Wyatt Denny lived up to the No. 1 he wore at the Churchill County Fairgrounds this past weekend. He came into the Nevada State High School Finals Rodeo ranked as the top all-around cowboy, and he went out the same way.
The Douglas County cowboy used solid performances across the board to wrap up the state's all-around cowboy, plus he won each of the three bareback riding rounds to clinch the season title in that event.
Not a bad performance. Then again, you won't hear Denny talk much about being at the state finals wearing the No. 1, which is traditionally issued to the cowboy or cowgirl who has amassed the most overall points throughout the regular season.
"Yeah, you want that one," he said about wearing that No. 1.
Denny also won the bull riding rounds on Friday and Saturday to clinch second-place in the season points. And to add topping to the cake, he finished third in cutting and steer wrestling in the season points.
The top four finishers in each event advance to the National High School Finals Rodeo Finals on July 15-21 at Rock Springs, Wyo. Denny will be making his third trip to the high school nationals.
Denny hopes to continue his hot streak in Wyoming, and he likes his chances after qualifying in four different events.
"Definitely, I'm going to try to get the all-around up there," he said. "There might not be that many other kids who are in four events up there so I'll have an advantage for gaining points in each event."
The key is not necessarily to win any of the events, but to be aggressive and score well in each one because of all the competitors.
"You should go out and try to win every time," Denny said. "If you go in and you play it too safe, you're not going to get a high enough score. You're not always going to win but (if you score) it's still going to put you up pretty high in the all-around because there are so many points."
Bareback coach, Mario Ciucci of Dayton, describes Denny as a student of the sport.
"He pays attention, he listens to what I have to say, and he goes out and executes what he's got to do," said Ciucci, who in 2011 was inducted into the National Senior Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame. "He can take the good with the bad. He can make a bad horse look good and he can make a good horse look better."
Denny said he gained momentum in bareback early in the spring and kept it going all the way through the state finals.
"At the beginning of the year I was really on a hot streak," he said. "I only got bucked off one horse in bareback riding."
Denny was tough in the bull riding, starting with the score of 84 he posted in the first go on Friday.
"You don't always know if you're going to cover," Denny said. "In bareback, I pretty much know I'm going to cover because I've been on so many bareback horses.
But in bull riding, it's always different because the animals are always different and they always buck harder."
Denny, a homeschool student who is heading into his senior year, will not be idle between now and the nationals.
This weekend he will compete this weekend at the Russian River Rodeo (Duncan's Mills, Calif.). The following week, he will hit the road with Sam Harper, the state saddle bronc champion from Humboldt County, to compete in five rodeos during a five-day span at the Grangeville Border Days Rodeo (which dates back to 1912) and the Hailey ImPRA Rodeo on July 3-4 in Idaho; the NPRA Rodeo on July 5 in Vale, Ore., and finally the Vancouver Rodeo and Toppenish, Wash., on July 6-7. They will cover 2,300 miles one way on a route connecting four states.
While the schedule may sound grueling, this is a challenge any rodeo cowboy enjoys.
"They call it Cowboy Christmas," Ciucci said. "He's going back to the finals in mid-July, I encourage these kids to go out on the road and continue rodeoing. It keeps them in shape and healthy."
But you won't hear Denny say a whole lot about his own accomplishments.
"He's not the type of kid that brags on himself," Ciucci said. "Just do what you can do and your ability will tell the tale. He goes out there and does his thing and gets off that horse and gets ready for the next event and away he goes."
Anna Lekumberry, who just completed her sophomore year at Douglas High School, had a good weekend as she placed second in the breakaway roping average for three days. Lekumberry placed second in the first go on Friday and placed ninth in the short go on Sunday.
She finished 12th for the season in breakaway to qualify for the Silver State Invitational Rodeo on July 2-7 in Winnemucca.
Lekumberry also combined Chance Guerrero of Wadsworth also placed fifth in team roping on Friday. She finished 16th for the season and will also compete in team roping at the Silver State Rodeo.
Ashley Martinkus qualified for her second trip to nationals - this time in girls cutting - and once again she used a strong performance at the state finals to get there.
Martinkus, a Washoe Valley resident who competes for the Douglas Rodeo Club, posted a stellar score of 151 to win the second go during the cutting contest on Thursday, and she went on to capture second-place in the season points to earn her invitation to the national finals.
She was third coming into the weekend, but her win in the second go coupled with second-place in the first go, were enough to move up one spot in the points standings.
Martinkus, a Silver State Charter School student who will be a senior next year, scored a 147 to place second in the first go, then came back in the second round with her 151 - which stood up as the best single-round score of the competition.
When the final standings were compiled Paige Moreda of Yerington wound up with 229.25 points to successfully defend her state title in the event. Martinkus was close behind with 220.25 points and Rachel Hendrix of Fallon was third with 211.25.
This was not all together different from 2011, when Martinkus stood seventh in the barrel racing standings before the state finals and surged into fourth-place on the final weekend.
The top four finishers in each event qualify for the national finals, while the fifth- through 15-place finishers qualify for the Silver State Invitational Rodeo in Winnemucca.
Martinkus finished sixth in pole bending and eighth in barrel racing to qualify for the Silver State Invitational. She will also compete in team roping.