Nebraskans claim two events, move closer to finals; World champion makes record setting ride

Ruth Nicolaus
for the Oregon Trail Rodeo
Dru Melvin, Hebron, Neb., won the steer wrestling at this year’s Oregon Trail Rodeo in Hastings, Neb.
Courtesy photo

Oregon Trail Rodeo, Hastings, Neb., results

Bareback riding champion: Garrett Shadbolt, Merriman, Neb.

1. Garrett Shadbolt, Merriman, Neb. 86 points on Korkow Rodeos’ Black Velvet; 2. Paden Hurst, Huntsville, Texas 84; 3. Anthony Thomas, Humble, Texas 83.5; 4. Taylor Broussard, Estherwood, La. 81.5; 5. (tie) Jesse Pope, Marshall, Mo. and Jamie Howlett, Rapid City, S.D. 80.5 each.

Tie-down roping champion: Charlie Gibson, Midland, Texas

1. Charlie Gibson, Midland, Texas 8.1; 2. Westyn Hughes, Caldwell, Texas 9.3; 3. Will Howell, Stillwater, Okla. 9.4; 4. Adam Gray, Seymour, Texas 9.6; 5 Marcos Costa, Menard, Texas 9.8; 6.Lucas Potter, Maple City, Kan. 10.8.

Saddle bronc riding champion: Wade Sundell, Boxholm, Iowa

1. Wade Sundell, Boxholm, Iowa 90.5 points on Korkow Rodeos’ Onion Ring; 2. Logan Hay, Wildwood, Alb. 88; 3. Dusty Hausauer, Dickinson, N.D. 84.5; 4. Cody DeMoss, Heflin, La. 84; 5. (tie) Cooper Thatcher, Goodwell, Okla. and Sam Martin, Goodwell, Okla. 82 each.

Steer wrestling champion: Dru Melvin, Hebron, Neb.

1. Dru Melvin, Hebron, Neb. 4.2 seconds; 2. Reed Kraeger, Elwood, Neb. 4.3; 3. (tie) Newt Bush, Whitefield, Okla. and Sean Mulligan, Coleman, Okla. 4.5 each; 5. J.D. Struxness, Alva, Okla. 5.0; 6. Taz Olson, Prairie City, S.D. 5.1.

Team roping champions: Cory Kidd V, Stephenville, Texas and Clay Futrell, Stephenville, Texas

1. Cory Kidd V, Stephenville, Texas/Clay Futrell, Stephenville, Texas 4.4 seconds; 2. Clay Valley View, Alb./Jake Edwards, Ocala, Fla. 4.6; 3. Andrew Ward, Edmond, Okla./Buddy Hawkins, II Stephenville, Texas 4.8; 4. Tyler Wade, Tyler, Texas Billie Jack Saebens, Nowata, Okla. 4.9; 5. Paul David Tierney, Oklahoma City, Okla./Thomas Smith 5.2; 6. Brit Ellerman, Ft. Lupton, Colo./Trey Johnson, Weatherford, Texas 5.9.

Barrel racing co-champions: Jessica Routier, Buffalo, S.D. and Tamara Reinhardt, Canadian, Texas

1. (tie) Jessica Routier, Buffalo, S.D. and Tamara Reinhardt, Canadian, Texas 16.47 seconds each; 2. Emily Miller, Weatherford, Okla. 16.57; 4. Leslie Smalygo, Skiatook, Okla. 16.76; 5. Alishea Broussard, Estherwood, La. 16.80; 6.Anna Jorgenson, Hudson, Colo. 16.81; 7. Lisa Lockhart, Oelrichs, S.D. 16.85; 8. Michelle Darling, Medford, Okla. 16.87; 9. BryAnna Haluptzok, Tenstrike, Minn. 16.97; 10. (tie) Jamie Chaffin, Burwell, Neb. and Jeanne Anderson, White City, Kan. 17.12 each.

Bull riding champion: JW Griffin, Stratton, Colo.

1. JW Griffin, Stratton, Colo. 85 points on Korkow Rodeos’ What Happened; 2. Nathan Hatchell, Castle Rock, Colo. 82; 3. Chris Bechtold, Balko, Okla.80.5; 4. Clayton Sellars, Stephenville, Texas 79.

All-around champion: Paul David Tierney, Oklahoma City, Okla. tie-down roping and team roping

HASTINGS, Neb. — Two Cornhusker cowboys were among the nine champions crowned at the Oregon Trail Rodeo in Hastings, Neb.

Bareback rider Garrett Shadbolt, Merriman, Neb., won his event, as did steer wrestler Dru Melvin, of Hebron, Neb.

Shadbolt was 86 points on Korkow Rodeos’ Black Velvet to win the title, two points more than the number two finisher, Paden Hurst.

