The CSU Rodeo Legacy

Preserving Ranching Traditions Through Passion and Teamwork

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Milo Gladstein

Issac Florentino warms up before practice in Eaton Aug. 29. (Milo Gladstein | College Avenue Magazine)

Kailey Pickering, Editor-in-Chief

Horses race around the arena, sending whirls of dust spinning around their legs as riders swing lassos above their heads, focusing on their target, swinging one…two…three times before they release the rope and it lands over the calf. 

As the sun sets over green fields and arena lights flood across the bronze dirt, it may seem like just another practice in Eaton, Colorado, for the CSU Rodeo Club, but everyone at the arena — students, coaches, and volunteers, — are putting every ounce of effort and passion into perfecting their craft in the hours after school and between full-time jobs.  Driven by their passion for rodeo, the coaches volunteer their time for athletes. 

The roots of rodeo run deep at Colorado State University.  For years, CSU’S Livestock Team not only competed in livestock judging competitions, but also organized rodeos that showcased the traditions of ranching through events such as barrel racing, steer wrestling, and bull riding during CSU’s College Day Celebration that originated in 1910. By the 1940s, the Aggies began to pave the way as one of the first intercollegiate teams in the nation. On April 14-15, 1949, CSU students joined 12 other schools at the first National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association Convention in Denver, where the final approval was given for the association, according to the NIRA website. Since 1950, the team has been roping, riding, and collecting buckles, from winning the National Championship in 1954 to hosting the 2022 Skyline Stampede in April.

Similar to the original team members, the group shares a passion and determination for the tradition that showcases ranching skills. Rodeo at CSU not only celebrates the school’s agricultural heritage, but it opens up a space of learning.

“It doesn’t matter the background or the experience or the knowledge or any of those things, what matters more than anything is the heart and the desire that comes with it if you really, truly want to do this,” head coach Branden Ferguson says. 

The team extends their passion past those who are familiar with rodeo and welcomes anyone harboring an interest and a desire for competition. Murphy Bohlmann, president of the team, joined in January with no rodeo experience but a motivation to learn and work on the team. 

Bohlmann jumped into the sport with an ambition to absorb rodeo knowledge, and the team welcomed him into the rodeo family.

“That is truly the best way to learn,” Whitney Simmons, assistant and women’s coach, says. “To just jump in and learn as you go and watch the people you’re working with.” 

cowboys standing around a calf learning proper techniques
Head Coach of the Colorado State University Rodeo team demonstrates steer wrestling techniques to Cole Johnson and Issac Wright during practice in Eaton Aug. 29. (Milo Gladstein | College Avenue Magazine) (Milo Gladstein)

And that’s exactly what Bohlmann and others have done as they have immersed themselves into the sport. 

“Whatever level you’re on, even if you’re pro rodeo or never rodeoed before they [the coaches] really try to value what you’re doing and help you with the sport in any way they can,” Bohlmann says. 

The learning atmosphere on the team not only molds new athletes, but creates teaching moments between athletes as well. Bohlmann now instructs new members on rodeo techniques in steer wrestling. 

“I was taught pretty young that the best way to learn something is to teach it,” Ferguson says.  “I feel like trying to instill that in the students that are on the team that have grown up in the rodeo world and are part of that heritage and that legacy… you’re not going to learn it any better until you get to the point where you start trying to teach it to someone else.”

The team grows stronger as new athletes absorb rodeo knowledge and those with rodeo experience share their skills.

The team also has a community of support for one another. Ryley Hasenack, the team’s treasurer, is a junior who competes in barrel racing and breakaway roping. She explains how her teammates are constantly offering advice and support. “They’re so willing to give an arm and a leg for you when you need it,” Hasenack says. 

Whether it’s tips on technique or helping her when her horse was injured last spring, Hasenack says that the team never fails to show up for each other. The group is one that can always be relied on and cultivates participants who stand by one another.

“It helps you just understand how to be a good friend, how to be there for the people and how to rely on others to help you get better both in the arena and out,” says Sadie Johnson, a junior who currently competes in breakaway roping and goat-tying. 

Ferguson describes how many in the area are also willing to volunteer their time to help the team grow. As the team practices in nearby Eaton two days a week, many in the small ranching community, which sits about 20 miles from Fort Collins, come out to offer advice and aid to the team. Ferguson explains that he isn’t an expert in everything, so having others work with the athletes strengthens the team.

As the team learns from local experts and shows up for one another, coach Simmons explains that athletes often grow in maturity, responsibility, and work ethic through this process. They learn that “the effort you put in is the result you’re going to get out,” Simmons says.

