PCC Celebrates 45 Years of Rodeo
The 2014-2015 school year marks the 45th anniversary of the rodeo program at Pratt Community College. It began in 1969 as an extracurricular club through the efforts of a handful of students and faculty members, and has since become one of the largest programs on campus.
Dorothy Huffman is a resident of Pratt and shared this about her husband Herb Huffman, who was a member of the PCC agriculture faculty and a PCC alumnus himself:
“There was no rodeo program at the school up until that time, when some of the students approached Herb and asked him to sponsor a new club,” she said. “Herb told them he knew nothing about the sport of rodeo, but they begged him to act as their faculty sponsor and promised to do all the work. They were so excited, he couldn’t say no.”
So Huffman became the first PCC rodeo sponsor of a group that began to captivate the interest of the community.
Georgia Perry, who later worked for PCC for 17 years, was also heavily involved with the program. Her younger sister, then Helen Ford, was a freshman at PCC and one of the founding members of the rodeo club.
“The students talked to all the farmers in the area and borrowed their cattle panels to form their first makeshift arena,” said Perry. “They got the bucking chutes from Stafford and the stock at a heavy discount from Rumford Rodeo Company.”
Perry shares about the community team roping competitions that the students held during the summers to raise money, and how important the rodeo became for Ford, who served as president in the second year of the club’s existence.
Herb Huffman, third from left, with Helen Ford, fourth from left
“The administration was thrilled with the way the community rallied together,” said Perry. “The students were doing what they loved and eventually getting scholarships for it. That was something the college couldn’t have started and supported on its own, but the students worked hard for it.”
Huffman continued his involvement with the group, supported the students, and donated his own time, money and equipment to building the first real facilities. In 1973, the Huffman Arena was completed and named in his honor. Huffman continued to fundraise in the community and strengthen the program until his death in 1990.
Once the arena was established, the program expanded under the leadership of Kenton Baughman, who arrived from Abilene, Kan. in 1981 and spurred the team on to its first major success.
“I had my pilot’s license, and I flew to Pratt in my plane with my wife to interview for an automotive and diesel mechanics teaching position,” said Baughman. “Next thing we knew, Pratt was our new home.”
Baughman quickly saw an opportunity to become involved in the rodeo program, stepping in as the assistant rodeo coach in 1982, and taking over as head rodeo coach from 1983 - 1987.
In those days, the team had only 10-12 members, and minimal to no scholarships were available. By soliciting donations from community members and lobbying for increased institutional support, Baughman helped make full tuition and fee scholarships available for his team members.
Baughman continued to build the program, recruiting a team that grew to as large as 70 male and female students under his direction, at that time the largest sport on campus. In 1985, Kent Crouch of Leoti was the first PCC student to qualify for the College National Finals and placed sixth in the nation in bareback.
In the mid-80s, the school built the horse barn and the Agricultural Activities Center, an indoor arena, and rebuilt the Huffman Arena. According to Baughman, this gave PCC facilities comparable in quality to any school in the region.
“Rodeo was so important for my students,” he said. “Many of them went on to very successful careers and learned some important lessons during their time in the program. It really served them well in the long run.”
One of those success stories is Steve Knowles, a bull rider from Florida who went on to judge for the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA). Another is Ray Wessel of Cedar Point, Kan., who would go on to the College Rodeo National Finals, win the PRCA Prairie Circuit Finals in 1989 and 1995, and qualify for the National Finals Rodeo in 1994 in bull riding.
“Wessel is pure fortitude,” said Knowles. “He’s got a lot of try. He hangs on and doesn’t give up.”
Kenton Baughman, back row far left, and Ray Wessel, back row fourth from left
In 1991, PCC rodeo saw the arrival of Head Coach Rocky Patterson. Rocky was raised on a farm between Anthony and Kiowa, and rodeoed at Allen Community College and Oklahoma Panhandle State University.
“I chose to go into teaching mainly so I could have summers off to rodeo,” said Patterson. “I was at PCC for nine years and then decided to focus on my rodeo career in steer roping.” Patterson continues to rodeo and reside in Pratt to this day. He boasts three world titles, most recently in 2012, which his wife Shelly compares to winning the Super Bowl.
Fast forward a few decades, and PCC students are still building upon the successes of Huffman, Baughman and the other founders of PCC rodeo. Tanya Steinhoff, a barrel racer from Vinita, Okla. came to Pratt in 2011 with a lacerated liver following a serious injury that was supposed to keep her from riding for two years. Pratt was the second chance that Steinhoff needed, and she went on to place second in the American Cowboy Rodeo Association (ACRA), and first in the rookie divisions of the ACRA and the Cowboys Regional Rodeo Association, competing in the finals for both.
Looking back at the program through the decades, Jim Stratford shares his enthusiasm for rodeo and what it brought to the college.
“Rodeo addressed the critical need for activities in the agriculture department,” said Stratford, the Vice President of Instruction from 1976 – 2013. “It became an outlet for students who weren’t interested in playing football or basketball, or any of the traditional sports. It was also an important recruiting tool in underserved areas of the state for students who might not have come to Pratt otherwise.”
Stratford was a proponent of the program throughout his years in the administration, and emphasized the benefits even to students who did not compete in rodeos.
“We were glad to provide a place where all members of the agriculture department could bring their animals, work on their skills, and form bonds with their peers in a way that wasn’t possible before,” he said.
Since its inception in 1969, the rodeo has continued to grow and prosper. The 2013-2014 women’s team placed seventh in the region, placing higher than any other community college. Four individuals placed in the top 15 in the region for their event, including Ty Batie of Black Hawk, S.D. who placed fifth in steer wrestling.
Pratt is one of only eight colleges or universities to offer a rodeo program in the state of Kansas, and for today’s students, it’s a good time to be in rodeo. According to Sports Business Daily, rodeo is currently seventh in overall attendance for major sporting events, ahead of golf and tennis.
As the sport continues to go strong, Pratt Community College continues to seek out the best competitors there are, and to provide these students with the training and academic support they need to be successful in every aspect.
“I love to coach and I came to PCC because I enjoy helping the next generation come up,” said current Head Coach Ryan Vander Pluym. “The rodeo strengthens the PCC agriculture program, supports the interests of students from all over the area, and gives our institution a chance to compete and be recognized at the national level.”
2014-2015 PCC Rodeo
The PCC team rosters men and women in saddle bronc riding, bareback riding, bull riding, tie down roping, steer wrestling, team roping, barrel racing, breakaway roping and goat tying. The Central Plains Region includes Kansas and Oklahoma and is the largest region of the NIRA.
Pratt Community College is currently in the process of building a group of PCC rodeo alumni to share information, provide scholarships and support the program. For more information about the initiative, contact Lori Montgomery, Chair of the Agriculture Program, at LoriM@prattcc.edu or 620-450-2186.
This year’s 45th Pratt Community College Stanion Wholesale Electric Rodeo, where more than 600 competitors will compete, will be held on Oct. 3 and 4 at 7 p.m. with the final event on Oct. 5 at 1 p.m. Tickets are $8 in advance for a single ticket and $10 at the gate. Tickets can be picked up after Sept. 15 at the Chamber of Commerce. To volunteer at this year’s event please contact Carmen Forest at email@example.com