“All I’ve ever wanted to be is a cowboy.”
Already, Jesse Pope, 17, has proven to be one of the best.
He was crowned all-around cowboy at the recent Kansas High School Rodeo Finals in Topeka.
The Waverly High School student was again state high school year-end champion in both bareback bronc riding and saddle bronc riding.
That gives him opportunity for return competition at the National High School Finals Rodeo, this year July 17-23, in Gillette, Wyoming.
Never shortage of entries in high school rodeo timed events, and bull riding, few teenage cowboys get adrenalin thrill from bucking horses.
“Oh, I rope, and have ridden bulls, but I love to ride broncs,” Pope insisted.
Oldest of three cowboy sons of Bret and Jennifer Pope of Garnett, the now five-foot-ten, 160-pound Pope started at an early age.
“Cowboys have always been my heroes, especially rodeos and professional bull riding,” reflected Pope, who’ll be a senior this fall.
“I went to George Steinberger’s Homestead Rodeo School in Richmond when I was in the first grade, rode the bucking machine and got on some calves,” Pope remembered.
“I started going to Christian Youth Rodeo Association events riding calves, and competed in the Kellyville (Oklahoma) Junior Bull Riders Winter Series,” the cowboy continued.
He became especially enchanted with miniature bareback riding. “I went to a bareback riding school and then competed in bareback pony riding as well as steer riding,” said Pope.
As a sixth grader, Pope qualified for the National Junior High School Rodeo Finals in junior bull riding, and marked 86 points on his first draw, finishing reserve national champion at just 12-years-old.
“I began riding bigger bucking horses and a few bulls, but decided to concentrate on the broncs when I started high school,” he said.
Championship form earned Pope the high school bareback bronc riding title, while being third in saddle bronc riding as a freshman. “I was honored as Rookie of the Year, too,” he noted. The past two years, Pope has dominated both bucking horse events reigning as state champion.
“I compete in other junior rodeos as well as the United Rodeo Association and additional rodeo circuits,” Pope said.
“I did play football, basketball and track as a sophomore, but that was just too much to rodeo successfully,” he contended.
Concentration is focused on the sport of rodeo. “I get on about 100 bucking horses a year,” Pope tabulated. “I mount as many practice horses as I can, as well riding the bucking machine.
“I get so much assistance from George Steinberger and the other cowboys,” Pope credited. “I really appreciate everybody’s advice, especially my parents.
“Dad never competed in rodeos, but he’s always had cattle and horses. Dad’s a big help,” Pope said. “We used to take ponies out in the yard, and put a rigging on them to practice my mark outs. We still do that now on big horses.”
In competition, Pope said, “There are a few broncs that I haven’t made the whistle on, but I sure get scored on 90 percent or more.
“I marked 87 points on a bareback horse one time at Kansas City, and my best saddle bronc ride has been 85 points,” Pope said.
“I work out every day,” Pope declared. “I don’t want to get too much bulk, so I concentrate on cardiac workouts, low weight, high repetition, and run a bunch.
“I do wish I was a little shorter, but there’s nothing I can do about that. Just be physically fit as possible,” he said.
A spurring practice board is in the Anderson County ranch home basement. “I work out on it every day, a muscle, memory deal,” Pope verified.
His brothers Judd and Ty are following in big brother’s boot steps. “Ty is going to the junior high rodeo finals in saddle bronc and bull riding, and Judd competes on bareback ponies and calves,” Pope said.
“I’m proud of my brothers. They have great work ethic and dedication. Nothing is handed out, you have to earn it,” he added.
Looking to this year’s National High School Rodeo Finals, Pope said, “My freshman year, I finished sixth in the bareback riding. Last year, I fouled my horse and didn’t get a re-ride, so I missed the top ten.
“That’s the way rodeo goes, somedays a diamond, somedays a stone. I’m sure looking forward to a great finals this time,” Pope added.
Uncertain his direction after high school, Pope has had several colleges solicit him to be on their rodeo teams. “I’ll have to decide, but I sure plan to make the college finals” he assured.
Evaluating economic status of rodeo, Pope said, “I don’t have a shortage of money now. I think rodeo’s a great profession. I intend to make the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.”