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Courtesy ProRodeo

LANCASTER, CALIF. – Reed Neely has been practicing his interviewing skills. As an ag communications major at California State University, Fresno, he’s had to write profiles on other athletes and believes a career in journalism might be a possibility for his future.
That is unless this whole saddle bronc riding thing works out for him.  
After a huge weekend at the RAM California Circuit Finals Rodeo in Lancaster, Calif., Neely is more apt to be on the receiving end of the interviews for some time to come. The Sanger, Calif., cowboy claimed the average win after posting 223 points on three head. He was the only saddle bronc rider to cover every horse.
“I can’t thank my family and friends enough for helping me getting to where I am,” Neely said.
His father, Jeff, rode bareback horses and mom, Debbie, was a rodeo competitor. It was his father’s idea for Neely to try saddle bronc riding.
“He had a lot of shoulder problems, so he pushed me to try saddle broncs (instead of bareback),” Neely said.
At his parents’ urging, Neely stuck to roping events until he turned 16. After getting on his first bronc, he was hooked. In four short years, he has qualified to the National High School Finals Rodeo and College National Finals Rodeo and now lays claim to a circuit average championship.
In Lancaster, Neely set himself up for the win after placing on his first two horses. In fact, he was the only cowboy with two covered going into the final round.
“My family is pretty competitive,” he laughed of the strategy knowing that any qualified ride would secure the average win on the final day. “They’ve always told me, when you make a short round, to ride like you came in in last place.
“After the first round, I knew I had some ground to make up, so I just tried to be strong and ride as hard as I could,” Neely said. “On the last one, I just tried to stick to business. I said a little prayer to God and went for it.”
He clinched the win with a 74-point ride in the third round, earning a total of $6,596 for the weekend.
“I had three consistent, fun horses that were perfect for this weekend,” Neely said. “They were good hoppers and I did all I could with them, and I couldn’t ask for anything better.”
Neely says his bronc riding took a big jump last summer after a rodeo road trip with seasoned veterans – fellow California Circuit cowboys – Joaquin Real, Justin Lawrence and Tim Ditrich.
“I’m so grateful for them taking me with them, getting me out of California,” Neely said.
Though still on his permit, Neely picked up some big wins during the trip, including wins in Cedar City, Utah, and Heber City, Utah.
“I wouldn’t be here if not for those six weeks on the road with those guys,” Neely said. “I learned a lot about rodeoing, and they helped shape my riding style. In fact, Joaquin told me today that I still have more to improve, so I’m looking forward to that and to someday being a world champion.”
Neely plans to stay on his permit for the 2020 season, giving himself time to finish his degree and his commitments to the Fresno State rodeo team. Then it’s full steam ahead to what he hopes will be a PRCA Rookie of the Year title, Wrangler National Finals Rodeo berth and a world championship.
“I know God has plans for me,” said Neely, noting that childhood friend Lefty Holman came within an untimely injury away from making his first trip to Las Vegas for the Wrangler NFR in 2019.
He and Holman are looking forward to big things in their rodeo futures.
“We’ve been best friends since the seventh grade, and we think alike,” Neely said. “We’ve been rehabbing together from some soreness and injuries, but we’re young and we’ve got plenty of rodeo ahead of us.”
Neely also has plenty of backup plans.
“I figure I can get into journalism if I have any injuries and can’t ride, and if I haven’t won the world title by the time I’m 28, I’m thinking of becoming a Navy Seal,” said Neely, who is inspired by his grandfather, who served in the Air Force, and a neighbor who was part of Seal Team Six. “I couldn’t do what I’m doing without them protecting me, so I’m always aware of that and thankful for what our service members do.”
Other winners at the $181,428 rodeo were bareback rider Cache Hill (214.5 points on three head); steer wrestler Dakota Eldridge (19.1 seconds on three head); team ropers Doyle Hoskins and Monty Joe Petska (19.5 seconds on three head); tie-down roper Colton Farquer (29.0 seconds on three head); barrel racer Megan Champion (53.30 seconds on three runs); and bull rider Colby Demo (157.5 points on two head). The all-around cowboy was Jack Vanderlans ($6,346, tie-down roping and steer wrestling).

Sanger, California’s Reed Neely claimed the Saddle Bronc Riding average at the RAM California Circuit Finals rodeo with 223 points on three head.  – Photo by Gene Hyder

