Free Rein

Veterans, young cowboys among titlists at Oregon Trail Rodeo

HASTINGS, NEB. – Four Nebraskans took home Oregon Trail Rodeo titles after the 31st annual event ended on Aug. 21 in Hastings, Neb.

Denton Oestmann, Auburn, won the tie-down roping; Jeff Johnston, Thedford, was the header for the team that won the team roping, and in the ranch bronc riding, Austin Rose, Blue Hill, won the Friday night event and Riggin Heikel, Pleasanton, won the Saturday night event.

A senior at Northwest Oklahoma State University in Alva, Oestmann grew up in Auburn but competed in Iowa High School Rodeo because of his proximity to Iowa.

He made a 9.1 second run to win the event during the final performance.

“It’s Sunday,” he observed, “and an afternoon performance, and it’s a little warmer. Everybody likes to say the money is won up here on Sunday.” Four of the top six winning tie-down ropers competed on Sunday.

As first gunner for his event on Sunday, he got some advice from friends. “They all told me, you have to give (the calves) a step (ahead). You need to stay behind the barrier, and that’s all I was trying to do. Nothing real fancy.”

World champion Jacob Edler turfs a steer in 4.4 seconds, one-tenth of a second behind the first place finisher Marc Joiner. Photo by Steve Moseley

Oestmann never planned on rodeoing full time this year, but after he placed at several rodeos this summer, he decided to rodeo in the circuit more.

“I hadn’t planned on going to circuit rodeos. I was going to stay close to home and finish this horse. I had won pretty good by the middle of July, so I figured I’d better go” to more rodeos.

Short Stack, his 7-year-old sorrel gelding, is still “green” and lacks experience, but he’s gaining.

“He’s been pretty good this summer,” Oestmann said. “I’ve been seasoning him all summer. He got scared (in the arena) by the (music from the) speaker, but with a little time and a little seasoning, he’ll be OK.”

Oestmann will graduate in May of 2023 with a degree in ag business and a minor in animal science.


The team roping winners are no stranger to Hastings pro rodeo titles.

Jeff Johnston, Thedford, and Jett Hillman, McAlester, Okla., teamed up to win their event with a time of 5.4 seconds.

Both men have been pro rodeoing for more than 20 years; Johnston estimates he’s competed at the Hastings pro rodeo for nearly every one of those years. The veteran rodeo cowboy “loves to win,” he said, and has a tremendous record in Hastings, having placed and won money three times in the steer wrestling and eight times in the team roping. At the Oregon Trail Rodeo, he’s won a steer wrestling title (2012), an all-around title (2015) and three team roping titles (2022, 2015, 2010.)

Hillman has won the team roping twice in Hastings, but not roping with Johnston.

The pair have also competed in regional rodeo associations like the Nebraska State Rodeo Association and the Mid-States Rodeo Association, but since high school rodeo has started and Johnston’s oldest son Tate is a freshman, dad will go with son to many of his high school competitions.

“My boy is high school rodeoing now, so we can’t go to a lot of rodeos now. So we’ll make the next couple count, and it’ll all be good.”

Other champions at the rodeo include bareback rider Chase Yellow Hawk, Blunt, S.D., (78 points); saddle bronc rider Jacob Benham, Dodge City, Kan., (78); steer wrestler Marc Joiner, Loranger, La., (4.3 seconds); barrel racer Tamara Reinhardt, Canadian, Texas, (16.22 seconds); and bull rider Levi Boyd, Elk City, Okla., (82 points).

The 2022 Miss Oregon Trail Rodeo queen was crowned during the Sunday performance.

Danielle Forster, Smithfield, Neb., won the crown.

The 22-year-old daughter of Kevin and Kim Forster, she is a graduate of the University of Nebraska with a bachelor’s degree in animal science with an equine option.

She recently completed a summer internship at the Peterson Smith Equine Fertility Center in Ocala, Fla., and is now a graduate student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, working towards her master’s degree in animal science with a specialization in extension and education. She is also the assistant coach for the UNL Horse Judging Team.

During the Aug. 20 performance, a “big check” in the amount of $6,187 was presented to the Morrison Cancer Center. Monies were raised through voluntary donations at the rodeo and go to the Cancer Center’s “From the Heart” fund. Since 2007, the rodeo has raised more than $38,000 for the Morrison Cancer Center’s “From the Heart” fund.