The horse didn’t make it easy for the cowboy. “He really moves ahead, and that’s tough in the bareback riding,” he said. “He’s making a circle, and when they jump away from you in the bareback riding, that’s when they pull on your arm. (The ride) was just a fight. I kept my feet in front and kept moving. Honestly, he’s a lot more bucking horse than I anticipated.”

In addition to Hastings, Shadbolt also won the Burley, Idaho, rodeo and the two wins are a blessing. “That’s been a really big break for me,” he said. “It’s been tough going.”

Because of COVID-19, more than 350 Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association rodeos have been canceled, meaning that more cowboys compete at fewer rodeos and making for tougher competition, Shadbolt said. “I’ve been 85 (points) more times this year than I’ve ever been, and I’ve won less this year than I’ve ever won.”

He’s ranked 21st in the world standings, less than $8,000 and seven spots from qualifying for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. The rodeo season ends Sept. 30, and he has a full schedule for next month. “If a guy can push hard, go to them, and get the right horses (to ride), there’s still a chance (to qualify for the Wrangler NFR). At least, I’m out there, winning money and competing with the best in the world.”

Shadbolt and his wife Katie have a 7-month-old son, George James. Shadbolt has a chemistry degree from Doane College in Crete, Neb.


The third time’s a charm for Dru Melvin.

The Hebron, Neb., steer wrestler is the 2020 Oregon Trail Rodeo steer wrestling champion, with a score of 4.2 seconds on his run, after winning the Hastings rodeo twice in the early 2000s.

“I knew a little about my steer,” he said. “I got a good start, and my hazer, Weston (Winkers) picked that steer up. The horse worked great, the steer worked out, and it was a good (4.2 second) time.”

Melvin, who is 37 years old, grew up in Tryon, Neb., and rodeoed full time till a year ago. He had a successful career, qualifying for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo twice and having earned over $500,000 in his PRCA career.

Last September, he took on a full-time job with a farm cooperative and now rodeos on the weekends, staying mostly in the Prairie Circuit, the rodeos in Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma.

The transition from full-time rodeo to part time has been good for the husband and father of four. “It’s been good,” he said. “My wife (Brittany) enjoys it, and I’ve enjoyed it with the kids.” Their oldest child, Jaxson, a son, is 6; twins Chase and Rainey are 4, and their youngest is Natalie, age 2.

An arena record was set on Friday, Aug. 21, night at the rodeo.

The 2018 world champion saddle bronc rider Wade Sundell scored 90.5 points on Korkow Rodeos’ horse Onion Ring to win his event and move the mark in the record book.

It was the second time that the duo had met up. In 2012, at the Gooding, Idaho, rodeo, Sundell rode the colt, but the colt slipped and fell, giving him a score that didn’t earn a check.

“It’s been eight years later and I finally got to draw him again, and to be ninety and a half, it’s amazing. Words can’t explain it. It’s a great feeling.”

Not only did Sundell win the Hastings title, it was a year after he was seriously injured at a rodeo in California.

On Aug. 24, 2019, in San Juan Capistrano, a horse reared, pinning him in the chute and lacerating his liver.

In the hospital, doctors found internal injuries that bled two or three units into his torso. He was on a ventilator and in a medically induced coma for over a week. The liver laceration was within a centimeter of severing an artery that leads from the liver, which would have caused him to bleed to death.

He spent 28 days in the hospital, then contracted pneumonia. “It was a battle, a struggle for a long time.”

Sundell was out for 11 months, just returning to riding a month ago. “So it’s amazing to be back at it and rocking and rolling again.”

But the cowboy, who is often known as the Wild Man, is making a comeback. “If you have enough willpower and have your mind right, you can beat anything.”

He grew up in Boxholm, Iowa, and now lives in Oklahoma with his girlfriend Shelby Janssen and their 1-year-old son Rankin.

Other champions at the 29th annual rodeo include tie-down roper Charlie Gibson, Midland, Texas, (8.1 seconds); team ropers Cory Kidd V and Clay Futrell, both of Stephenville, Texas, (4.4 seconds); barrel racers Jessica Routier, Buffalo, S.D., and Tamara Reinhardt, Canadian, Texas, (16.47 seconds) and bull rider J.W. Griffin, Stratton, Colo., (85 points).

The 2020 Miss Oregon Trail Rodeo queen was crowned during the Sunday performance.

Bailey Lehr, Columbus, Neb., won the right to wear the sash. The 19-year-old daughter of David and Jodi Lehr, she is a student at Central Community College in Columbus where she is studying agriculture business and playing collegiate basketball and volleyball. She will represent the Oregon Trail Rodeo at rodeos and other events throughout the year.

Next year’s Oregon Trail Rodeo is tentatively set for Aug. 20-22, 2021. For more information, visit the fairgrounds website at For complete results, visit ❖