MURRAY – A trio from Marshall County will be among the cowboys and cowgirls gathering this weekend for the 36th annual Murray State University College Rodeo at the Expo Center.
One of the cowboys, Benton’s Austin Joesph, is a 23-year-old graduate student and a rodeo veteran who ranks high in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) Southeast Division standings in saddle bronc riding.
Brother and sister J.D. And Katie Angle of Calvert City will also be competing, J.D. in calf roping and Katie in barrel racing.
The National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA) sanctions 10 rodeos per year. In each event, cowboys have the opportunity to compete in six events: bull riding, calf roping, team roping, steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding, and bareback riding.
Cowgirls compete in four events: barrel racing, goat tying, breakaway calf roping, and team roping.
Unlike athletes in traditional collegiate sports, rodeo participants are not held to strict amateur standings. Many compete in one or more professional tours.
Joseph competes in several pro tours besides the best-known PRCA.
“I’ve been to so many rodeoes, no way I could name off all of them,” he said.
He will try to improve on his fifth-place ranking in the Southeastern Region finals in Davie, Fla., Nov. 3-5.
“At home I keep records of all the rodeos,” Joesph said. “One time, around the first of September, I had been to 88 rodeos. I don’t know how many now.”
Joesph is a relative late-comer to the sport, which is often populated by cowboys and cowgirls who grow up on ranches and learn to ride about the same time they learn to walk.
“I had a quarter horse when I was 16,” Joesph said. “I traded a four-wheeler for my first horse. It was a Honda four-wheeler, so I called the horse Honda. I’ve still get her.”
He started riding for a cutting horse trainer and that eventually led to an interest in saddle bronc riding.
Saddle bronc is one of the rough-stock riding sports, along with bull riding and bareback brond riding.
“In saddle bronc, you’ve got to have a lot of timing,” Joesph said. “All you have is the rein. You have to have your feet over his shoulders when his front feet hit the ground.”
Saddle bronc is much more of a finesse specialty than bareback or bull riding, he said.
Angle, 18, is a freshman at MSU. He remembers his father, a carpenter by trade, rodeoing on weekends. He followed in his dad’s bootsteps by choosing calf roping as his specialty.
“I just like the challenge” of calf roping, Angle said. “Everything has to work just right. The roper has a job to do, the horse has to do his part, and the calf has his own mind about things.”
The calf is released and then the horse and rider. The roper has to throw his lariat over the calf’s head and then the horse pulls up, stopping the calf as the roper jumps off and runs to the calf, throws him to the ground and ties the calf’s legs to secure him.
In Angle’s case, he’s roping and tying animals that are approximately his size. He’s 6-1 and weighs about 210 pounds, while the calves range between 180 and 250 pounds.
“You want get around in front of him and put one hand on his face and one on his flank and you use your knees to get the leverage on him.”
Joesph, at 5-8 and 145 pounds, is a stereotypical rough-stock rider. But he has tried his hand recently at a sport usually reserved for the biggest cowboys – steer wrestling.
“I just started bulldoggin’ two weeks ago,” he said. “I actually have done pretty well at it. I almost made it back to the short go [the final round of competition] the last college rodeo.”
The Murray event, reportedly the longest-running rodeo event in the state, will feature action Thursday, Friday and Saturday with events beginning at 7 o’clock each evening. Adult admission is $10. MSU students with ID and children 5 and under will be admitted free.