Burwell, Neb., cowboy has competitive drive on the field, on the wrestling mat and in the arena | TheFencePost.com

Burwell, Neb., cowboy has competitive drive on the field, on the wrestling mat and in the arena

Ruth Nicolaus, courtesy of the Adams County Ag Society
Tori Huffman reaches for a steer at a Nebraska High School Rodeo in 2016. The Burwell, Neb., cowboy excels in football, wrestling, and rodeo, and has a competitive streak.
Photo by Jill Saults |

BURWELL, Neb. — A competitive streak runs through Tori Huffman’s veins.

The 18-year-old, a resident of Burwell, Neb., and a member of the Nebraska High School Rodeo Association, loves to compete.

And it shows. He was part of the Burwell High School football team that won last year’s D-1 Class Title, and he was the state champion wrestler in the 182-pound division.

He excels in everything he does. As a linebacker and running back for the Burwell team, which plays eight-man football, he was an all-state running back, setting a new Burwell High School record with 2,272 yards of rushing this year. His stats include 32 offensive touchdowns, one defensive touchdown and over 100 tackles.

Huffman has wrestled at the 182-pound class for the past three years, finishing his junior year 40-6 and wining third at state. This year, as a senior, he was undefeated, won state and helped his team win the team title as well.

It isn’t easy to do two sports at once, but Huffman did in the fall, combining football and rodeo. There were four football games that happened on Friday nights and were followed by a Saturday rodeo, and for home games with rodeos farther away, his parents would have his horses loaded in the trailer, parked at the football field, ready to take off as soon as Huffman was done playing ball. He was a little sore on Saturday mornings following football games. “It wasn’t fun waking up the next morning and getting on a horse,” he said. In high school rodeo, he competes in the team roping, heeling for Nathan Poss, and in the tie-down roping. Last year, he competed in the steer wrestling.

And practice for two sports in the fall wasn’t simple, either. Huffman would be at football practice until 6 p.m., then come home, load horses and take them to an arena 20 miles away, since the family lives in town.


Huffman excels in the classroom as well. He is on his school’s A-B Honor Roll and received academic scholarships to attend Chadron (Neb.) State College, where he will study ranch management or range management. He has been in the top 10 in the FFA state range judging competition each of the last three years, and was a member of the Burwell High School team that won the state range judging in 2015.

Of his three sports, Huffman can’t pick a favorite. He loves the team aspect of football, but in wrestling “really likes to beat up on people,” he said. “I’d have to say wrestling is one of my favorites.” But he likes rodeo, too. “I love the connections I make with people, and the friendships I make, and being able to make a connection with the horses.”

He’s a true competitor, says his high school football and wrestling coach Luke Gideon. “He’s somebody you want on your team. He’s just really confident and he works really hard at being good at the little things, and that has been a huge part of why we’ve had success here.” Huffman realizes it’s not all about him, too. “He’s a great team player. He’s not in it just for himself,” Gideon said.

Gideon likens his laid-back personality to a light switch. “He’s real humble about things, but he has a switch he flips when it comes time to compete. He is kind of fiery when it comes down to it.”

Huffman has chosen to play football at Chadron State this fall, forgoing wrestling and rodeo.

He will compete at his fourth state high school finals rodeo in Hastings in June in both of his events. He finished tenth in the state last year in the team roping.

The Nebraska High School Finals Rodeo will be held in Hastings at the Adams County Fairgrounds June 15-17. Tickets are $7 for everyone ages 5 and up and are available through the office and at the gate. For more information, visit AdamsCountyFairgrounds.com or hsrodeo-nebraska.com, or call (402) 462-3247. ❖


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