Powell native Kyle Cheney isn’t one to celebrate for too long, even when the occasion is staying seated on a 2,000-pound, spitting-mad hunk of unprocessed beef for 8 seconds.
“He’s different than other kids,” said his father, Greg Cheney. “If he wins that round, he goes home and studies his videos. He’ll say I should have dropped my shoulder there or posted up here. He doesn’t get hyped up on winning.”
That kind of focus seems to have worked for him in a big way this year. He won bull riding at the Cody Nite Rodeo last summer and leveraged his experiences at Stampede Park into a qualifying run for the Junior World Finals Rodeo, placing fifth at the event. Now Cheney stands at sixth in the Wyoming High School Rodeo Association standings.
He’s gotten to his position not just by honing his rodeo skills, but also by investing the time and money.
Rodeos have entry fees for every competitor and while the winner of an event will usually get a nice check to offset their costs, the competitors still need to have the proper gear (for bull riders, that includes a helmet, chaps, cowboy boots and a padded vest) before they can even think about getting in the chutes, not to mention be able to front the money for the entry fee.
To join the Wyoming High School Rodeo Association, competitors have to pony up $300. That’s before they can enter any rodeos. Entry fees and equipment are added expenses on top of that. At the higher levels, the best of the best get sponsorships. For now, Cheney pays it all out of his own pocket.
“Everybody thinks that it’s given to him but it’s not, he really works,” Greg Cheney said. “All his entry fees, his gear, everything, it’s never given to him. He works at McDonald’s or works for Jake Clark. He earns his money to do what he wants to do.”
Kyle thinks that helps him be more of his own person.
“To say that I did it on my own, it just makes me a little more independent,” he said.
He doesn’t stop there. Cheney has taken his love of the sport to another level, buying 16 bulls with his father and working as a stock contractor for smaller rodeos around the state. He gets to practice on the cattle he owns before paying the entry fees. He said the work he put in with them over the summer helped push him into the upper echelon. He felt like all his hard work paid off with the fifth-place finish and a berth in the Junior American Rodeo.
“I don’t want to sound cocky, but I just felt like it was about time because I was working hard all summer for it,” he said.
Cheney was .2 seconds away from a possible podium finish at junior worlds. Next year, he plans to take home the golden buckle. How far will he go after that?
“I’d like to say it’s going to go big,” Greg Cheney said, “but it’s all up to him.”