Where have Idaho cowboys gone?

No cowboys or cowgirls from the Gem State are ranked in the PRCA top 25.

dsouthorn@idahostatesman.comAugust 17, 2013 

Bryan Martinat of Marsing gets launched from Black Sheep during Tuesday's performance. Entering this week's Caldwell Night Rodeo, Martinat was the top-ranked Idahoan in any of the PRCA events - he was 27th in saddle bronc riding.

KATHERINE JONES — kjones@idahostatesman.com

— CALDWELL - It hosts some of the nation's top rodeos, it boasts plenty of farmland, and a few past rodeo legends grew up inside its borders.

Yet look at the world standings of the Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association, and you won't find an Idahoan anywhere.

"You probably can't print the words I'd use to describe how I feel about that,'' Kimberly bareback rider Cody DeMers said.

The top 15 in each of seven events make December's National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. Bareback rider Josi Young of Buhl recalls a time when no one from Idaho carried the state's flag into the arena - the 2008 NFR. That's a technicality, since Young was the lone representative of the Gem State that year, but he was among the first to ride that year.

"A guy from Texas actually carried the flag for me,'' said Young, who is ranked 44th. "It's kind of a shock to not see anyone from Idaho in line to go down there this year, because we have some good talent.''

So what happened?

Maybe it's the system.

The Idaho High School Rodeo Association mainly competes within whatever district the competitor resides (there are eight). DeMers, an assistant coach for the College of Southern Idaho's rodeo team, would like to see more statewide competition.

"I understand it's expensive to travel, but you've got to have more competition,'' said DeMers, currently ranked 35th. "It's a district deal here, but Utah and Nevada, they're open states. You can do all your riding 30 minutes from home here - if you want to get better, you've got to see what else is out there.''

Caldwell team roper Ryan Powell, who moved to Canyon County a decade ago from California, praised Idaho's amateur rodeos and the talent level of competition there. Some may simply have farms to take care of, and can't afford to travel, but there may be some that don't feel ready to make the jump.

"You know, it's definitely a sport that's seeing numbers drop at the younger levels,'' said McCammon bareback bronc rider Morgan Wilde, ranked 43rd. "Some might be more comfortable sticking at those smaller rodeos and are intimidated by ones like these. We've got to put our arms around them, encourage them to come out - the crowds are bigger, there's more money. Why not try it?''

Maybe it's the weather.

There aren't exactly a ton of indoor arenas for up-and -coming cowboys or cowgirls to practice in every day. They are often at the whim of Idaho weather, which might include snow or frigid temperatures, unlike their competitors from the South.

"In Texas, they rope every day, they're working at it every single day,'' Powell said. "Today, rodeo's like football, basketball, baseball, it's a year-round thing you need to work at every day.''

Maybe it's just a blip on the radar.

DeMers has battled a rib injury, which rattles with every buck of his horse. Wilde broke his wrist this past winter and didn't feel his best until the summer. Young has taken a reduced schedule with a young son at home, a daughter on the way, a newly-built home and two new businesses he started this year.

"I think it's just been a down year,'' said Caldwell bull rider Kyle Joslin, a 12-year pro out of Eagle High.

Idaho has not had a world champion since Dee Pickett, who won the all-around and team roping titles in 1984. The past two years, Idaho has had one cowboy reach the NFR - DeMers finished seventh at the 2011 NFR, and Chubbuck's Matt Shiozawa was 10th in tie-down roping last year.

"It's kinda weird,'' Wilde said. "We've got some good guys here. A lot of us are in the top 50, trying to keep moving up. It just makes sense to have a few Idaho guys make it.''

As it turns out this week, there are four Idahoans in the Saturday night finals - Kyle Joslin (Caldwell) in bull riding, Sue Smith (Blackfoot) in barrel racing, Brandon Bates (Caldwell) in team roping, and Justin Parke (Gooding) in tie-down roping.

CALDWELL NATIVE HONORED: Friday night was "Patriot Night'' at the rodeo, and prior to competition, Caldwell soldier Octavio Herrera was honored. Staff Sgt. Herrera, 26, was killed in action Sunday in Afghanistan.

Dave Southorn: 377-6420, Twitter: @IDS_southorn

Dave Southorn: 377-6420, Twitter: @IDS_southorn

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