Central Washington University’s rodeo team has one veteran and three rookies headed to next week’s College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyo.

The week-long CNFR matches CWU’s contingent with college ropers and riders from around the nation. Up for grabs is prize money, scholarship opportunities and the chance to earn a year-end collegiate national title.

Competitors are guaranteed three go-rounds with the top 12 in each event’s average moving on to next Saturday’s short round finale. The four-round average winners are crowned national champions.

CWU’S RETURNER

Trey Recanzone competed in team roping with former CWU roper Jordan Tye at the CNFR last year. This year however, Recanzone qualified in tie-down roping. Based on his roping in college rodeo’s Northwest Region, Recanzone comes in as the top-ranked roper in the nation. Since regions don’t compete against each other during the regular season, the standings slate is wiped clean and national champions are based on next week’s four-round average.

“It doesn’t matter,” Recanzone said of the top ranking. “But I don’t really hate it because it’s kind of cool. It gives me a little confidence that I can rope with them even if I didn’t compete with them, but once (the CNFR starts) it doesn’t mean anything.

“There’s lots of good ropers, a couple of guys who roped at The American. I try not to get caught up in who I’m roping against and focus more on myself.”

THE TEAM ROPERS

CWU’s team of Riley Eres and Chance Gleave had success in their first year of collegiate rodeo, but both admitted to expecting more of themselves. The duo finished in the region’s top 3 to qualify for Casper.

“The spring didn’t go exactly how we wanted it to,” Gleave said. “But we made it and we can definitely rope better than what we showed all year. It’s not like we didn’t earn our spot, we have a good region.”

Eres agreed.

“We kind of struggled and hung on. Our goal was to win (the region), but we made it to Finals. There were some good competition and we had to work for it. It’s definitely a competition to get there.”

The duo finished third in the Northwest Region, one spot behind CWU’s Wade Bruemmer, who ropes with Lewis and Clark State College’s Dillon Bahem.

Both teams are ranked within the nation’s top 20 teams.

Bruemmer, also a first-time qualifier, said his focus lately has been the mental part of rodeo.

“I really put a lot of time and effort in trying to get my mental game better,” he said. “That’s 90 percent of it to be honest. I’ve read a lot about it and watched videos. I’ve tried to put myself in pressure situations in practice so you can prepare.

“I don’t want to say it was a weakness of mine, but there’s been times where there’s a big moment or a lot of money on the line, so you start getting nervous or start beating yourself. I just like to improve and sharpen my skills and improve mentally.”

THE BIG STAGE

The ability to focus will be put to the test beginning Monday. All four CWU ropers rope their first two runs during Monday and Tuesday’s slack. Each roper’s third round is during the performances later in the week.

“You try to think of it as a normal rodeo, but I’ve never been at a stage that big, so yeah there’s some nerves,” Eres said, adding he’s received some advice from others. “They just say, you know what you’re doing, you got here, just keep doing that, try not to look at the big bright lights.”

Even with experience however, Recanzone acknowledged the hyped-up atmosphere.

“There’s always some sort of nerves, but I’ve been in all sorts of competition – junior high finals, high school finals and CNFR last year. Knowing what to expect makes a huge difference.”

In addition to the action inside the arena, contestants can also participate in jackpots as well as other friendly competitions. There are softball games, trap shooting and golfing competitions.

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