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2018 Kansas Biggest Rodeo Champions

Bareback riding champion – Blaine Kaufman


Blaine Kaufman had a good weekend during the 2018 Phillipsburg Rodeo.

The Pretty Prairie, Kan. man won Phillipsburg, tied for first in Abilene, Kan., and won third in Sidney, Iowa.

In Phillipsburg, his score of 86 points did the trick. It was aboard Beutler and Son Rodeo’s Black Kat. “I was pretty pumped when I saw that I had drawn her,” he said. “I had good horses drawn everywhere that week, and I thought, shoot, this will top off the week.” The horse, an eight-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier, “was everything you wanted to have,” Kaufman said.

This is the sixth time the 26-year-old cowboy has competed in Phillipsburg, and the beautiful three-piece buckle went to his one-year-old daughter. He loves coming to Phillipsburg. “You get on great horses every time you go there. It’s one of those rodeos you look forward to every year.”

Favorite travel snacks: trail mix, “with no raisins, that’s for sure. Pretzels are a must, and Bugles, and spicy Cheetos.”
Favorite restaurant: Wendy’s and the Baconator. “It’s always a plus if you go through a town with a Wendy’s in it.”
Favorite music to listen to while traveling: “If I’m with Jared (Keylon, a fellow bareback rider), we sit and talk the whole time. If I’m by myself, I listen to country music, the old stuff. George Strait is my favorite.”
Role model: “My dad,” Bruce Kaufman, a former PRCA bareback rider. “He’s one of those guys you want to pattern yourself after. He’s about as honest as the day is long, and will do anything to help anybody, even if it costs him.”  

Steer wrestling champion Blake Knowles


After Blake Knowles made a 3.9 second run in the steer wrestling at the 2018 Kansas Biggest Rodeo, he kept checking the website, to see if he was still in the lead.

“I made a decent run,” he said, “and I honestly didn’t think it would win. With the caliber of guys and steers that were there, I hoped to win third at the best.” But he came away with the steer wrestling buckle and title. 

The Heppner, Oregon cowboy had one of the best steers in the bunch. “I remember the steer from Greeley (Colo.), and I knew I definitely had a great chance to place high. I knew if I did my job I had a chance to win it.”

After competing on the first night of slack, his time held through 69 steer wrestlers for the win.

Coming from Oregon, he didn’t bring his own horse but rode Kyle Whitaker’s buckskin, Chuck. Whitaker, who is from Chambers, Neb., and Knowles have partnered up several times, especially when Knowles comes to the Great Plains. “It’s a great deal for me,” Knowles said, “to be able to leave my horses (at home) and not haul their legs off, and go out there and ride a horse the caliber of Chuck.”

Chuck, a sixteen-year-old gelding, is a steer wrestler’s dream, Knowles said. “Chuck’s great because he’s easy. You turn him around, back him in the box, and he’s ready.” Chuck also does well at a variety of arenas and different set-ups. “It makes him valuable at tons of different rodeos. He’s definitely not a one-dimensional horse. He just lets you win.”

Knowles is a three-time WNFR qualifier.

Favorite travel snacks: Snickers with almonds, but “I’m not too particular. I like everything. I’m not a huge pop guy but I will sneak a Red Bull every now and then, especially in the summer when you’re going like crazy and need to sharpen up before a run.” 

Role model: “My father (Butch Knowles). We are constantly talking shop when it comes to rodeo, tossing around different ideas of where I should go. Dad and I visit a lot about different aspects of rodeo.” Butch is a four-time WNFR qualifier in the saddle bronc riding.  

Team roping champions Clay Tryan and Travis Graves


Clay Tryan and Travis Graves put a time of 4.0 seconds on the scoreboard in the team roping to win their event at the 2018 Kansas Biggest Rodeo.

The pair roped together for much of 2018.

Clay, a three-time world champion, rode his thirteen-year-old sorrel named Johnston, who was also his mount at the 2018 WNFR. He enjoys roping with Travis. “He’s great to rope with. He’s been really good for a long time. We’re a pretty good combination.”

The Billings, Montana cowboy makes his home in Texas with his wife and three sons. He tied for second place in Phillipsburg in 2017, roping with Jade Corkill.

Favorite food on the road: Cheeseburgers. “I eat too many, probably.”

Role model: “My dad (1984 WNFR qualifier Dennis Tryan.) He’s the reason I rope. I followed in his footsteps.”

