ROCK SPRINGS — Ira Dickinson has been no stranger to success in the saddle of a bucking bronc this year. After a season of work and another big performance at the state finals, he came into the National High School Rodeo Finals as Wyoming’s No. 1 saddle bronc rider.
But nationals is another story, and Dickinson knows that. The stage is bigger, the stakes are higher, and you have to contend with rodeo standouts from almost all 50 states and four different countries.
“The competition is a big one. When you go from state to nationals, it’s a huge difference,” he said.
Well after the first round at nationals, it seems that Dickinson can handle about anything that comes his way. The first time he settled down in the chutes was Monday night, and the hometown cowboy wowed the packed grandstands.
His first ride scored 75 points, putting him squarely in contention. In fact, he is currently ranked third overall and just three points out of first after the first go.
Even though the pressure of nationals is ever-present, Dickinson knows that he’s paid his dues to get here, and that helps his mindset.
“Really, it’s all the same. You’re trying to be the best at whatever you’re doing,” he said. “If you’ve doing everything to prepare yourself, there’s not much else you can do.”
The cowboy who grew up on a ranch outside of Rock Springs has put in a lifetime of work to become the cowboy he is today, but what’s shaped him the most is the family that has supported him through everything.
“I’m super grateful,” he said. “This kind of stuff doesn’t happen without a big support system.”
The work is far from over for Dickinson, though. He’s never been one to settle, and he has his sights set on a national title in the bronc riding.
“Always. That’s always the end goal,” he said. “If you don’t finish what you started, the first ride doesn’t mean anything.”
For many contestants, the gold buckles and prizes are something they dream about getting their hands on, but it’s a little different for Dickinson.
“It’s not so much the title or the buckle. … People talk about it ‘not being about the destination, but the journey,’ and that’s kind of how I think about it,” he said. “Its all the hours my family has put in, all the hours my friends have put in, just to make me a little better.”
Dickinson’s second ride will be Friday morning, and he’ll need another top performance to crack the nation’s top 25 and qualify for the short-go round. The senior missed it by just two spots in 2016, and this is his last shot at a title.