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2017 Kansas Biggest Rodeo Champions

Bareback riding champion - Steven Dent

Steven Dent had won money several times at the Phillipsburg Rodeo, but he had never won the gold. That is, until last year.

In 2017, Dent scored 86.5 points on the Beutler and Son horse Nutrena’s Little Jet to win the gold buckle and, finally, first place.

The Mullen, Neb. bareback rider won a check for eighth place in 2012, split second place in 2010 and third in 2007 before finally winning it all last year.

Dent, who has qualified for eight Wrangler National Finals Rodeos (WNFR), had always wanted to win the three-piece buckle the committee gives. “It’s unique and real pretty,” he said. He plans on giving it to his wife after he gets a belt made for it.

The Phillipsburg rodeo is one of his favorites, in part because he gets to see his family, wife Kay, and three children (a boy, age five, and two daughters, ages three and one), after being away from them for the month of July, while he’s rodeoing. “That rodeo is pretty close to home,” he said. “I usually have my family with me, which is nice. It’s a fun week.” His family travels with him for the week as he competes in Phillipsburg, Dodge City, Dalhart, Texas, and other rodeo close to the area.

When he’s not rodeoing, Dent ranches north of Mullen and runs a black Angus cow/calf operation with some yearlings.

On the rodeo road, he likes to stay awake with black coffee and FM or satellite radio.

Steer wrestling champion –Tom Lewis

Tom Lewis gave his mom a birthday present during the Phillipsburg rodeo in 2017.

On her birthday, August 5, he won the steer wrestling at Kansas Biggest Rodeo.

The Utah native turned in a time of 3.6 seconds to win the title and the buckle.

It was a big weekend for him and his traveling partners, full of driving and rodeoing. “I had driven from Idaho Falls, Idaho, clean to Phillipsburg, then to Dodge. We were hustling, and tired,” Lewis recalled. Levi Rudd hazed for him, riding Lewis’ horse Mama. “Gosh, we just made a good run. Philipsburg is a good rodeo. Anytime you can come out on top with a whole bunch of other bulldoggers, it’s exciting.”

Lewis was aboard his twelve-year-old sorrel, Maverick, a horse he trained. Last year was Maverick’s first year of going hard, and he’s done well. “He’s really calm and easy but he’s a winner. He just loves it. I don’t have to make him do it, he loves to do it. Sometimes he comes back and knows it went good, and knows we’ve won.” Maverick is owned by Lewis and his parents, Stan and Peggy, and the horse “is like traveling with a dog. He loves to be petted on and loved on.” At the 2017 Wrangler National Finals, four steer wrestlers rode Maverick.

The win in Phillipsburg was also special to Lewis for another reason. His mom Peggy had been diagnosed with cancer earlier in the summer. Chemotherapy treatment has been completed, and the cancer has come back. “It’s a matter of time,” Lewis said, of his mom’s passing. “We’re going to lose her. I’m proud of my mom. She’s fought it, and done all she can do.” He’s learned from the trials his mom is going through. “She’s taught me to fight, and she has taught me that every day is a blessing.”

To while away the hours while driving, Lewis likes to eat Skittles, drink Mountain Dew, and chew on ice. He enjoys listening to Pandora and watching movies.

Lewis also won the steer wrestling at Dodge City the same weekend, and the buckle from both Phillipsburg and Dodge are on the mantel at his parents’ home.

He is a resident of Talihina, Okla. and has two daughters, Oaklee and Hadlee. His sponsors are Finish First, Wrangler, Coats Saddlery and Best Ever Pads.

Team roping champion- Tyler Wade (header)

Tyler Wade and Clint Summers teamed up to turn in a run of 4.2 seconds in the team roping to win the 2017 Kansas Biggest Rodeo title.

For Tyler, from Terrell, Texas, it was the second time he’d won a check in Phillipsburg, after winning second place in 2016 with heeler Dakota Kirchenschlager.

They made a good run in Phillipsburg. “It was a good run,” Tyler said. “He heeled him fast. I didn’t throw the best head loop but it went on really fast and it all came together.” The arena is shaped like an oval, which isn’t always conducive to good team roping runs, Tyler said. “The way the arena is shaped, the wall is right there (on the left) so it’s important that the heeler throws fast. The left wall is pretty close.”

The pair competed in Abilene and Dodge City that same weekend, but didn’t earn any money at those rodeos. “I’ve always done good at Phillipsburg,” he said. “That rodeo usually saves my week, right there.” He loves coming to the small town in north central Kansas. “It’s in the middle of nowhere, and I like the fans. Everybody sits outside their house with ‘welcome rodeo fans’ signs in their yards, waving at the cowboys when they come into town.”

