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The 10 Best College Rodeo Teams

It’s entirely possible you didn’t even realize college rodeos were a thing. Well, for your information, not only are they a thing, they’re a highly competitive, scholarship-granting sport that has been a staple of dozens of college campuses since the Second World War. Both male and female students compete in one of 11 regions stretching from the Pacific Northwest to the Ozarks by bronc and bull riding, roping, steer wrestling, barrel racing, and goat tying. These 10 teams are the biggest names in the game and represent the top choices for many cowboys and cowgirls each year.

  1. Walla Walla Community College:

    It’s a rare sport where a community college can be considered a powerhouse, even competing with major four-year universities. But a powerhouse is just what this school in Washington State has become. Since 2001, the school has not failed to have at least one competitor in the top 10 of some category at the College National Finals Rodeo — the “Rose Bowl of rodeo” — in Casper, Wyo. The men’s team won it all in 2008 and 2012, and scored in the top 10 in 2009-2011. Despite not being “a big rough stock school,” the Warriors excel at roping, both team and tie-down.

  2. Tarleton State University:

    Deep in the heart of Texas in Stephenville, this member of the Texas A&M system has been racking up rodeo accolades since 1947. With a student body of around 9,000 students, a solid 1% are on the team (115 members). Over the years the Texans and TexAnns (the school’s cowgirls) have brought home six national championships (including two in 2005) and 19 individual titles. Both the men’s and women’s teams are off to a hot start in the 2012-2013 season, with each standing first in the regional rankings and in the top 10 nationwide, having won three of their first four rodeos collectively.

  3. University of Nevada-Las Vegas:

    The basketball team may get the most headlines, but another team at the school has twice the number of national championships. The women’s team was twice proven to be the best in the nation, in 1999 and again in 2008. Both the men and women have counted two individual all-around champions among their ranks. In the West Coast Region, the UNLV rodeo squad is a force to be reckoned with, grabbing 25 regional titles. And 2012 looks to be another promising year for the Runnin’ Rebels — currently the men hold the sixth spot in the country, and the women third.

  4. California Polytechnic State University:

    Cal Poly is the only school we know of that offers a class in “beginning rodeo.” Of course, if anyone has a proven track record of teaching kids how to rope and ride, it’s Cal Poly. The women are fresh off a 10th place finish at last year’s finals, and are currently ranked second in the West Coast Region. The Lady Mustangs have churned out breakaway roping all-stars in the last 10 years, while the men have recorded four individual national titles and a slew of top-10 finishes since 2001.

  5. Central Wyoming College:

    Teams don’t come much more consistent than the CWC Rustler Rodeo squad. In the 21st century, the school has only missed landing a team in the top 10 in the country at the national finals four times. Three times since 2000, both the men’s and women’s teams finished in the top 10 in the same year. Much of their success has no doubt been due to excellent coaching by former pro Rick Smith and his wife Lynn, who recently left for another college. In their 17 years at CWC, the team earned nine individual championships and 10 regional team titles. Time will tell if the program can continue to have success without them.

  6. New Mexico State University:

    Before being unseated by the Mesalands team (see below) in 2011-2012, the NMSU rodeo team had manhandled the Grand Canyon Region for eight consecutive years. And if the current rankings are any indication, the Aggies are well on their way to launching another winning streak. It certainly seems to have just been an off year for the group, as both teams finished in the top 10 nationally in 2011 and hadn’t failed to have at least one team make the top 10 since 2007. Tie-down roping and team roping are NMSU’s specialties, with their last national title coming in the former in 2011.

  7. Weber State University:

    There does not seem to be any mention of the Wildcat rodeo team on this Ogden, Utah school’s website, which is a shame because they have a really solid program. Since 2001 the men’s and women’s teams and individual rodeoers at WSU have had 38 top-10 finishes at the CNFR, with the women’s team clinching four individual top-five all-around scores and four top-10 team finishes (including the championship in 2006) over that time. The women virtually own the goat-tying division, while the men’s strength lies in tie-down roping and steer wrestling. With the 2012-2013 half over, the men are just out of the top 10 in the nation and the women just out of the top 20.

  8. Sam Houston State University:

    Now in its 62nd year, the Sam Houston Rodeo Club is one of the oldest student groups on campus, and also one of the most successful athletic programs the school in Huntsville, Texas, has ever put forward. The club boasts having produced more national championship teams than any other college in America. There were five team titles in the ’60s, three in the ’70s, and three in the ’80s, and though the pace has slowed a bit, the men finished first and second in 2011 and 2012, respectively, while the women finished second in 2011 and are 17th overall at this season’s halfway point.

  9. Mesalands Community College:

    If you follow college rodeo, this up-and-coming school in New Mexico is definitely one to keep your eye on. Last season the men’s team set and then broke the record for most points scored in a single rodeo and finished the year with 9,707.5 points, besting the previous record by nearly 1,000 points. They took home the Grand Canyon Regional Championship title for the second consecutive year, while the women finished second. But at the national finals it was the women who impressed, placing fourth overall and one freshman earning Rookie of the Year. Having landed the top male recruit and returned a number of team members, hopes are high for the 2012-2013 season.

  10. College of Southern Idaho:

    If the Golden Eagles can keep up their current pace this season, the men will win the Rocky Mountain Region and the women will be right in the hunt. That would be more of what rodeo-watchers have come to expect of the teams from this community college in Twin Falls. The men finished last year in ninth at the CNFR, and are looking to get back to the days when they won back-to-back national titles in 2001 and 2002. At the individual level, CSI is always a strong rough stock contender and has turned out professional stars like Jesse and Cody Wright, who are currently dominating on the earnings chart.

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