodeo’s Bambino Vold; 2. Cole Elshere, Faith, SD 77; 3. Jade Blackwell, Rapid City, SD 75; 4. Shorty Garrett, Eagle Butte, SD 70.

Average results:

  1. Cash Wilson, Wall, SD 242.5 points on 3 head; 2. Cole Elshere, Faith, SD 235; 3. Jade Blackwell, Rapid City, SD 231.5; 4. Shorty Garrett, Eagle Butte, SD 227.

Breakaway Roping

Breakaway Roping Year End Champion: Brooke Howell, Belle Fourche, SD

Breakaway Roping Average Champion: Sawyer Gilbert, Buffalo, SD

3rd round results:

  1. Taylor Engesser, Spearfish, SD 2.0 seconds; 2. Danielle Wray, Ord, NE 2.2; 3. Kayla Olson, Chadron, NE 2.6; 4. Sawyer Gilbert, Buffalo, SD 2.8.

Average results:

  1. Sawyer Gilbert, Buffalo, SD 7.7 seconds on 3 head; 2. Danielle Wray, Ord, NE 7.9; 3. Brooke Howell, Belle Fourche, SD 9.4; 4. Jessica Holmes, Buffalo, SD 18.2.

Tie-down Roping

Tie Down Roping Year End Champion: Bodie Mattson, Sturgis, SD

Tie Down Roping Average Champion: Austin Hurlburt, Norfolk, NE

3rd round results:

  1. Austin Hurlburt, Norfolk, NE 8.1 seconds; 2. Grant Turek, St. Paul, NE 8.2; 3. Bodie Mattson, Sturgis, SD 10.9; 4. Thane Lockhart, Oelrichs, SD 11.3.

Average results:

  1. Austin Hurlburt, Norfolk, NE 26.6 seconds on 3 head; 2. Bodie Mattson, Sturgis, SD 29.9; 3. Thane Lockhart, Oelrichs, SD 37.1; 4. Ty Moser, Volga, SD 42.6.

Barrel Racing

Barrel Racing Year End Champion: Jessica Routier, Buffalo, SD

Barrel Racing Average Champion:  Lisa Lockhart, Oelrichs, SD

3rd round results:

  1. (tie) Taylor Hanson, St. Onge, SD and Lisa Lockhart, Oelrichs, SD 13.35 seconds each; 3. Bobbi Olson, Sheyenne, ND 13.42; 4. Lakken Bice, Killdeer, ND 13.51.

Average results:

  1. Lisa Lockhart, Oelrichs, SD 40.61 seconds on 3 runs; 2. Lakken Bice, Killdeer, ND 40.69; 3. Molly Otto, Grand Forks, ND 40.91; 4. Jessica Routier, Buffalo, SD 40.94.

Bull Riding

Bull Riding Year End Champion: Mason Moody, Letcher, SD

Bull Riding Average Champion: Mason Moody, Letcher, SD

3rd round results:

  1. Riggin Shippy, Colome, SD 78.5 points on Muddy Creek Rodeo’s War Zone; 2. Mason Moody, Letcher, SD 59; no other qualified rides.

Average results:

  1. Mason Moody, Letcher, SD, 228 points on 3 head; 2. Riggin Shippy, Colome, SD 78.5 on 1 head; 3. TJ Schmidt, Belle Fourche, SD 77 on 1 head.

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