Cash’s prizes: Wall, SD Junior captures NHSRA Saddle Bronc Championship
Cash Wilson’s name has been floating around the top of the leaderboards in National Little Britches Rodeo Association Finals, International Finals Youth Rodeo, and National High School Rodeo Association finals, but his name is at the very top of the latter association. Cash captured the win in the short go and average in Rock Springs, Wyoming, this year, surpassing his goal of landing in the top three of the nation.
The Wall High School junior captured the senior saddle bronc championship at National Little Britches finals last year after being the only one to ride all three broncs, and likely could have won again this year if the association didn’t overlap with NHSRA’s finals check-in times, which required Cash to be in Rock Springs by 7 a.m. Sunday. He was sitting first in the average after winning the first two rounds and securing a 14 point lead. He had to forgo the short go and landed third in the NLBRA average and was awarded scholarships and buckles.
The big goal, however, was the NHSRA championship.
“Little Britches is not the same caliber as high school nationals,” Cash said. “There are better horses and better kids at high school nationals, so it means more.”
Part of Cash’s drive, though he is already a very focused, self-driven kid when it comes to sports, his mom Ronda Wilson said, came from wanting to honor his recently deceased friend Pedro Dennis, of Philip, South Dakota. Cash wore a patch on his shirt in the short go with his friend’s initials, PJD, and a feather in his hat with “Pedro” painted on it.
“I was dang sure thinking about it,” he said. “In the short go, it was emotional. I was thinking this could be really cool if I could win this thing.”
His mom said she noticed a visible change in her son, in his grit and attitude. “Halfway through the ride I knew something was different and special, and he was pushing above and beyond,” she said. “He was digging down somewhere beyond and doing phenomenal in the ride. He had drawn the right horse to do that with.”
He was only three points behind the leader heading into the short go and his family knew he could pull out the win if the stars aligned just as they did. He was awarded 81 points in the short go, a vast improvement over his 65 points in the first round and 71 in the second round.
All that remained was for the leader to receive a score of 77 or less in the short round for Cash to win it all.
“When the leader rode, we knew he had definitely won it,” Ronda said. “He knew he had drawn a good horse in the short go. He was excited about it and going into the short go, we felt he had a chance.”
Cash got numerous prizes for winning NHSRA championship, such as $1600 in scholarships, buckles, a Tod Slone saddle, boots, a hat, Bex sunglasses, a Yeti cooler, a Western Horseman Art Print, rodeo equipment, numerous gift certificates and “a jacket that says nice things like World Champion,” he said.
The Wilsons took off for International Finals Youth Rodeo, in Shawnee, Oklahoma, the day after Pedro’s funeral July 6 for which Cash served as a pall bearer. It took some time for him to adjust and focus, his mom said.
“It continued to get better; he started to focus on riding more,” Ronda said. “I could tell there was just something different about him. He was more driven, he just had a special motivation. The first week in Oklahoma was challenging, but as the week went on, it got a little better; we started to be a bit better. He had a little more drive to do it for Pedro.”
Cash was seventh in the first round, fifth in the second round, and was bucked off in the short round to land sixth in the average.
During IFYR, the family traveled the hour trip back and forth to the Lazy E Arena in Guthrie Oklahoma for the NLBRA finals July 10-15. From there, he cut out early to make it in time for NHSRA, meaning the family wasn’t home for half of July.
Cash, like Pedro, got his start riding mini bucking horses at the Philip Bronc Match, but he didn’t pick up a bronc saddle for many years, until his freshman year of high school.
“The first three or four horses I got on hurt really bad, then I stay on my fifth horse,” Cash said. “At the first practice rodeo of the year my freshman year, I covered and got a score. It’s been uphill from there.”
Another top bronc rider to come out of the many South Dakota greats, Cash credits a lot of his abilities to coaches like Mike Heathershaw, Louie Brunson, Jade Blackwell, and JJ Elshere.
“I try to get on their level and try to be like them,” Cash said.
Starting from three years old, he had always focused his energy on wrestling and decided, this year, to rodeo more and try basketball lieu of wrestling.
“He was worried when he didn’t wrestle, it wouldn’t give him the core strength for rodeo,” Ronda said. “He didn’t compete in track as a freshman and sophomore, but this year, he had an amazing track season, and it didn’t hinder rodeo.”
Cash broke the Wall High School records in the 4×100 relay, boys medley, and the open 800. He came in fifth in state in the open 400 and his relay team were state champions in the medley relay. He’s “not that good in basketball, just a participant,” he said.
Cash also shines in football, this year as all-conference and part of an undefeated team leading into playoffs. Within rodeo, he also team ropes and calf ropes in addition to bronc riding.
Cash has loose plans to attend college after his senior year next year, but he is unsure where or under what major. He has already been approached by several colleges to compete on their rodeo team.
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As a routine management matter, the Teddy Roosevelt National Park plans to remove a few horses from its herd.