When he’s driving, he tries to eat and drink as low calorie as possible. “Lots and lots of water and lots of sunflower seeds,” he said. “Lots of gum that doesn’t make you too fat and it keeps you occupied for sure.” He also likes to watch shows while he’s traveling with his partner. “We usually watch TV. Everybody has an Ipad and Netflix.” His favorite show is The Ranch, of which he’s seen every episode.

When he’s home, he and his dad put on ropings and junior rodeo events in their indoor arena in Terrell.

Tyler qualified for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in 2016, and has finished seventeenth in the world standings three times.

Team roping champion- Clint Summers (heeler)

Clint Summers was on the heel end of the team roping duo that won the title at the 2017 Kansas Biggest Rodeo.

The Lake City, Florida man was the heeler for Tyler Wade; the pair turned in a time of 4.2 seconds to win the rodeo.

The win was good timing for the men, Clint said. “We had been in a slump, and that rodeo actually turned it around a little for us. My partner got a good start (on the steer), set him up for me, and gave me the opportunity to throw fast.”

The chance to rope well doesn’t come without some practice time, Clint said. He is in the arena on horseback nearly every day. “We practice pretty much every day, all day, and do it over and over. It’s almost like muscle memory. As long as you ride your horse the  way you’re supposed to ride him, the roping part should be easy.”

Summers, who is 26 years old, was the Resistol Rookie of the Year winner in 2012, the same year that Tyler won it. He and Tyler have known each other through youth rodeos and roped together part of the summer of 2017. In 2018, they are roping with different cowboys.

When he has some down time, Clint likes to golf, although the trip to Phillipsburg usually requires him to compete and get back on the road to the next rodeo. He likes to hunt whitetail deer and turkey in Florida, south Texas and Illinois.

On the road, he loves to listen to 90s country. George Strait and Shenandoah are two of his favorite groups.  He finished the 2017 season in nineteenth place in the world.

Saddle bronc riding champion –Chet Johnson

Chet Johnson took home the gold from Phillipsburg last year.

The Douglas, Wyo. saddle bronc rider scored 95.5 points on Beutler and Son Rodeo’s Nutrena’s Little Angel to win the three-piece buckle and put his name in the record books.

It was the third time for him and the mare to meet up, and it was the best meeting of the three. He missed the horse out once, and got bucked off once, so his score at Kansas Biggest Rodeo “worked out pretty good,” he said.

The thirty-year-old cowboy, who has been pro rodeoing since he was 21, spends his summers on the family ranch in Wyoming but winters in Stephenville, Texas. His place in Texas is an investment, he said. It’s closer to winter rodeos, and the winter weather is nicer than January in Wyoming.

He has qualified for four Wrangler National Finals Rodeos (05, 07-08, 13), and estimates he’s competed in Phillipsburg about eight times.

When Johnson and his traveling partners have down time on the rodeo road, they like to golf. They haven’t golfed in Phillipsburg, however. The first weekend of August, when the rodeo takes place, is one of the busiest weekends of the year, and Johnson is trying to make rodeos across the country. “We’re spread out from Canada to Dalhart, Texas,” he said. “There are a lot of good rodeos that weekend, and they’re pretty spread out.”

The three-piece buckle he won went to his eight-year-old niece. Johnson won a buckle from an Oklahoma rodeo last year as well and that went to his eleven-year-old nephew. The Phillipsburg buckle was a good one for his niece: it’s smaller and “really fancy, really nice.”

When he’s traveling, his drink of choice is gas station coffee. He tries to eat healthy on the road, choosing to snack on trail mix or jerky.


Tie-down roping champion – Blane Cox

Blane Cox won the tie-down roping at the 2017 Phillipsburg Rodeo with a run of 8.2 seconds.

He was aboard a horse he and his dad trained. Bull, a ten-year-old sorrel, is doing well at big rodeos, Blane said. “He’s kind of hot, and in the arena he gets pretty worked up but he’s never not done his job,” Blane said. Bull is like a little kid outside the arena, though. “He’s the biggest turd I know. You put him in a stall next to another horse, he’ll kick the stall and be mad. But if you take that horse away, he’s mad. He has an immature mind but he definitely has personality.”

