Pinning down a championship: Coy Johnston takes home high school steer wrestling title
Stapleton – Coy Johnston, now a senior at Stapleton High School, received a hero’s welcome when he and his family came through town from Gillette, Wyoming, July 24. The reason: he was crowned the 2022 National High School Rodeo Steer Wrestling Champion. He literally won the world – 43 states, five Canadian provinces, Mexico, Australia, and New Zealand sent rodeo athletes to compete.
Coy says his dad helped him get where he is today. “He and mom have hauled me and my horses to rodeos ever since I was four years old. He is out there helping me when I practice. Dad is a great hazer, and I have two of the best horses a steer wrestler could want in Jazz and Freckles.”
Coy won the title with a total of 13.79 seconds on three runs. He was the first one out of the chute to begin his quest and set the pace at 4.14 seconds that first round. He got 7th place his second run with a 4.80, and in the short go, providence helped as when he nodded for his steer, the gate man did not open the chute. The judges saw it, the gate man owned up to his mistake and the steer was ran around for Coy to try again. He knew all he had to do was wrestle the steer, make a time to win the title, which he did in a time of 4.79 which was fourth in the short go.
“He has ice in his veins,” stated proud Grandpa Jim. “Animals have minds like people, they have good days and bad days; some run fast, some run slow, but you have to adjust yourself to the steer that you drew, and Coy is very good at doing that,” said Jim in a Rural Radio Network article July 13, 2021.
One might say, Coy, and his brothers Cayson and Cotter were ‘bred’ to rodeo. It started with his great-grandfather Fred, whose two sons, Jim and Jack, both made it to the National High School Finals, where his Grandpa Jim won the Bull Riding Championship in 1962, 60 years to the day from when Coy won his national title.
South of Thedford, Nebraska is where Jim and wife Judy (Purdum) Johnston ranch and raised their four sons, James ‘Chad’, Jason, Jeff and Joel. Buckles, saddles, and other awards adorned the basement of the Johnston home where Coy’s dad, Jason and uncles grew up. The boys found great success in junior rodeos.
All four qualified for National High School finals by ending the year in the top four, often times out right winning state titles. Chad won the team roping (header) title in 1987, Jeff won team roping heeler title in 1992. The Johnston boys’ true expertise is in steer wrestling, where state titles were won by Jason in 1990 and 91, and Jeff in 1992. All around titles were won in 1990 and 91 by Jason, ’92 by Jeff and ’95 by Joel.
Jim made an arena at their ranch, and raised Corriente cattle they practiced on. “Growing up we had one of the first practice arenas in Cherry County,” said Jim.” Our dad purchased practice stock, so I did that for our four sons,” he said in a Rural Radio Network July 13, 2021, article.
Coy’s mother Jennifer Kreikemeier of West Point rodeoed with three brothers, Jeff, Brad, and Barry. In fact, that is where Jason and Jennifer met – on the rodeo circuit. All eight rodeoed in college or at professional rodeos after college.
After high school, Jennifer became a registered nurse, working in North Platte after the couple married. Jason worked construction in North Platte for a few months. He had helped Jim Sevier, Seneca with his well service business during high school and summers during college, and when the opportunity arose, he bought a well service rig and began Johnston Well Service in 1999. The couple ranch three miles west of Stapleton, where Jason built an arena to help his sons hone their steer wrestling and roping abilities. Carrying on the family tradition, he also purchased livestock to practice with.
Coy’s younger brother Cotter, 12, competes in junior high rodeos and his cousin Tate, Jeff’s son, competed in the team roping and chute dogging at the national junior high rodeo finals in Parry Georgia.
His grandparents enjoy following all of the grandkids. “As Coy is a senior, we will go to all his rodeos, football games and any other events he will do,” stated his Grandma Judy.
When they have time during the hectic rodeo season, Jason and Coy wrestle post hole diggers, a skid steer and finicky man-made wells for their customers. “At least now, kids are allowed to enter jackpots and earn money, which wasn’t’ allowed when we rodeoed in high school,” Jason stated. “Coy made quite a chunk of change at Gillette, he said.”
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