For the Northwest College men’s rodeo team, the week of the College National Finals Rodeo in Casper began with a stumble and never quite got back on track. When the dust settled Saturday night, the Trappers, ranked 11th in the nation prior to the CNFR, had finished a disappointing 45th.
“It was a tough trip through paradise, I can tell you that,” said NWC head coach Del Nose. “We had a bunch of broken barriers and a bunch of buck-offs last week, and it just didn’t come together for us. The only bright spot in the whole deal was Calvin Shaffer.”
Shaffer finished fifth in the nation in saddle bronc riding, with 60 total points. Shaffer was also one of five riders who covered all four broncs.
“That was kind of an epic thing for him,” Nose said of Shaffer’s performance. “He was coming off an injury, an MCL, so it worked out great for him.”
Shaffer injured his knee during a practice back in April. He nursed it all throughout the college spring season.
“He [Shaffer] muscled through it, and ended up fifth in the nation,” Nose said. “We’re excited about that, and he’s ready to come back next year and get off and running.”
The only other Trapper to compete in Saturday’s final round was team roper Dawson Cvancara, who was paired with Montana State University’s Trevin Baumann. The team finished 12th in the event.
“Dawson [Cvancara] caught, but Baumann missed the heel loop [in the finals],” Nose said. “And that was to win third. It was just one of them deals. It goes along with rodeo — you take the good with the bad and away you go.”
The Trappers had five athletes qualify for the CNFR: Caleb McMillan (bull riding, saddle bronc riding, calf roping), Bubba Boots (team roping, steer wrestling), Matt Williams (team roping), Shaffer (saddle bronc riding) and Cvancara (team roping).
McMillan, ranked third in the nation in bull riding heading into the CNFR and one of the favorites to win the all-around, finished tied for 19th in bulls, having not recorded a score. The sophomore finished 23rd in saddle bronc and 25th in calf roping.
“I gotta be honest with you, the college finals is very humbling,” Nose said. “You got the cream of the crop from all over the United States and 11 regions, and if you don’t have your pencil sharp, they’re gonna beat you. Ours wasn’t ability, it was just more mental mistakes.”
Boots, last year’s runner-up in the men’s all-around, had an equally frustrating week, finishing 16th in steer wrestling and, along with teammate Williams, 18th in team roping.
“Caleb [McMillan] would have made it back in the calf roping if he hadn’t had two broken barriers. Bubba [Boots] would have made it back in bulldogging if he hadn’t broke his barrier. Then they broke out in team roping, and they would have made it back in that,” Nose said. “It was just mental stuff.”
Though the season didn’t end the way the team would have liked, Nose said he’s proud of how the boys carried themselves in and out of the ring last week.
“When we fueled up in Casper and got ready to head back, the boys told me, ‘Well, we feel like we let you down,’” Nose said. “I told them, ‘You know what, it’s over with now. Come back next year, we’ll get it going.’ We had some tough draws and some tough luck. But that’s rodeo. A lot of variables need to come together for it to work, and it just didn’t come together. We’ll get back after it next year.”
As for next season, Nose said all five of this year’s CNFR competitors will be returning in the fall. He’s confident the team will be ready to pick up where it left off.
“I told the guys not to dwell on this, it’s not the end of the trail,” he said. “You gotta stay focused, keep your composure, and we’ll be ready to go. They’re rodeoing all summer long, so they should be pretty sharp when we get back at it in September.”
“They’re amazing kids, and they’re competitive,” Nose added. “Maybe next year, it will be our turn.”