Somehow the word dominant doesn’t seem adequate to describe the performance that went down in two days in Loveland, Colo., at the RAM Mountain States Circuit Finals Rodeo held October 20-21.
Gage Hesse stormed through the competition, winning two go rounds on the way to the average championship. Hesse’s three run total was 12.7 seconds, an incredible 11.1 seconds ahead of his closest competitor.
Not bad for a guy who only picked up steer wrestling five years ago.
“When I went to college, I met Kodie Jang and he started me and taught me a lot,” said Hesse, 24.
The learning curve was made shorter thanks to athletic ability honed over many years of playing football and saddle time roping with his father Shawn.
The Keenesburg, Colo., cowboy showed up for his fifth circuit finals appearance sixth in the year-end standings but as the reigning year-end champ, he looked determined to deliver the come-from-behind repeat win. After earning $8,787 at the finals, he did just that.
“This was my first year going out on the road, so I didn’t focus on the circuit rodeos,” he said, noting he traveled with Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier Nick Guy and Austin Eller. “I just got my count in and went back out rodeoing.”
It was a great learning experience thanks to Guy.
“He took me under his wing,” he said. “I thought, heck I’ve circuit rodeoed, but it’s crazy how much more there is to it. I didn’t have a clue.”
After being gone all summer, Hesse had one goal going into the circuit finals.
“I was just shooting for the average,” he said, adding he thought he might be too far behind to catch the leaders. “But the finals pays pretty good and I won the first two rounds, second in the third, and got lucky to catch up.”
Hesse did indeed lay down the gauntlet early in the rodeo with runs of 4.6 and 4.0 seconds, respectively, and his 4.1-second run on the final steer took second but secured the average win in front of a huge crowd of family members including his folks Shawn and Cindy.
“I drew three good steers, and I knew them, so that helps,” Hesse said.
Hesse also noted he had the ace-in-the-hole with the Mountain States Steer Wrestling Horse of the Year Dallas, who is owned by Eller.
“I can’t thank Austin enough, if I didn’t have him, it wouldn’t have worked out,” Hesse said. Eller also provided hazes. “I’ve been riding him the last two years and he’s helped me win. He taught me a lot.”
After a solid season where he finished just outside of the top 50 in the PRCA | RAM World Standings, Hesse is ready for a big run next year which will include a second chance at the NFR Open in July.
“I had some tough luck there last year, so I hope to redeem myself this year,” he said.
“My goal is to get into the top 20 and I’d love to make the NFR,” he said. “I’m starting out with a good amount of money (from the circuit finals), and it would be cool if I could do it.”
Other winners at the $185,865 rodeo were all around cowboy Jase Staudt ($4,652 in tie down roping and team roping); bareback rider Keenan Hayes (253 points on three head); team ropers Zane Murphy/Dusty Taylor (24.2 seconds on three head); saddle bronc rider Bailey Small (243 points on three head); tie-down roper Jeremiah Peek (30.1 seconds on three head); barrel racer Kelly Yates (45.48 seconds on three runs); breakaway roper Devan McAdow (9.7 seconds on three head); and bull rider Colton Coffman (87 points on one head).
Courtesy of PRCA