By Dave Wagner
CLOVIS — Dalton Kasel and Sergio Cervantes each got a bit of a late start in High Plains Junior Rodeo Association competition, but both seem to have transitioned just fine.
Both youngsters clinched season-long HPRJA championships this weekend, Kasel in the age 13-15 bull riding division and Cervantes in 10-12 boys steer riding.
Kasel, 14, a freshman-to-be at Farwell High School, said bull riding is something he’s always wanted to do. He had a bit of a tough finals weekend, getting thrown in Friday’s second go and Saturday’s short go after winning Thursday’s go, but he had enough points for the season to clinch the overall title.
Cervantes, meantime, had the overall title all but locked up but also was the finals champion on Saturday.
Kasel, slight of build at 5-foot-2 and about 95 pounds, said rodeoing is something he’s wanted to do since he was about 2 years old.
“I think we surprised ourselves,” Kasel said of his overall title as he sat with his father, Tim. “I’d been to a couple of (rodeo) camps, but they didn’t ride any steers.”
Tim Kasel said he thought his son might lose interest in the sport after going to the camps.
“To be honest, I hoped he would get it out of his system and decide he didn’t want to do it,” he said. “I’m a Dallas Cowboys fan, and a lot of times we used to watch the Cowboys and sometimes there’d be a PBR (Professional Bull Riders) event come on after that. I do enjoy watching it.
“He’s played other sports (in school) before, but now he wants to focus on rodeo.”
Cervantes, 13, from Odessa, Texas, actually began competing in the Texas Youth Bull Riders Association last year before switching to the HPJRA.
“I came in eighth place there and saw the buckles,” he said of the prizes for winning, “and I said, ‘I want one.’”
Next year, he’ll move up into Kasel’s division and ride bulls instead of steers.
“It’ll be a little tough,” said Cervantes, who at 5-3 and 96 pounds isn’t much bigger than Kasel.l “It’ll take a whole lot more practice.”
Kasel said he’s looking forward to competing with Cervantes.
“Sergio will be in my (age) group next year,” he said. “We’re pretty good friends.”
Both riders would like to do the sport professionally some day, although that’s a ways off.
“Until I’m too old to do it,” said Cervantes, who also plays football and is preparing to enter the seventh grade at Greenwood Junior High in Midland, Texas. “I’d like to go to the NFR (National Finals Rodeo) and be in the PBR. It’s something I’ll have to work at real hard to get there.”