Twelve-Year-Old Cowboy brings home big checks roping steers

He’s not even a teenager, yet, but this cowboy’s one of the best paid around.

Certainly, calculated on an hourly basis, Camden Hoelting’s wages come right up there with the highest paid of any profession.

The 12-year-old returned to his Olpe ranch home Sunday night $5,765 richer than when he left Saturday morning.

That’s highly significant in itself, but figuring it was for just two seconds more than a minute’s work, that tabulates to about $331,620 an hour, without the slightest apparent effect on the youthful cowboy’s congenial, humble attitude.

Camden Hoelting, right, Olpe, and his heeling partner, Bruce Grinstead, Rose Hill, showed their championship saddles they collected, along with $6,650, for roping and stretching four steers in 38.43 seconds, to win the No. 10 division at the United States Team Roping Championships in Hutchinson. by Frank J Buchman
Camden Hoelting, right, Olpe, and his heeling partner, Bruce Grinstead, Rose Hill, showed their championship saddles they collected, along with $6,650, for roping and stretching four steers in 38.43 seconds, to win the No. 10 division at the United States Team Roping Championships in Hutchinson. by Frank J Buchman

“I just got a little lucky,” Hoelting modestly evaluated his winnings at the United States Team Roping Championships in Hutchinson.

“It took my top heelers. They were half of it,” quickly insisted the adolescent team roping header.

Still a bit sleepy eyed, the Olpe Catholic School sixth grader who slept in on his first day of summer vacation, appreciatively and emphatically credited, “My dad helps me a lot.”

Young Hoelting, who often partners with his dad Eric, an accomplished heeler, had to beat that coach, idol and best friend, to bring home those checks.

It wasn’t easy either, as Eric Hoelting and his header collected the second place awards in one division right behind his son and partner.

Now, before anyone gets to thinking this is a rich kid, although the calculations are accurate for return versus the exact time spent roping, it’s by no means a highly profitable sport.

Every contestant has major overhead including horses, expensive travel rigs, entry fees, and the list goes on and on.

But, even more than that, the first thing to remember: there’s only one winner. More than 100 teams entered in every division went home empty handed, and everyone had major expenses.

Still, young Hoelting’s success is no misnomer. It’s due to dedication and hard work, a lifetime of it, though yet shy in years. Average and median age of USTRC ropers would certainly have to be close to three times that of Camden Hoelting.

“I started riding my pony when I was two years old, and began roping the dummy at exactly the same time,” Hoelting reflected.

“My dad is a top cowboy, and a top roper, and that’s what I’ve always wanted to be, too,” he quickly added.

While that isn’t particularly an uncommon statement of “wishful thinking,” or dream, for “little kids,” it is a reality for Hoelting.

“I rope just about every day. My littlest brother, Dexton, six, and I practice on the dummy together. Then, Dad and I rope live cattle at least two or three times a week,” related Hoelting.

“We have about 30 practices steers in the arena right next to our home, and we’re also putting on jackpot roping events here this summer,” Hoelting said.

Essential to the success is a dependable horse, and Hoelting is most proud of his 16-year-old gray gelding called Lightning. “He actually belongs to my grandpa, Galen Hoelting, but I ride him all of the time. Lightning is really a great horse,” credited the young cowboy.

“My dad trains all of our horses, so he helps tune on Lightning sometimes,” Hoelting added.

Galen Hoelting is also a roper, who farms at Olpe. “Grandma” Vicki Hoelting is a barrel racer, collecting championship titles.

“Practice helps make perfect,” young Hoelting insisted. About 100 practice loops are thrown every day at the dummy, and maybe a dozen or more cattle are headed, heeled and stretched in a live session.

“Sometimes, baseball practice does interrupt my roping,” the all-around athlete almost grudgingly admitted.

“We’re a sports oriented family,” inserted mom Trish Hoelting, who helpfully intervened in the conversation on occasion.

“We keep busy with baseball in the summer, football and basketball in the other seasons. All four of our boys are in sports. Camden and Dexton are the most interested in roping. Colbren, 11, just got started roping slow cattle, but Derek, 9, doesn’t care for roping,” Mom said.

Eric Hoelting is a UPS driver by day, and the family has cattle and farming operations, in addition to roping activities.

Reflecting on his success in the Kansas Championships at the USTRC competition in Hutchinson, Camden Hoelting can detail all segments of every run.

The USTRC issues and maintains number classifications of almost 127,000 team ropers from across North America.

A No. 1 roper is a true beginner, and No. 9 and higher are world-class ropers. No. 5 is a low-level amateur, and No. 6 is a mid-level amateur.

In some roping events, “overs and unders” are used, meaning a roper can compete in a classification over his number, and sometimes under his number. Likewise in certain events, competitors can either draw their partner from a pool of contestants, or pick a personal choice.

Obviously, although one of the youngest among the hundreds of competitors at Hutchinson, Hoelting was one of the best there, and would be by category defined as “a world-class roper.” Other groups would classify Hoelting a “professional,” based on the money he most recently earned in his roping sport.

The No. 10 roping on Saturday created apparent adrenalin rush as Hoelting remembered: “Bruce Grinstead of Rose Hill was my heeler, and we went in fourth high callback on the final of four steers. But, my Dad with Pat Hafenstein of Osage City, as his header, came in fifth high call back.

“Dad and Pat had to rope first, and they went to the lead of the standings. Then, Bruce and I roped, and bumped them out of first place. The other three teams missed, so we won it,” Hoelting vividly related.

Hoelting and Grinstead collected and divided a total check of $6,650 for their time of 38.43 seconds on four head of steers stretched. Hoelting’s dad and Hafenstein had a $4,430 check for their 38.7 seconds total on their four steers.

In Sunday’s Number 8 Pick-Draw competition, Hoelting and Trevor Lackey of Fairview, Oklahoma, won and divided a $4,880 check for a time of 24.15 seconds stretching three steers.

Added to the big money, Hoelting also brought home two USTRC championship roping saddles, another accomplishment envied by many competitors multiples his age.

They weren’t the first trophy saddles Hoelting has collected. “I won two saddles last fall, one in the shoot-out at Guthrie, and the No. 8 at Bethany,” he said.

Switching to Olpe Elementary as a seventh grader in August, Hoelting, who’s won his fair share in jackpot and junior rodeo events, is looking to pursue Kansas Junior High School Rodeo competitions. He’ll attend high school at Olpe, as well, with plans to qualify every year for the National High School Rodeo Finals.

College could be in his future, with rodeo scholarships a probability, but if Hoelting keeps winning team roping events like he’s been doing, there’ll be a nice college fund in his bank account as well.

Career is yet far away for this cowboy who isn’t even a teenager yet, but he’ll be a “professional.”

While Dad Eric remains his roping mentor, Hoelting, like all 12-year-olds, still has unlimited dreams: “Of course, I want to compete in the National Finals Rodeo, but Michael Jordan is my basketball hero, I just love Michael, and Adrian Peterson is my football idol. I wouldn’t mind playing in the NBA or NFL, either one, if it works out.”