Justin Hegwer made a commitment to improve in his rodeo ability this year.
He chose not to wrestle to travel with his father to team rope in the winter.
Two weeks ago, he went to a saddle bronc school in Oklahoma.
He's been practicing steer wrestling on a regular basis.
His focus paid off Saturday and Sunday in Ignacio, where he won his first saddle by winning the all-around for the Colorado State High School Rodeo Association's two-day competition.
"The extra stuff I've been doing has helped me out quite a bit," he said. "It's been a while since a boy has gone to the national rodeo from Moffat, and I hope to make it."
Hegwer took the previous weekend off from high school rodeo to go to saddle bronc school taught by world-renowned saddle bronc riders the Etbauer brothers, Billy, Robert and Danny, in Oklahoma.
When he returned, he earned second place in saddle bronc in the first rodeo and rode the full eight seconds in the second rodeo but was disqualified because of a riding foul.
"Going to the school helped me a lot," he said. "I made a mistake during the second ride that disqualified my ride."
Hegwer's best performances in Ignacio came in steer wrestling.
He won the event Saturday and finished second Sunday. He was second in the average for his finishes.
Hegwer also teamed up with Calyn Miller to finish fourth in team roping Saturday.
He led the all-around points after Saturday and went into Sunday with the hope of an all-around title.
"I knew if I had a decent day on Sunday I could get the all-around," he said.
All he needed to lock up the all-around title was the second-place effort in steer wrestling.
National finals bound
Hegwer is almost guaranteed a trip to the National High School Rodeo Finals this year in the saddle bronc competition.
That's because the top-four event finishers in the state earn a trip to the NHSR finals and with three weekends of rodeo remaining, he's in third out of five competitors.
The only catch is that he's going to miss this weekend's three-day rodeo in Monte Vista to ride in a non-CSHSRA rodeo.
"I'd like to have more competitors in saddle bronc," he said. "But I'm almost guaranteed a trip to nationals in it if I keep riding well."
He's currently seventh in steer wrestling, and 19 points out of fourth place. There are 18 cowboys who have scored points in steer wrestling this year.
"It would be nice if I can get into the top three in steer wresting since it's more competitive," he said. "I've been improving almost all the time in that event and a top-three finish in that event would be more challenging."
David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 211, or email@example.com.