Stockton Graves is a seven-time qualifier to the National Finals Rodeo, but these days the Alva bulldogger is focused more on coaching the Northwestern Oklahoma State University rodeo team and becoming a father.
“Rodeo is 365 days a year,” he said. “ There is no season for it. It’s winter, summer, spring and fall. There really ain’t a whole lot of breaks. You get to spend most of your life on the road. It takes a toll on you.”
That is why the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association circuit system is ideal for cowboys like Graves, who still want to rodeo but no longer want to be chasing that world champion gold buckle year-round.
Graves has once again qualified for the National Circuit Finals Rodeo, which opens Thursday at the Lazy E Arena in Guthrie. It was held the last three years at State Fair Arena in Oklahoma City.
The PRCA circuit system is designed for cowboys and cowgirls who want to rodeo closer to home. The PRCA divides the country in 12 regions or circuits from which two cowboys or cowgirls in each event (top money earner on the season and championship rodeo winner) qualify to the National Circuit Finals.
Oklahoma is part of the Prairie Circuit with Nebraska and Kansas.
Graves will become a father in August so making the NFR is no longer his top priority.
He still lives the life of rodeo cowboy, but only part-time, hitting the smaller circuit rodeos closer to home and trying to win enough money to stay qualified for the higher-paying PRCA events in places like Houston and San Antonio.
“There is still a pretty good living to be made out there and not having to travel so much,” Graves said.
Graves also is in his third year as Northwestern’s rodeo coach and will be splitting time this week between Guthrie and Weatherford.
Graves will be steer wrestling at the National Circuit Finals while his Rangers will be competing at a college rodeo in Weatherford hosted by Southwestern Oklahoma State University.
On Wednesday, Graves signed his newest cowboy to Northwestern’s rodeo team. Deer Creek’s Cole Pacheco is a three-time state wrestling champion who decided he would rather wrestle bucking broncs in college.
“There are a lot of people pretty shocked about it,” Pacheco said. “I’ve gotten a lot a phones calls from people asking what I was thinking.”
Graves, 35, is a former wrestler from Ponca City High who made the same career decision years ago. There are more colleges in Oklahoma with rodeo teams than wrestling teams and many rodeo cowboys are former wrestlers, he said.
Wrestlers and cowboys seem to be cut from the same breed.
“Adrenalin junkies,” said Pacheco, who hopes to be riding broncs in the National Circuit Finals Rodeo someday soon.
What: RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo
Where: Lazy E Arena near Guthrie
When: Thursday at 11 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.; Friday at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday at 1 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. The Randy Rogers Band performs Friday night after the rodeo. Rodney Atkins is on stage after Saturday night’s performance.
Purse: More than $800,000 in cash and prizes
Ticket information: Visit www.rncfr.com or call 405-282-RIDE