For more information on this year’s rodeo, visit the fairgrounds website at For complete results, visit

Results, Aug. 19-21, 2022- Oregon Trail Rodeo, Hastings, Neb.

All-around champion: Austin Madison, steer wrestling and tie-down roping

Bareback riding champion: Chase Yellow Hawk, Blunt, S.D.

1. Chase Yellow Hawk, Blunt, S.D. 78 points on Korkow Rodeo’s Outta Ink; 2. (tie) Colt Eck, Redfield, Kan. and Ty Blessing, De Soto, Kan. 76 each; 4. Myles Carlson, Evanston, Wyo. 71.

Ranch bronc riding:

Friday night co-champions: Trace McCuen, Steamboat, Springs, Colo. and Austin Rose, Blue Hill, Neb. 72 points each;

Saturday night champion: Riggin Heikel, Pleasanton, Neb. 77;

2. Trace McCuen, Audubon, Iowa 74.

Tie-down roping champion: Denton Oestmann, Alva, Okla.

1. Denton Oestmann, Alva, Okla. 9.1 seconds; 2. (tie) Austin Madison, Onawa, Iowa and Coy Arnold, Hutchinson, Kan. 9.5 each; 4. Trent Creager, Stillwater, Okla. 9.9; 5. Ryan Jarrett, Comanche, Okla. 10.1; 6. Cody Henderson, Alliance, Neb. 10.2.

Saddle bronc riding champion: Jacob Benham, Dodge City, Kan.

1. Jacob Benham, Dodge City, Kan. 78 points on Korkow Rodeo’s Fraid Knot; 2. (tie) Cody Ballard, Tumut, SW and Caleb Newell, Goodwell, Okla. 77.5 each; 4. Trey Watts, Marshall, Mo. 76; 5. Joe Priebe, Cody, Wyo. 73; 6. (tie) Sam Martin, Goodwell, Okla. and Trent Burd, Madison, Kan. 72 each.

Steer wrestling champion: Marc Joiner, Loranger, La.

1. Marc Joiner, Loranger, La. 4.3 seconds; 2. Jacob Edler, Alva, Okla. 4.4; 3. Tucker Alberts, Howell, Mich. 4.6; 4. Logan Lemmel, Whitewood, S.D. 4.8; 5. Hoyt Kraeger, Weeping Water, Neb. 5.0; 6. Colt Madison, Whiting, Iowa 5.3.

Team roping champions: Jeff Johnston, Thedford, Neb./Jett Hillman, McAlester, Okla.

1. Jeff Johnston, Thedford, Neb./Jett Hillman McAlester, Okla. 5.4 seconds; 2. Tyler Hobert, Clearwater, Kan./Chase Boekhaus, Rolla, Kan. 6.1; 3. Cooper Brott, Gothenburg, Neb./Todd Hollenbeck, Long Pine, Neb. 6.4; 4. Clay Ullery, Valleyview, Alb./Matt Zancanella, Aurora, S.D. 6.7; 5. Kyle Winslow, Alva, Okla./Levi Walter, Alva, Okla. 6.8; 6. Jhett Trenary, Salida, Colo./Gralyn Elkins, Erickson, Neb. 11.5.

Barrel racing champion: Tamara Reinhardt, Canadian, Texas

1. Tamara Reinhardt, Canadian, Texas 16.22 seconds; 2. Taylor Johnson, Decatur, Texas 16.23; 3. Emily Griffin, St. George, Kan. 16.46; 4. Suzanne Brooks, Seminole, Okla. 16.66; 5. Jamie Olsen, Brock, Texas 16.67; 6. Cindy Gillespie, Ransom, Kan. 16.72; 7. Lindsey Muggli, Lane, Okla. 16.75; 8. Sherrylynn Johnson, Henryetta, Okla. 16.77; 9. Deb Cox, Mullen, Neb. 16.83; 10. Stephanie Lang, Chancellor, S.D. 16.84.

Bull riding champion: Levi Boyd, Elk City, Okla.

1. Levi Boyd, Elk City, Okla. 82 points on Korkow Rodeo’s Street Taco; 2. (tie) Brandon Olson, Franktown, Colo. and Colt Rohrig, Rifle, Colo. 79 each; 4. Seth Green, Minden, Nev. 76; 5. Dylan Rice, Flandreau, S.D. 74; 6. Kody Aldrich, Skiatook, Okla. 68.


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