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Published June 01, 2021
The next time Donny Proffit sets foot on the floor of the Ford Wyoming Center -- formerly the Casper Events Center -- it will be in a pair of cowboy boots and not a pair of wrestling shoes. For Karson Bradley, she won’t fret too much about competing in collegiate rodeo’s biggest event -- she’s been there before.
Proffit will return to Casper this time for the College National Finals Rodeo (CNFR) June 13-19 as a member of the University of Wyoming rodeo team, not as a four-time state champion wrestler for Kemmerer High School (KHS). For Bradley, from Big Piney, this will be her second time around under the spotlight -- she knows the Ford Wyoming Center’s dirt arena well.
As the only two Wyoming natives on the three-time Central Rocky Mountain Region (CRMR) champion men’s and women’s teams, Proffit and Bradley also are the only student-athletes on the teams who enter the CNFR as the national points leaders in their respective events. They both claimed individual CRMR titles this season.
UW rodeo Coach Beau Clark calls the Wyoming natives strong leaders for both the men’s and women’s teams all season.
Proffit, who won 2A state wrestling titles in four different weight classes for the Kemmerer Rangers, is the nation’s top bareback rider, accumulating 1,479 points during the 10 regional rodeos this past season. He beat out Treasure Valley Community College’s Tyler Smith by just 13 points in the overall national standings. Proffit dominated the regional bareback riding competition, winning the title by a 562-point margin.
“It was a great honor to win the region and qualify for the college finals,” Proffit says. “But, we all start at zero at the finals. I need to take it one horse at a time and let it all hang out.”
For Bradley, this will be her second appearance at the CNFR, having qualified as a member of the Central Wyoming College team two years ago. She had the misfortune of tipping a barrel in the short go and finished 12th in the average.
“Going into the CNFR -- earning the most points in the nation -- my goal is to ride my horse, Champion, like I know I can and just let the cards fall into place,” she says. “I don’t think about it too much, though, because all that does not matter in Casper. But, it is cool to say that I have the most points in the nation.”
Proffit, a UW agricultural communications sophomore, focused on both wrestling and rodeo growing up. The 2019 KHS graduate has kept up the family tradition of competing in both sports. He is the son of Veronica and Clint Proffit.
“I was kind of born into rodeo and wrestling. In my family, that is just what we do,” he says. “Wrestling and riding bareback horses are very similar. It is a battle, and it is all on you. You cannot blame anyone but yourself if you do not do well.”
After winning his fourth wrestling state title, Proffit came to UW with the intent of competing in both sports. However, during his freshman year, he decided to give up wrestling and concentrate just on rodeo, which has boosted him as a serious national bareback riding contender.
“Giving up wrestling was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made, but it was the right decision," Proffit says.
Instead of taking down an opponent to the mat, he will be taking on a bigger foe -- a bucking bronc -- ideally, through four rounds of competition later this month in Casper.
“I have always had good luck and successes in that building; it feels like home-field advantage. I hope it sticks with me, and I can win a national title,” he says. “It feels awesome to be going in and representing the University of Wyoming. I know I have the state of Wyoming behind me, and that is a great feeling to have.”
Clark says he is looking forward to watching Proffit in the building where he has had great success in the past.
“He had a great high school career in there, and we hope things will go his way as a college athlete,” Clark says. “Donny did a great job this year, improving each week. He was good in the fall and found a way to be better in the spring. I am excited he gets the opportunity to represent UW and the state of Wyoming at the CNFR.”
Bradley also came from a rodeo family. The 2017 Big Piney High School graduate, who will graduate next spring at UW with a degree in elementary education, says her dad roped, and she has been around horses since she was born. She is the daughter of Tiffanie and Mack Bradley.
She started competing in barrel racing when she was 5 and won the National Junior High Division in her specialty event. In high school, she won the rookie of the year award her freshman year, and she was the national runner-up as a junior.
She finished her junior season at UW with a narrow lead in the final regular-season barrel racing standings. She scored 1,140 points during the 10 fall and spring events, edging out East Mississippi Community College’s Taycie Matthews by just 30 points in the final national standings. Bradley won the regional barrel racing title by 150 points.
“I had a really good fall season and, going into the spring season, my goal was to win the region,” Bradley says. “It is so cool representing my home state for the University of Wyoming. I am so excited to get this opportunity.”
Clark calls Bradley an “amazing young lady” who works relentlessly at her schoolwork and rodeo.
“All year, she is in our practice arena riding horses in the morning. We are just so proud of how hard she works and the standard of excellence she has for herself,” Clark says. “Her horse, Champ, is one of the great ones. Karson puts a ton of effort into making sure he is ready for each rodeo. I am looking forward to watching them compete at the CNFR.”