Travis Graves was on the heel side of the winning duo in Phillipsburg.

The Jay, Okla. man was aboard his nine-year-old brown horse named Chip, who he rode at the 2018 WNFR.

He has competed at Phillipsburg about eleven years, and loves coming. “It’s one of my favorite weeks,” he said, referring to the first week of August, when rodeos take place in Phillipsburg, Abilene and Dodge City. “I grew up in Oklahoma (in the Prairie Circuit) so I grew up going to those rodeos.” He is impressed with the size of the rodeo in Phillipsburg, compared to the small population size of the town and county. “There’s not (a high population) in Phillipsburg to have that kind of a rodeo, so that’s pretty cool.”

Favorite food in Phillipsburg: “Sonic. Phillipsburg have a Sonic now, and that’s nice.”

Favorite beverage on the road: Dr. Pepper. 

Role model: “My dad (Ronnie Graves). Without him, I wouldn’t be where I’m at. He taught me, as a little kid, how to rope. That’s all I wanted to do. He supported me at a young age and gave me the assets to be able to do it. He roped really well but never pro rodeoed.”

Saddle bronc riding champion Colt Gordon


Colt Gordon scored 87 points on the Beutler and Son Rodeo bronc Wound Up to win the 2018 Phillipsburg rodeo.

The Comanche, Okla. cowboy got a bit of revenge on the eleven-year-old mare, a five-time WNFR bucker. He got on the horse in Woodward, Okla. two years ago, but “she ended up bucking me off there, so this has been a long time coming.”

Colt, who is 21 years old, has been a PRCA member for the past three years. His first Beutler rodeo was Phillipsburg, four years ago, and he loves coming. “It’s always a good rodeo, a fun rodeo. The crowd is entertaining and fun. It’s an atmosphere that pumps you up and makes you want to get on.”

He has qualified for the Prairie Circuit Finals four times. He was the Prairie Circuit Finals champion in 2017, qualifying him to compete at the RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo in 2018.

Favorite restaurant: Mexican food. “We eat a lot of Mexican food, and a lot of enchiladas, because they’re easy. It’s hard to mess up enchiladas.”
Favorite music to listen to while traveling: Old country. “We listen to a lot of David Allan Coe, Waylon Jennings, and Merle Haggard.” 
Role model: “I have a lot of role models, but one that sticks out is (four-time world champion bull rider) J.W. Harris. He’s a bull rider, but he’s helped me to get started. He brought practice horses for me to get on when I started riding broncs.”  

Tie-down roping champion Marty Yates


The Phillipsburg rodeo gave Marty Yates the boost he needed.

The Stephenville, Texas cowboy won the tie-down roping with a time of 7.8 seconds.

The win came at the perfect time. “It helped me out because things hadn’t been going so good for me,” he said. He wasn’t riding his own horse; his had been sent home due to an injury at the Calgary Stampede. So he borrowed a horse from long-time friend Tyler Prcin. “I was desperate,” Marty said. “I didn’t have anything to ride, so I said, you know what, let’s try him.” The twelve-year-old sorrel gelding panned out; in Phillipsburg, the second time Marty rode the horse at a rodeo, he won on him. He finished out the year on the gelding, qualifying for his fifth WNFR.

This was the fifth time he has competed at Phillipsburg, and he is appreciative of the $8,500 in added money in his event. “We don’t tell committees thank you enough (for the added money.) That’s what pays our bills,that’s what keeps us on the road and feeding our families.”

After late July, Marty chooses to rodeo in the central U.S., and that’s another reason he competes in Phillipsburg. “A lot of guys go up north and go to rodeos there, but I like to come home and take a small break. I get three or four days off, then go to Phillipsburg and Dodge.”

Favorite food on the road: Chicken fried steak. “Everywhere we go, if they have it on the menu, I have to try it and see if it’s any good. That’s my food.”
Favorite music to listen to while traveling: Texas Country. “It’s what we all keep on the radio.”  
Role model: NFL quarterback Tom Brady and 24-time world champion Trevor Brazile.
Tom Brady: “He’s a great leader, even if he hadn’t won his sixth title. The way he handles himself, his team and his family, it’s a mold to follow, for sure.”
Trevor Brazile: “I grew up around Trevor, watching him, and got to compete against and along with Trevor the six years I’ve been rodeoing. He’s the same guy every time you talk to him. You give him an hour after he’s roped, you wouldn’t know if he’s missed or if he’s won the rodeo. He’s a very special guy. He keeps his composure.”