Lancaster, Calif., Oct. 4-6
All-around cowboy: Jack Vanderlans, $6,346, tie-down roping and steer wrestling.
Bareback riding: First round: 1. Sam Oliver, 78 points on Four Star Rodeo’s Black Ice, $1,960; 2. Tre Hosley, 75, $1,470; 3. Cache Hill, 72.5, $980; 4. Lucas Samaniego, 57, $490. Second round: 1. Sam Oliver, 71.5 points on Flying U Rodeo’s Cat Caller, $1,960; 2. Cache Hill, 65, $1,470; no other qualified rides. Third round: 1. Cache Hill, 77 points on Bridwell Pro Rodeos’ Tequila Talking, $1,960; 2. Tre Hosley, 65, $1,470; 3. Sam Oliver, 53, $980; no other qualified rides. Average: 1. Cache Hill, 214.5 points on three head, $2,940; 2. Sam Oliver, 202.5, $2,205; 3. Tre Hosley, 140 on two head, $1,470; 4. Lucas Samaniego, 57 on one head, $735.
Steer wrestling: First round: 1. Billy Bugenig, 5.2 seconds, $2,129; 2. Jack Vanderlans, 6.4, $1,597; 3. Sterling Lambert, 7.5, $1,065; 4. Dakota Eldridge, 8.6, $532. Second round: 1. Dakota Eldridge, 5.4 seconds, $2,129; 2. Rudy Switzer, 5.6, $1,597; 3. Sterling Lambert, 6.3, $1,065; 4. Tucker Allen, 6.9, $532. Third round: 1. Ory James Lemmons, 4.5 seconds, $2,129; 2. Rhett Kennedy, 5.0, $1,597; 3. (tie) Dakota Eldridge and Billy Bugenig, 5.1, $799 each. Average: 1. Dakota Eldridge, 19.1 seconds on three head, $3,194; 2. Sterling Lambert , 19.3, $2,396; 3. Tucker Allen , 29.8, $1,597; 4. Billy Bugenig, 10.3 on two head, $799.
Team roping: First round: 1. Jr. Dees/Nano Garza, 5.6 seconds, $2,111 each; 2. Lane Karney/Chance Machado, 5.7, $1,583; 3. Blake Teixeira/Dalton Pearce, 6.4, $1,055; 4. (tie) Doyle Hoskins/Monty Joe Petska and Paul Mullins/Rhett Kennedy, 7.1, $264 each. Second round: 1. Wes Moore/Brushton Minton, 5.2 seconds, $2,111 each; 2. Jr. Dees/Nano Garza, 5.7, $1,583; 3. Ryan Reed/Wyatt Hansen, 6.6, $1,055; 4. Lane Karney/Chance Machado, 6.8, $528. Third round: 1. C.J. DeForest Jr./Andy Holcomb, 5.2 seconds, $2,111 each; 2. Doyle Hoskins/Monty Joe Petska, 5.4, $1,583; 3. Blake Hirdes/Cody Cowden, 5.5, $1,055; 4. Ryan Reed/Wyatt Hansen, 10.1, $528. Average: 1. Doyle Hoskins/Monty Joe Petska, 19.5 seconds on three head, $3,166 each; 2. Jr. Dees/Nano Garza, 24.6, $2,374; 3. Ryan Reed/Wyatt Hansen, 27.1, $1,583; 4. Lane Karney /Chance Machado, 12.5 on two head, $791.
Saddle bronc riding: First round: 1. (tie) Ethan Lemmons, on Four Star Rodeo’s Boogie, and Joaquin Real, on Flying U Rodeo’s Last Call, 81 points, $1,847 each; 3. Jess Williams, 80, $1,055; 4. Reed Neely, 73, $528. Second round: 1. Cameron Messier, 77.5 points on Bridwell Pro Rodeos’ Billy The Kid, $2,111; 2. Reed Neely, 76, $1,583; no other qualified rides. Third round: 1. Jess Williams, 80 points on Four Star Rodeo’s Lil’ Warrior, $2,111; 2. (tie) Reed Neely and Joaquin Real, 74, $1,319 each; 4. Cameron Messier, 73, $528. Average: 1. Reed Neely, 223 points on three head, $3,166; 2. Jess Williams, 160 on two head, $2,374; 3. Joaquin Real, 155, $1,583; 4. Cameron Messier, 150.5, $791.
Tie-down roping: First round: 1. Chant DeForest, 8.6 seconds, $2,111; 2. Colton Farquer, 9.6, $1,583; 3. Wes Lockard, 10.6, $1,055; 4. Brushton Minton, 10.7, $528. Second round: 1. Ryle Smith, 8.3 seconds, $2,111; 2. Jack Vanderlans, 9.2, $1,583; 3. Colton Farquer, 10.3, $1,055; 4. Roy Branco, 12.2, $528. Third round: 1. D.J. Parker, 8.8 seconds, $2,111; 2. Colton Farquer, 9.1, $1,583; 3. (tie) Jack Vanderlans and Chant DeForest, 9.6, $791 each. Average: 1. Colton Farquer, 29.0 seconds on three head, $3,166; 2. Jack Vanderlans, 32.6, $2,374; 3. Ryle Smith, 34.2, $1,583; 4. Lane Karney , 39.2, $791.
Barrel racing: First round: 1. Megan Champion, 17.71 seconds, $2,111; 2. Tonia Forsberg, 17.82, $1,583; 3. Lyndee Stairs, 17.83, $1,055; 4. Katrina Dugo, 17.90, $528. Second round: 1. Megan Champion, 17.84 seconds, $2,111; 2. Vicky Cook, 18.02, $1,583; 3. Jolee Lautaret-Jordan, 18.04, $1,055; 4. Nellie Miller, 18.07, $528. Third round: 1. Mary Jo Camera, 17.57 seconds, $2,111; 2. Nellie Miller, 17.65, $1,583; 3. Megan Champion, 17.75, $1,055; 4. Jolee Lautaret-Jordan, 17.92, $528. Average: 1. Megan Champion, 53.30 seconds on three head, $3,166; 2. Nellie Miller, 53.72, $2,374; 3. Mary Jo Camera, 53.74, $1,583; 4. Kathy Petska, 54.39, $791.
Bull riding: * First round: 1. Kaycee Rose, 86 points on Flying U Rodeo’s Bringin Brother, $2,287; 2. Christopher Byrd, 82, $1,759; 3. D.J. Stoneburner, 75, $1,231; no other qualified rides. * Second round: 1. Colby Demo, 75.5 points on Rosser Rodeo’s Trooper, $2,287; 2. Logun Gulden, 66, $1,759; 3. Dalton McMurtrie, 64, $1,231; no other qualified rides. * Third round: 1. Colby Demo, 82 points on Four Star Rodeo’s Magnum, $2,287; 2. Eli Necochea, 77, $1,759; 3. Dalton Shepard, 73, $1,231; no other qualified rides. Average: 1. Colby Demo, 157.5 points on two head, $3,166; 2. Kaycee Rose, 86 on one head, $2,374; 3. Christopher Byrd, 82, $1,583; 4. Eli Necochea, 77, $791. *(all totals include ground money).