Beaverhead County sends 6 to National HS rodeo

J.P. Plutt
Wednesday, July 14, 2021
Off to nationals

Off to nationals (left to right) T.J. Sigman, Murphy Gaasch, Tristan Setzer, Walker Story, Chance Story, and Gavin Garrison will represent Beaverhead County and the State of Montana at the National High School Finals Rodeo, July 18-24, at Lincoln, Nebraska. submitted photo

State champ

Dillon’s T.J. Sigman shows his bulldoggin’ form at a rodeo in Dillon. submitetd photo

Six members of the Beaverhead County High School rodeo team qualified for the National High School Rodeo Finals at Lincoln, Nebraska set for July 18-24 at the Lancaster Events Center. According to a spokesperson for the Beaverhead group, it is the largest contingent from the Dillon area, “in a long, long time” to advance together to the national event that is hailed as the “world’s largest rodeo” with over 1,650 contestants from 44 states, 5 Canadian Provinces, Australia, Mexico and New Zealand. Incentives abound at the national event with $150,000 in prizes and over $200,000 in added money up for grabs as well as more than $375,000 in college scholarships and the chance to become a high school world champion.

The Dillon group qualified by placing in the top four in their events from a combined total of their points from the fall season, spring season and the Montana High School Rodeo Finals held in June at Baker in eastern Montana. BCHS senior T.J. Sigman claimed the lone state championship for the local group, pinning down the title in steer wrestling. Other qualifiers include Gavin Garrison and Tristan Setzer in team roping, Murphy Gaasch in breakaway roping and goat tying, Chance Story in steer wrestling, and Walker Story in cow cutting and reined cow horse.

T.J. Sigman, Dillon, senior State champion steer wrestler

“I’ve been riding horses since I was born and then my dad got me into rodeo,” said Sigman. “I started junior high rodeoing in the sixth grade and just kept going since then. I did a little bit of the 4-H rodeos.”

Sigman’s team includes Squeak, a horse he got from Jaren Whitman of Whitehall a year ago. Whitman also hazes for Sigman.

“I just bought him last year and he’s been working really good for me lately,” said T.J. of his horse. He added that Whitman does “an awesome job” hazing.

“It went good,” said Sigman of the state rodeo. “I had three consistent runs and it put me first in the average and put me first in the state.”

Sigman says he is going to try and repeat the pattern at Lincoln and have three good runs.

“We’re going to leave Thursday night and try to drive all night so it is easier on the horses, and then we’ll stop about halfway and rest and let the horses out to stretch them,” said Sigman of the 1,500 mile, 16 hour trip. “We’ll go again Friday night and be there sometime Saturday morning.”

Gavin Garrison, Glen, soph. State third header

Garrison will compete in team roping with his long-time friend Tristan Setzer. The pair ended the state meet in third place overall and Garrison says a repeat of the same formula is a goal.

“It went pretty good,” said Garrison. “We got all three steers caught. The stock was really good in Baker and they have a good facility there. We ended up placing third in state and we could have won it, we were real close.”

After a canceled 2020 high school rodeo season, this year worked out well according to the Glen cowboy.

“Last year, all of the spring rodeos got canceled, but for the most part this year, in the fall and spring, things were real normal. Most of the towns were friendly and let us have all the rodeos back to normal.”

Garrison says he and his partner usually practice in Glen and sometimes he heads up to the Big Hole.

“We kind of go back and forth, whenever we have time. We live fairly close together so it is easy to go practice.”

Rodeo is a family tradition in the Garrison family. His dad and two uncles all competed for the Montana Western team with uncle Tim winning the College National Finals Rodeo steer wrestling championship. His dad won a Northern Rodeo Association steer wrestling title, and his uncle Todd enjoyed a successful PRCA season and qualified and competed in Las Vegas and the PRCA National Finals Rodeo. His cousin Hailey Garrison competed at the most recent College National Finals Rodeo for the Montana State University National Champion women’s team.

“I’ve been to all sorts of rodeos and team ropings and stuff,” said Garrison. “It is part of the family. We do that all of the time so it is just normal at this point.”

Garrison rides a buckskin header horse named Tonto.

“My dad trained him and I’ve been doing stuff on him since I was really little,” explained Garrison. “He’s got a good personality and he’s really good out on the ranch branding and moving cows. His personality just fits me really well. He always does his job in the arena, so I’m pretty proud of him. He’s athletic and smart at the same time so he’s a pretty good head horse.”

