Schalla streaks across NRA sky
By JOE KUSEK
August 10, 2023
He came, he rode, he took the money.
Then he rode some more and earned two high school world titles.
Wacey Schalla’s time in the Mountain Health Co-Op Tour was like comet across the sky: brief and bright.
And expect a return to the Montana skies.
Schalla is currently in third place for the Northern Rodeo Association bull riding standings with nine rodeos remaining in the regular season.
The top 10 in each event qualify for the NRA/Northern Women’s Rodeo Association Finals presented by nuWest Builders, Oct. 26-28 at Majestic Valley Arena in Kalispell.
“Everybody told me go there,” said the likable teenager from Arapaho, Oklahoma of the Finals. “It’s more than likely I will go.”
Arapaho is a small community in west-central Oklahoma. “We have a gas station,” Schalla added with a chuckle.
If Schalla returns to Montana, he will have two National High School Rodeo Finals championships to his growing resume.
Schalla won the all-around cowboy and bull riding titles at the National High School Finals Rodeo in Gillette, Wyoming.
The 17-year-old competed in all three rough stock events: bareback, saddle bronc and bull riding. He also finished fourth in the final bareback standings.
“I wanted to win the all-around,” said Schalla, who was the New Mexico high school bull riding champion this year. “It worked out well for me.”
He finished with 228 points on three rides for bull riding. After a 62-point ride in the first round, he went 80 points to win the second round and was 86 points to finish second in the championship round. It was enough to edge Eyer Morrison of Wells, Nevada by one point.
Schalla was 80.5 points to win the opening round of bareback riding. He was 70 in the second round and was 76 points in the final round to finish with 226.5 points. Schalla had a no score in the saddle bronc round and was 50 points in the second. He finished tied for 56th.
Schalla earned 1,200 points in the all-around. Shane Scott of Prineville, Oregon was second with 1,125.
“I knew I won the bull riding. I was pretty ecstatic,” he said of the awards ceremony. “We were getting our awards, posing for pictures and they called my name and announced I won the all-around. So I ran up on stage.”
Schalla becomes the second cowboy in three years from the NRA to win the high school all-around title.
Sam Petersen of Helena, competing in bareback riding and steer wrestling, won the coveted crown in 2021. Later that year he finished second to Brice Patterson of Bozeman by $1.19 in the NRA bareback standings. It is believed to be one of the closest races in the NRA’s long history.
Petersen is currently among the top 15 in the PRCA world bareback standings and in contention for Resistol Rookie of the Year honors.
Fans of the Mountain Health Co-op Tour had already seen Schalla’s talents.
Schalla and two friends spent most of June in Cody, Wyoming, competing at the Cody Nite Rodeo during the week and NRA events on weekends.
“Those NRA events, there were only a four-, five-hours away,” he said. “They were worth the drive.”
Schalla won bull riding titles at Wilsall, Harlowton and Ennis. His 89-point ride on Ash Role at Harlowton is the Tour’s highest-marked bull ride of the summer.
But his 83 points on Come Apart at Wilsall brings a big smile. “That was a great ride,” he recalled. “That bull was the one to get. It’s my best ride of the year.”
Both bulls are owned by Jacobs Livestock Rodeo.
“I’m sure it did help. Even if I don’t realize it,” Schalla said of the NRA competition. “I didn’t enter any for bareback. I should have.”
Graduating early from home school, Schalla will begin school at Clarendon College in Texas. The Clarendon men won the team title this June at the College National Finals Rodeo. Weston Timberman of Columbus won the national bareback title. Petersen also competes for Clarendon.
The multi-event cowboy plans to turn pro when he turns 18 in November.
“I probably tell people I’m a bull rider,” said Schalla. “But it turns out I’m a pretty decent bareback rider. I hope to get better in saddle bronc at Clarendon.”
But before he celebrates his 18th birthday, Schalla has some bulls on his schedule at the NRA Finals.
“I don’t see why not.”
As the temperature continues to sizzle, so do the performances in the arena.
Trevor Kay of Chester won the bareback title at Townsend with an 84-point ride. It is the high mark ride of the season for the event.
Roscoe’s Zane Schroeder ripped off a Tour-best time of 8.7 seconds to win the tie-down roping. Nicole French of Stevensville won a tight breakaway roping with a time of 2.5 seconds. Less than a second separated the top 10 finishers.
Jack Cornwell was a long way from home when competed in the tie-down roping at Superior. A first place check made the 500-mile ride back to Glasgow a little easier. Charlo’s Jordan Larson won the bareback riding, his third victory in the last four rodeos. Hometown cowboy Hunter Haskins won the saddle bronc.
Reigning all-around champion Celie Salmond won the barrel racing at Superior and added a fourth place finish in breakaway roping. Added with a third-place finish in barrel racing at Townsend, the Choteau cowgirl added another $1,462 to her growing season earnings.
Townsend winners: Trevor Kay, Chester, bareback; Quanah Glade, Miles City, saddle bronc; Jeremy Kay, Chester, bull riding; Jaxen Petersen, Helena, steer wrestling; Zane Schroeder, Roscoe, tie-down roping; Jade Nystrom-Dennis Barta, Havre, team roping; Alexis McDonald, Gardiner, barrel racing; Nicole French, Stevensville, breakaway roping; Bailey Billingsley, Glasgow, junior barrel racing; Bode Auck, East Helena, junior breakaway roping.
Superior winners: Jordan Larson, Charlo, bareback; Hunter Haskins, Superior, saddle bronc; Jonathan Moore, Great Falls, bull riding; Austin Whitehouse, Helena, steer wrestling; Jack Cornwell, Glasgow, tie-down roping; Colter Lairy-Joe Esposito, Dillon, team roping; Celie Salmond, Choteau, barrel racing; Payton Levine, Wolf Creek, breakaway roping.
The Mountain Health Co-op Tour takes the excitement to the Madison County Fair and Rodeo in Twin Bridges and the Darby Wild West Rodeo, both on Aug. 11 and 12.
Both have 7 p.m. performances each night.
The Madison County Fair and Rodeo will have a tribute to Benjamin Reynolds on August 12. Better known as Rooster, Reynolds died on April 14 of this year from cancer. He was 61.
The tribute will begin at 8:30 p.m.
A well-known rodeo competitor, Reynolds won the NRA year-end steer wrestling title in 1987. He would win the average at the National Finals Rodeo in 1995.
Reynolds was a graduate of Twin Bridges High School where he participated in football, basketball and track and field, along with speech and drama.