Young Guns Set their Sights in Vegas |

Young Guns Set their Sights in Vegas

Jon Peterson and Trae Smith, Badlands Circuit champions and college students, won the second round at the Permit Challenge after a successful summer. Photo by Kierce Photography

Four local cowboys showed prowess in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Finals Permit Members Of the Year Challenge in Las Vegas this week. Lane Schuelke, Jon Peterson, Trae Smith, and Myles Kenzy all finished the year third or better in their respective events.

While PRCA card holders vie for a top-15 spot to qualify for the National Finals Rodeo at the Thomas and Mack Center, the top five permit holders are invited to compete just across town at the South Point.

In the PRCA, rodeo cowboys must hold their permit and “fill it” by winning $1,000 before obtaining their card. Permit holders may renew their permit twice after filling it before being required to purchase their card. College students may continue renewing their permits until they graduate.

The permit experience allows competitors to familiarize themselves with the format of professional rodeo before taking the leap of buying their card. Similarly, the Permit Challenge exposes young competitors to the bright lights of Vegas as they work toward the goal of qualifying to the NFR.

Lane Schuelke is the 2019 Permit Members Of the Year Challenge bronc riding champion. His rookie year of 2020 has already begun with money won in the PRCA. Photo by Kierce Photography

Lane Schuelke of Newell, South Dakota won the Permit Challenge bronc riding, placing second in the first round, winning the second round, and winning the average. Schuelke has taken the next step in his professional rodeo career, getting an early start on the 2020 season. “I already bought my card. I’ve got some money won so far and plan to keep going from here. Me and my brother plan on going to Texas after Christmas and going to whatever I can get in,” he said.

His brother, Taygen, has several successful years of professional rodeo under his belt. He and their father are Schuelke’s main inspiration. “Dad did it when he was younger and he always wants the best for us boys,” he said.

Schuelke was able to visit with several NFR bronc riders who came to the Permit Challenge, including JJ Elshere, Colt Gordon, and Zeke Thurston. “It was just kind of fun to see everybody down there, the big guys who have made the finals. I want to be in their spot some day,” Schuelke said.

Myles Kenzy of Iona, South Dakota said, “It was my first time out there so it was quite an experience. To rope out there was even better. It’s the first step to making it there. You try to make the Permit Finals and go for a rookie and then the Finals, obviously.” Kenzy placed in both rounds of the tie-down roping and finished third in the average on his cutting-trained horse named HyHo.

Kenzy plans to rodeo another year on his permit before buying his card, entering more professional rodeos in the coming year. He also has big plans for the winter. “I’m going to go to Denver to the qualifier and I made the semi-finals in the WCRA [World Champions Rodeo Alliance] in Guthrie on Jan. 9,” he said.

Two college students from Belle Fourche, South Dakota, Jon Peterson and Trae Smith, had a blazing run of 5.7 seconds to win round two and place second in the average in the team roping. “It’s kind of surreal being good enough to come out here, and it kind of gives you a feeling of, ‘Hey, I might be able to do this.’ It’s way cool to know that and to come out here and see the future that you have,” Smith said.

Peterson and Smith have had a successful first year as professionals. “When we decided we wanted to rope this year we wanted to make the [Badlands] Circuit Finals, win the [Badlands] Circuit Finals, and make the permit finals. Those were some of our goals and we were actually able to accomplish every one of those goals,” Peterson said. They are poised to compete at the RAM National Circuit Finals in Kissimmee, Florida in April.

Smith, originally from Montpelier, Idaho, moved to Belle Fourche to further his roping career. “I knew I needed to be out of my hometown. It wasn’t where I wanted to be or needed to be in order to get me where I wanted to be as far as my roping. I went out and started roping with Jon. I guess it was different but I knew it’s what I needed,” he said. Smith and Peterson also rope together at college rodeos, both competing for Gillette College.

The focused environment at college practices helps the two hone their skills. “We get to rope all the time so we get to build our runs. Before we rope, I like to tell him what I think we should do right here. Before college rodeos, we’ll work on college runs. Before pro rodeos we’ll work on going fast. He kind of understands what I’m going to do every time when I get ahold of a steer,” he said.

Careful planning made way for success for the young team. “We were the only team in the Badlands that placed in Deadwood and Belle Fourche and they were the two biggest rodeos of the entire year. It was a pretty cool feeling to know that we can not only just beat the circuit guys but beat the big boys if we do our thing right,” Peterson said. Taking advantage of the PRCA’s exception for college students, the pair will rodeo on their permits for one more year while they finish their degrees.

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