Garrison qualified for the Junior High National Rodeo Finals as an eighth grader, so he has experience on the big stage.

“It’s a big rodeo and everybody goes down there and tries to be super fast,” explained Gavin. “I think if we just go down there and make three smooth runs and do our job just like we’ve been practicing, I think it’ll work out.”

Tristan Setzer, Big Hole, senior State third heeler

Setzer, a senior, rides Precious, a 7-year-old buckskin mare he trained himself.

In the box, the header controls the action with the nod to open the gate.

“In the box, I focus on the header and what I do is look at my header until he nods and once that happens then I look at the steer until it is out of the chute.”

Setzer says he and Garrison have known each other since they were little kids and have a lot of experience roping together. They roped in junior high when Garrison was in sixth grade and Setzer in eighth. They partnered up again two years later when Gavin entered BCHS as a freshman.

“I would say riding your horse, staying in good position and making a good delivery are keys,” said Setzer his routine as a heeler. “We practice a lot and every time you ride into the box you have it on your mind and you lock yourself into those steps and you go and make a good run.”

Murphy Gaasch, Dillon, soph. State third breakaway State third goat tying

Murphy Gaasch, just a sophomore, will compete in her fourth national finals rodeo when she arrives in Lincoln later this week. She qualified to the junior high finals as both a seventh and eighth grader and qualified as a freshman to the high school finals. This year she will be competing in breakaway roping and goat tying.

“I used to do just 4-H rodeos and then I started Montana High School/ Junior High when I was in sixth grade,” said Gaasch. “I want to college rodeo. My dream school is Cal Poly. I want to college rodeo and then hopefully go to law school.”

Looking toward the upcoming national rodeo, Gaasch has a game plan,” I have to be consistently fast and get two calves roped in like two seconds or three seconds in the breakaway. In the goat tying I have to make two fast runs and hopefully make the short round and tie in 7 or eight seconds.”

Murphy’s brother qualified for the recent Junior High National Rodeo Finals and according to Murphy roped all of his steers, covered a couple of his rough stock and tied some good goats.’

“He’s pretty good, he’s kind of my brother’s horse, but I get to ride him quite a bit,” said Murphy of her competitive ride. “I started breakaway roping on him when I was in junior high and then I just kept roping on him. “

Chance Story, Big Hole, senior State fourth steer wrestling

“At state I ended up staying in the middle of all the goes, and that helped me stay in it good,” said Chance. “It was kind of a drawing thing there at state. I was fifth in the first go, sixth in the second go and I think I ended up fourth in the short go. I ended up fourth overall.”

Chance, who graduated from BCHS this spring, is on a new horse so his success reflects his ability.

“The horse I’m riding now, I just got him,” said Chance. “I bought him from some people that we’ve been practicing with, friends of ours. He was his practice horse. I just picked him up two weeks before state.”

Jimmy Garrison hazes for Chance, upping his odds of having a good run. And he has experience and family tradition going for him.

“My dad rodeoed in high school and college some and he got us going when we were young and took us to youth rodeos at fairs and things like that,” explained Chance. “It just came out being something that I loved.”

Chance qualified for the Junior High National Rodeo Finals in the eighth grade in two events.

“I’m just going to come in trying to have some fun,” said Chance of his nationals plan. “I’m going to go with whatever happens and hopefully I draw good and everything works out for me.”

Walker Story, Big Hole, freshman State third cow cutting State third reined cow horse

The younger Story brother advances to nationals in two events. He credits his horse Basile Bay for his run to third place in the state cow cutting event.

“I’ve got a good horse that took care of me,” he said. “The cattle were a little rough, but it was equal for everybody. It was a little tougher than some shows, but it was good overall.”

“Basile is from a guy out of Big Timber named Mike Browning,” explained Walker. “She’s a 12-year-old and she’s a real sweet little bay horse. She really tries her heart out every time and really tries to take care of me.”

In reined cow horse, Walker competes on Reinna.

Walker spoke of his dad’s background in rodeo and added that his mom also competed on horses, first in youth rodeo and then on race horses.

“I think my first rodeo was when I was four or five, so I’ve been doing it since I could walk pretty much,” he said.

With his experience and background, Walker has a plan for the national rodeo.

“There will be a little more than 200 kids that I’ll be competing against, and I’ll just try to go out there and make two good, consistent runs and if you’re in the top 20 you make it back to the short go and try to put together a good run in the short go and then see how it all lays out. But just make three good runs.”