The Moffat County High School rodeo team competed Thursday in the first day of the Colorado State High School Rodeo finals at the Moffat County Fairgrounds. Pictured above, from left, are Ian Duzik, Wyatt Uptain and Garrett Buckley. Taylor Duzik, who is also competing, is not pictured.

Photo by Joshua Gordon

The Moffat County High School rodeo team competed Thursday in the first day of the Colorado State High School Rodeo finals at the Moffat County Fairgrounds. Pictured above, from left, are Ian Duzik, Wyatt Uptain and Garrett Buckley. Taylor Duzik, who is also competing, is not pictured.

MCHS rodeo athletes vying for national berth

Schedule

Remaining schedule of events for the Colorado State High School Rodeo finals:

Today:

• 9 a.m. — Cutting

• 11 a.m. — Scholarship interviews

• 1 p.m. — Queen contest

Saturday:

• 10 a.m. — Third performance

• 8 p.m. — Fourth performance

Sunday:

• 10 a.m. — Championship round

• 2 p.m. — Awards dinner

— All performances take place at the Moffat County Fairgrounds, 640 E. Victory Way

Admission

• 11 and older — $20*

• 10 and under — free

• Senior citizens — free

• Junior high rodeo members — free (w/ back number)

*Wristband, one-time charge for all performances

The Colorado State High School Rodeo finals began Thursday at the Moffat County Fairgrounds amidst bouts of rain and sunshine.

With 111 competitors from around the state vying for the Colorado national rodeo team, four local athletes had the chance to compete on their home turf.

Garrett Buckley, Wyatt Uptain, Ian Duzik and Taylor Duzik are representing the Moffat County High School rodeo team.

The first round of performances concluded Thursday night with the second round to take place Saturday and the championship round Sunday.

Buckley and Uptain will continue to compete in the saddle bronc riding while Ian competes in tie-down roping and the dally team roping, and Taylor competes in breakaway roping.

Competing at home isn’t a home field advantage, Buckley said, but rather a chance to stay off the road.

“I get to compete against some of the best bronc riders in the state with people close to me watching,” he said. “Plus, I don’t have to travel, only make my way to the fairgrounds.”

Saddle bronc riding requires contestants to ride a saddled-horse that tries to toss the rider off.

Buckley said so much is required to be thought through during the 8-second ride that it’s better to not think at all.

“You have to worry about the lift, the horse, your feet and so much more,” he said. “For me, I go out and don’t think about it and just do it.”

Buckley started saddle bronc riding two years ago and now he is only nine points back from third place and a spot on the Colorado national team.

Uptain, however, is on the inside looking out, trying to hold onto his second-place ranking.

“I’ve tried riding all three — bareback, bulls and broncs — and I just think that broncs are the best,” Uptain said. “It is definitely the coolest event and I have a lot of fun doing it.”

Uptain has been part of rodeos for six years and said the people he meets have him coming back. Ultimately, he said, he hopes to qualify for the national rodeo July 17 to 23 in Gillette, Wyo.

“Qualifying for the national rodeo is as good as it can get in high school,” he said. “When I go out there over the weekend, all I am going to think is, ‘try,’ and hopefully I make it.”

Ian was the only team member to compete in the morning session Thursday. The incoming senior said he didn’t do his best in tie-down roping, but was ready to compete in dally team roping.

While most events at the rodeo are for individuals, dally team roping requires Ian to trust his partner, Clayton Huffman, of Strasburg.

“You have to have a lot of trust in your partner,” Ian said. “You have to know them well and be friends so you know how they will handle the cattle.”

While Buckley and Uptain come from families who have a history in rodeos, Ian said most of his immediate family played basketball and football in high school.

But, he said he followed the lead of his cousins, such as Taylor.

“Three years ago I wanted to try something different,” he said. “I’m not really the traditional sports type, and a lot of my cousins had done the rodeo, so I tried it out and stuck with it.”

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