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Carli Hawkins practices goat tying for the OSU Rodeo Team. (Photo by Allie McCracken)

Tying it all Together

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Media Contact: Kristin Knight | Communications and Marketing Manager | 405-744-1130 |

The Oklahoma State University Rodeo Team is no stranger to success. Over the past decade, the program has grown and represented the Ferguson College of Agriculture at the national level.

In 2012, the team had 17 members, and today, it averages 50 members. Much of the growth began when Cody Hollingsworth joined OSU as the rodeo program coordinator and head coach 11 years ago.

“The college approached me to help out,” Hollingsworth said. “We discussed what it would take to bring on a full-time coach.”

A short time after, Hollingsworth met with Lou and Wes Watkins, who helped gather support for a head coach’s position.

When OSU Student Life provided funding for the position in February 2012, the OSU Rodeo Team was then placed under the supervision of the dean’s office in the Ferguson College
of Agriculture.

“To come into the program and establish rules and structure was interesting,” Hollingsworth said. “I was met with a little bit of resistance because people were used to doing things a certain way.”

Until Hollingsworth started coaching, the team was a part of the OSU Rodeo Club. The team did not have a coach so students ran practices.

“For the most part, students were eager to have the support and structure and to be pointed in a new direction,” Hollingsworth said.

Sara Honegger, who now serves as director of marketing and youth programs for the National Reining Horse Association, was a part of Hollingsworth’s first official team in 2012, competing in breakaway and barrel racing.

“There were definitely some growing pains that occurred as with every major change,” Honegger said.

Since the team was a club, they didn’t have any structure when it came to functioning as a team, she said.

“It didn’t take long for us to bond and come together as one unit working toward a major cause,” Honegger said. “We all were thrilled with having Coach Cody and knowing what that meant for the future of OSU Rodeo.”

When Hollingsworth started coaching, the team’s account had $600, he said. The team didn’t have enough funds to lease practice calves or steers, and the students paid for any resources needed.

“We now have had enough people donate and raise enough funds so none of the financial burden falls on the students,” Hollingsworth said.

The OSU Rodeo Team has three arenas they can use for team practices, along with new barns and runs for students’ horses.

“Thanks to our generous donors and the Ferguson College of Agriculture, we have made many improvements to our facilities since I have been on the team,” said Cheyenne Bartling, agricultural leadership master’s student and graduate assistant coach for the OSU Rodeo Team.

Donors and alumni also help students in their academic careers, Hollingsworth said.

“That was one of my biggest goals — to be able to raise enough funds for our student-athletes to help pay for their education just like any other mainstream sport,” Hollingsworth said.

The college provides some scholarships for team members.

The rest are funded through events like the Cowboy Ball, from endowed scholarships, and by donors. Organized by OSU Rodeo Team alumni, the Cowboy Ball also raises money for arena improvements.

“We are very appreciative of the scholarships available here at OSU,” Bartling said.

Bartling received scholarships throughout her undergraduate career and now she receives a stipend from the university as a graduate assistant coach, she said.

In the last few years, the OSU Rodeo Team added a mental performance coach, Katie Hollingsworth, to help students handle stress and adversities.

“We have seen tremendous growth in our students’ understanding of what mental performance means and what sports mindset means,” Cody Hollingsworth said.

Mental performance makes up a large percentage of what it takes to be successful, he added.

“We practice every day, and we have physical trainers,” Cody Hollingsworth said. “If we feel the mental game is a large part of competing, then we need to be doing something to work on it.”

Although rodeo is often an individual sport, each athlete takes being a part of the team seriously, he said.

“We teach the importance of working on a team because whether it be in their professional careers or professional rodeo careers, they will have to be a part of a team,” Cody Hollingsworth said.

Success comes from working as a team and using the resources available to them, Bartling said.

“I feel supported by my teammates, coaches, and the staff in the Ferguson College of Agriculture,” she said. “We strive to make champions both in and out of the arena.”

OSU Rodeo Highlights

The Oklahoma State University Rodeo Association began in 1946 when six students started practicing and competing together. 

In 1948, representatives of OSU Rodeo traveled to the first of many National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association rodeos, and the team has been an active member of the association since then. 

The team’s recent accomplishments include the following: 

  • The OSU Rodeo women’s team earned Central Plains Region championship in 2022 after being the Central Plains Region reserve champion team in 2019 and 2021.
  • In 2021, four members of the OSU Rodeo women’s team and one member of the men’s team competed at the College National Finals Rodeo. 
  • In 2022, three members of the OSU Rodeo men’s team and three women’s team members competed at the CNFR.
  • LJ Yeahquo, a member of the OSU Rodeo men’s team, was the 2022 champion heeler in the Central Plains Region.
  • Kenna McNeill, a member of the OSU Rodeo women’s team, was the All-Around Cowgirl of the Central Plains Region in 2019, 2021 and 2022.

Source: OSU Rodeo Team

Story By: Allie McCracken | Cowboy Journal

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