Ryley Hasenack, break away roper learns learns techniques during practice in Eaton Aug. 29. (Milo Gladstein | College Avenue Magazine) (Milo Gladstein)

The team impacts students as it teaches the values of rodeo and ultimately helps athletes grow as people. 

“It’s not something that you’re trying for,” Ferguson says, describing the growth on the team. “You kind of step back one day and…that is not the same student that came here as a freshman.”

Not only does the organization focus on the growth of the upcoming students but also celebrates the legacy that has come before them. At the 2022 annual Skyline Stampede Rodeo in Fort Collins, the team put together an Alumni Banquet, in which they honored past members of the team. 

“I saw so many different types of people from all different walks of life, all different age ranges, it was just cool to see all those

people come together,” Bohlmann says. “And you’re just like wow, this has a rich history behind it. And it was really cool for them because they got to kind of relive what it was like when they were in the rodeo.” 

Rodeo is a tradition that brings people together through passion and hard work, sustaining relationships for years after. Don Chadwick was a bareback and bull rider as well as a member of the Livestock Club in 1947 before the NIRA was formed. He remembers meeting with his teammates annually at what was known as “the 50’s club.”

“It started out in Denver at the Stock Show,” Chadwick remembers. “So the Livestock Club would meet in one room and the Rodeo Club would meet in another room.”

Chadwick remained at CSU after graduation. The Monday after graduating he went to work for the CSU Extension, where he started the first 4H rodeo in Colorado in 1950. 

Another reunion was organized for team members from the 1970s in 2022 at the Skyline Stampede by alumni Dave Hill and Frank Grant. Reunions like these have allowed former teammates to reconnect and reminisce about their days in rodeo.

1954 CSU Rodeo Champions pose after victory.
Image of Colorado State University Rodeo (Colorado A&M) 1954 Champions (Courtesy of Barbara Jolly)

The team carries a legacy of passion and determination that has united the Rodeo Club for decades. For many, the relationships made during their time at CSU last for years beyond intercollegiate competitions. The passion they harbored lives on in today’s generation as they work toward being the best they can be.

  Today the Rodeo Club upholds the legacy that was born decades ago. With the same heart, the same dedication, and the same tradition, the CSU Rodeo Club keeps the rodeo spirit coursing through their veins. 

“I think it shows that even back then, rodeo people just had that drive and that passion for it [rodeo],” Hasenack says. “It’s cool to see that that far back there was still a passion that we have today.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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  • Colorado State University rodeo team president Murphy Bohlmann sits on the railing during practice in Eaton Aug. 29. (Milo Gladstein | College Avenue Magazine)

  • Member of the Colorado State University rodeo team sports a Boys Ranch championship buckle during practice in Eaton Aug. 29. (Milo Gladstein | College Avenue Magazine)

  • Colorado State University rodeo team head coach Brandon Ferguson sits on the railing during practice in Eaton Aug. 29. (Milo Gladstein | College Avenue Magazine)

  • Head Coach of the Colorado State University Rodeo team demonstrates steer wrestling techniques to Cole Johnson and Issac Wright during practice in Eaton Aug. 29. (Milo Gladstein | College Avenue Magazine)

  • Issac Wright practices steer wrestling during practice in Eaton Aug. 29. (Milo Gladstein | College Avenue Magazine)

  • Colorado State University rodeo team president Murphy Bohlmann talks with head coach Brandon Ferguson during practice in Eaton Aug. 29. (Milo Gladstein | College Avenue Magazine)

  • Colorado State University rodeo team head coach Brandon Ferguson gives tips to Torres Quijad who is a healer in he team roping event Aug. 29. (Milo Gladstein | College Avenue Magazine)

  • Torres Quijad, a healer in the team roping event works on technique during practice Aug. 29. (Milo Gladstein | College Avenue Magazine)

  • Issac Wright practices steer wrestling during practice in Eaton Aug. 29. (Milo Gladstein | College Avenue Magazine)

  • Colorado State University Rodeo team president Murphy Bohlmann practices steer wrestling techniques during practice in Eaton Aug. 29. (Milo Gladstein | College Avenue Magazine)

  • Colorado State University Rodeo team president Murphy Bohlmann practices steer wrestling techniques during practice in Eaton Aug. 29. (Milo Gladstein | College Avenue Magazine)

  • Ryley Hasenack practices break away roping during practice in Eaton Aug. 29. (Milo Gladstein | College Avenue Magazine)

  • Torres Quijad practices team roping techniques during practice in Eaton Aug. 29. (Milo Gladstein | College Avenue Magazine)

  • Ryley Hasenack, break away roper prepares for her turn during practice in Eaton Aug. 29. (Milo Gladstein | College Avenue Magazine)

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