The 24-year-old cowboy qualified for the National Finals Rodeo in 2016 but finished the ’17 season in sixteenth place, one hole out of making it again. It’s making him work harder this year. “No doubt. There’s no way in the world I’d let myself end up there (in sixteenth place) again, I promise.” Horse troubles didn’t help him last year. Bull got hurt in September, so he borrowed another horse that also got hurt. Blane borrowed a second horse the last week of September, a week before the season ended, and “it just didn’t work out,” he said.

When he’s on the road, his favorite things to eat and drink are water and healthy foods. He and his traveling partners like to eat at Subway or sandwiches made in the trailer. If he has the chance to eat a good meal, he loves steak, medium, and a baked potato with butter and cheese.

The buckle he won in Phillipsburg is in his mother’s display case, a wagon wheel with plexiglass covering it, in the living room.

He hopes to be back to Phillipsburg again in 2018, as it’s on his way from rodeos in the Northwest. “We come from up north, go to Phillipsburg, then go home for two or three days before we head back out again.”

Barrel racing champion – Christine Laughlin

Christine Laughlin rounded the barrels at Kansas Biggest Rodeo last year in 17.05 seconds to win the rodeo and the buckle.

The Pueblo, Colo. woman, a 2014 National Finals Rodeo qualifier, was riding her backup horse, a nine-year-old mare, Jess Undeniable “Jessi,” in Phillipsburg. The mare, owned by Jack Vanwey, is well bred, Christine said, with Feature Mister Jess on the top side and Dash for Cash on the bottom. Christine usually rides Six Pack, her gray horse, but he was hurt and stayed home. “We were having a good end of the summer,” she said. Jessi “was running strong. The run wasn’t a perfect barrel run, but she was fast and she really clocked.” Jessi has her own personality, however. “She’s a typical mare,” Christine said. “She’s very strong willed, wants to do her job and be left alone.”

Christine estimates this is the fifth time she’s run at Phillipsburg, and she loves to come to Kansas the first week of August, hitting rodeos in Abilene, Dodge City and Sidney, Iowa, as well.

She and Jessi won Denver’s National Western Stock Show and Rodeo in January of 2018.

When she’s on the rodeo road, she loves to snack on gummi worms, chips or candy bars. “I’m not very healthy,” she laughed. “I’d rather snack all day.” She loves listening to any kind of music on satellite radio, which is a problem, she said. “I flip channels constantly.”

In addition to a qualification to the NFR, she has competed at the Mountain States Circuit Finals Rodeo three times.

Bull riding champion  - Wyatt Edwards

Wyatt Edwards is the third in a string of Oklahoma bull riders to win the bull riding title at Kansas Biggest Rodeo.

The Sulphur, Okla. cowboy won the 2017 rodeo, with fellow Okies Sage Kimzey winning it in 2016 and Brennon Eldred the prior year.

Edwards was 81 points on Beutler and Son Rodeo’s No. 124 to win the buckle. His friend and fellow Oklahoman Trevor Kastner won the North Platte rodeo on the bull six weeks prior. The bull turned to the right with Kastner, Edwards said, but in Phillipsburg, he turned left, “which was unexpected.” He knew as soon as the buzzer went that he had made a good ride, but it wasn’t time to celebrate yet. Kastner was the next to ride, and “he’s pretty consistent at staying on,” Edwards said, “so I wasn’t celebrating just yet.” Kastner got bucked off, allowing Edwards’ score of 81 to stay on top.

Edwards first saw a Phillipsburg championship buckle when Eldred won it, and he wanted one.  “Everybody wants to win that rodeo,” he said. “They give away the coolest buckle, and it’s a cool rodeo for sure. The buckle is so different than anything you can win anywhere else.”

The 28 year old traveled with Trevor Kastner and Nate Perry to Phillipsburg, and the buddies had a good story. The trio was thirty miles out of Dodge City, headed to Phillipsburg, when Edwards called another friend, Trey Kimzey, who was in Abilene. Kimzey told him their names were on the trade list for Abilene, not Phillipsburg: they were to ride in Abilene that night and Phillipsburg the next. So they made a quick route change and headed to Abilene first.

Edwards, Kastner, and Perry camped out in a cowboy range tent several times last year, including in Phillipsburg, and their camping spot turned into a cowboy hang-out spot.

As for his buckle, he took the unique three-piece set to a friend who does leather work, asking him to make a belt for it with memories from his ride and time in Phillipsburg, including a tent and the bull’s number.

The Phillipsburg rodeo was his second one back after taking time off to allow a torn bicep to heal. Edwards suffered the injury when a bull at the Woodward, Okla. rodeo in 2016 stepped on his bicep, ripping it off the tendon and making it unrepairable.