Barrel racing champion Randi Buchanan


Randi Buchanan took home the gold buckle in the barrel racing at the 2018 Phillipsburg Rodeo.

The Choteau, Okla. cowgirl rounded the barrels in 17.24 seconds to win the title aboard a special horse.

Royal Flighta Fame “Cricket,” an eleven-year-old bay mare, was an unwanted horse in her early years. Owned by Wilma Hybarger of Fallon, Nev., the mare was a cutting horse reject with fibrotic myopathy, a gait abnormality.

But Cricket had other ideas. The bay was “phenomenal,” Randi said, “winning a bunch.” Wilma lent her to Randi for two years, and Randi trained her in the barrel racing.

Then Cricket got sold to someone else, and Randi wasn’t able to buy her. But her owner decided she didn’t want her anymore, and sold her to Randi. “I sold my trailer and put my truck up for collateral,” to buy the horse. “I told my fiancé that I’d rather have her in my pasture as a brood mare than not have her at all.”

Her run in Phillipsburg proved her worth. “It was about the last run before I was going to kick her out for the summer,” Randi said. During competition, “she was just running. She really digs into the ground with her butt and slides around the barrels. The biggest deal is to keep the barrels up. After I got around the second barrel, I felt like I was making an incredible run. I just didn’t realize it was going to be as fast as it was.”

Phillipsburg is one of her favorite rodeos; she won her first check at that rodeo a few years ago. “I always love coming back to that rodeo. I always love the crowd there. They end up with a big crowd and it’s loud there. And the louder the crowd is, the more Cricket’s going to run.”

Randi grew up near Reno, Nev. She is a 2017 graduate from Oklahoma Panhandle State University with a degree in biology. She and her fiancé Peyton Holliday, will marry in November 2019.

Favorite restaurant: Freddy’s Steakburgers and Frozen Custards. “Ice cream is my weakness,” she said. “I can thank (fellow barrel racer) Cayla Small for that one.”

Role model: Wilma Hybarger, a former trick rider, cutting horse rider and barrel racer who lives in Fallon, Nev. She has “honestly been a blessing in my life. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be where I am today, nor would I have the horses I’m on.” 

Her parents are also role models for her. Buck and Shari Buchanan have done all they can to help their daughter. Her mom “always taught me that you never stop learning. She put me with some of the greatest horsemen around. My mom has given me everything: from her last dollar to get me to a rodeo, to teaching me how to stand on my own two feet, to being respectful. I hope I become her one day.”

Her dad has given his daughter his sense of humor. “Dad keeps my humor alive, for sure.”

Bull riding champion Cody Keathley


With a score of 86.5 points, Cody Keathley bested the field of bull riders in Phillipsburg to come out the winner.

Keathley rode the Beutler and Son bull Muley Madness, a bull he’d done some research on. “I looked up his stats online, and I knew he’d been to the WNFR,” he said. “I knew if I got out on him, he’d be the one to win on.”

Keathley, who is nineteen years old and a resident of Sweetwater, Okla., is a permit member in the PRCA. He is a freshman at Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford, Okla., where he is on the rodeo team. He also competed in the Oklahoma High School Rodeo Association, where he won the state bull riding title three of four years. In college, his major is parks and recreation, with the goal of being a game warden.

He enjoyed the Phillipsburg rodeo in part because it was his first chance to see Tim Lepard and the Team Ghostriders act. “I’d heard about the monkeys riding the collie dogs,” he said. “It was a neat sight to see.”

The Phillipsburg buckle was his first pro rodeo buckle. “It means a lot to me,” he said. “It’s a pretty sweet buckle.”

Favorite snack food: Sugar-free Red Bull and beef jerky. “Good power food,” he said.

Favorite music to listen to while traveling: Old country, like Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, and Merle Haggard, and rap.  

Role model: “I have a bunch, but one is (world champion bull rider) Sage Kimzey. I’ve always watched him and admired his riding style.” Another one is former PBR rider Everett Erickson. After Keathley’s dad died when he was ten years old, he lost interest in riding bulls. Erickson helped him get it back. “When my dad passed away, I was lost and didn’t know what to do. Everett helped me get to riding again. I still talk to him nearly every day. He’s a really good guy.”