By Michael Buhler
When the College National Finals Rodeo kicks off Sunday in Casper, Wyo., there will be a local face there battling for a national championship.
Kody Decker of Clonmel will be competing in bull riding at the CNFR, the biggest college rodeo competition of the year. The CNFR begins Sunday at the Casper Events Center and runs through the following Saturday.
A member of the rodeo team at Mesalands Community College in New Mexico, Decker recently graduated with an associate of applied science degree in wind energy technology. He finished the season 17th in the nation and second in the Grand Canyon Region in the year-end standings.
“This is actually my first trip to the the CNFR,” Decker said, “but I qualified for the High School National Finals Rodeo my junior and senior years of high school.”
Decker has ridden bulls since he was a young teenager, but his love of and experience with rodeo goes much further back.
“I started riding bulls when I was 14, but I started out riding sheep at the age of four and worked my way up through the ranks,” Decker said. “When I was little, I went to a pro rodeo at the coliseum and watched the bull riding.
“After that I told my parents I wanted to ride when I grew up. I learned all the fundamentals and basics through a great role model and even better friend, Jonas Struthers.”
Decker and his teammates, Cody Heffernan and David Gonzalez, helped make Mesalands a force in rodeo this season. The three bull riders have competed at Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) and Professional Bull Riders (PBR) rodeos all year, which could be good preparation for the level of stock at nationals.
At the 2012 CNFR, the Mesalands men’s rodeo team ended the season 27th in the nation. The women’s team took fourth place and brought home the 2012 CNFR Rookie of the Year title.
“We are sending a more experienced group to nationals this year. They are a pretty veteran group, even though they are pretty young,” Mesalands rodeo coach C. J. Aragon said. “That makes it nice as far as getting students prepared. They know what they need to do to compete well at nationals.”