By Con Marshall
Perhaps the biggest surprise at the College National Finals Rodeo in Casper last week was that the runner-up in the bareback riding was from Doane University at Crete, Neb. The Doane Tigers have been competitive in numerous sports through the years, but they don’t even have a rodeo team.
Still, Doane’s Garrett Shadbolt rode all four of his broncs at the CNFR and earned a total of 313 points, just 7.5 shy of the gold buckle winner in bareback riding. What’s going on?
Well, Shadbolt hails from the family ranch 30 miles south of Merriman. He’s been a cowboy all of his life. He went to Doane because it was the only school to contact him following his rather undistinguished wrestling career at Gordon-Rushville High School.
“I qualified for the state (wrestling) tournament as a junior and a senior, but never placed,” he recalled during a telephone call Monday. “That was enough to make me want to try it in college. When I got a letter from Doane saying they were interested in me as a wrestler, I enrolled there.”
Shadbolt, who is 5-foot-7, always competed at 125 pounds, the lightest weight in college wrestling, and never had to diet to make weight. This past season, when he was a senior, he finished fifth in the NAIA Regional Tournament with a 4-2 record. He said all six matches were the same day and went the full seven minutes.
Rodeoing also has been in Shadbolt’s blood for a long time, but it’s not been without some glitches.
He recalls that late in the spring in 2014 when he was a high school senior he was bucked off at Arthur, landed on his head and suffered a broken eye socket and cheek bone. Fortunately, his father, Quint, had flown to the rodeo and took him directly to the hospital in Scottsbluff for surgery.
“That knocked me out of the finals of the state rodeo and my face was still pretty swollen at graduation. But six weeks later I was rodeoing again,” he said.
Each summer while working on his parents’ ranch, he also rode barebacks at several regional rodeos. At the start of his junior year at Doane in the fall of 2016, he decided to strike out on his own and enter college rodeos.
“My mom, Angela, is my biggest fan and together we figured out how I could do that. Doane is in the Great Plains Region, we got the schedule of the rodeos and I entered three or four of them that fall,” Shadbolt said.
“I won the bareback riding at each of them and was leading the region. I also won the first one during the spring semester, but then I was contacted by the national headquarters and they said I was ineligible.”
He explained that although he was taking the required 12 hours of coursework at Doane, one of the credits was in physical education for being on the wrestling team. The National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association would not accept that credit and ruled him ineligible, ending his season.
Garrett said this past year, he and his mother got everything in order. He again won the bareback riding at all the fall rodeos and built a big lead in the region. Since it was obvious he would qualify for the CNFR, he skipped a couple of the faraway rodeos this spring and finished second in regional standings.
Shadbolt said since he was a “one-man team” at Doane, he didn’t get much sympathy from the professors when he asked them if he could skip class on Friday to go to a rodeo.
“I was on my own. Paid my own way and traveled by myself,” he said. “But I’m used to driving all over. It took me an hour to get from our ranch to high school every day.”
Things went well in Casper, Shadbolt, a chemistry major at Doane, acknowledged.
“I don’t know how I could have done much more,” he stated. “I drew good horses and rode them about as well as I could. I didn’t make any obvious mistakes and received pretty high scores.”
Shadbolt placed sixth in both the first and third go-rounds and was second in the second go-round and the finals.
Tyler Berghuis of Tarleton State in Texas won the bareback title, earning between 2.5 and 1.5 more points than Shadbolt in each go-round.
“He rides really well,” Shadbolt said of Berghuis. “I’ve seen him at some of the pro rodeos I’ve entered. He was barely ahead of me in every go-round.”
Besides working on the ranch this summer, Shadbolt is planning to hit the rodeo trail, beginning this weekend.
“I’m heading out to Buffalo, Minn., and Clear Lake, S.D., and will go to quite a few over the Fourth of July, places like Estes Park and Greeley,” he said. “I’m riding better than ever and after I graduate from Doane (he needs eight more hours of coursework) this fall, I plan to rodeo pretty much full-time.”
He added that besides taking runner-up honors at the national rodeo, he became engaged this past weekend to his long-time girlfriend. She is Katie Compton, who grew up on a ranch in the Kilgore area, graduated from Cody-Kilgore High School and now attends the University of Nebraska in Lincoln.
“I had a really good week,” he noted.