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Rodeo

Rookie on the Rise

Weitz leaving the chute.
Weitz leaves the chute to head a steer at Gallup, New Mexico.

A hush settles over the crowd. The dust falls. All eyes point to the south side of the rodeo arena. Backed into the roping box is a tensed-up bay horse ridden by 36-inseam Cinch Jeans and an attention-getting shirt patched with some of the biggest brand names in the rodeo industry. With all the confidence in the world, the 7-inch brim of Resistol cowboy hat nods forward. 

With a bang, the chute gates release; 1,200 pounds of built-up intensity from the bay horse releases after the calf. Shouts of, “You’re out!” echo in the background to give the cowboy an extra dose of confidence.

Seven and a half seconds later, the flag drops on the short round run. The cowboy adds ‘Texas Tech Collegiate Rodeo Tie-Down Champion’ to the extensive list of accomplishments this freshman phenom has already built for himself. 

“He has a gold buckle mindset and the skills to match.”

Leaving Las Vegas with a high chin, a trophy saddle in the back seat, and a victory lap around the Thomas and Mack is merely a fantasy for almost anyone who’s ever sat in the saddle. For 19-year-old Texas Tech University student and rodeo athlete, Chet Weitz, his first taste of Vegas came at the ripe age of three. With surprised pre-teens watching, he walked away with  a trophy saddle for winning the dummy roping; he was barely strong enough to carry it himself. 

“I have been rodeoing for 16 years,” Weitz said. “Ever since I can remember I have been on the back of a horse.” 

Weitz’s childhood was spent traveling back and forth from his home in Mason, Texas, to rodeos around the country. After claiming the Texas high school state team roping championship, Weitz attracted offers from universities just like any NCAA division one athlete prospect would expect.

“I have wanted to go to Tech since I was little,” Weitz said. “After I toured campus for the first time, I knew it was where I was supposed to be.” 

 Texas is a petri dish for producing champions, heading to Lubbock was always the plan for the second-generation Tech rodeo team member.

Weitz Tying a calf down.
Weitz dismounts to tie a calf at Gallup, New Mexico.

Texas Tech Rodeo Coach Jerrad Hofstetter said having Weitz join the team was a win in itself. 

“Finding a kid who wants to take rodeo seriously and go to a major university is harder to find than people realize,” Hofstetter said. “Chet is that kind of person. We worked hard to get him and his family here and we are thankful they chose our program.” 

The former National Finals Rodeo qualifier and rookie of the year said because the rodeo team is 100% self-funded, he focuses on recruiting students who are self-motivated and driven both inside and out of the arena. 

The average day for Weitz starts off with a cup of coffee and a Bible to take in the calm before the storm of work. From his dorm, he heads to the Texas Tech Equestrian Center to feed his horses and makes it back to campus before his morning classes. After class, he knocks out his homework and then drives his white Ford dually back to his stalls where he practices until the sun goes down. 

“There isn’t a ton of down time with being a full-time student and being on the rodeo team,” Weitz said. “But it has all been beyond worth it to me.” 

In just one year, the true freshman’s motivation to work secured him a spot in both the team roping and tie-down events at the College National Finals Rodeo held in Casper, Wyoming, in June 2020. This is no easy feat, according to Hofstetter, considering Texas Tech’s home region is the most difficult in terms of numbers and land mass covered.

Looking forward, both Hofstetter and Weitz have big aspirations for his rodeo career. 

“Chet has the potential to go some places with his rope and there is no doubt that he will get there,” Hofstetter said. “He has a gold buckle mindset and the skills to match. All he has to do is continue to work like he already does.”

Weitz riding a horse.
Weitz finishes his team roping run at Gallup, New Mexico.

Hofstetter Takes the Reins as New Rodeo Coach

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n the past 12 years, Jerrad Hofstetter has worked to strengthen the caliber of rodeo athletes in the Lubbock area by hosting clinics and training students. However, when an opening came up for the position of Texas Tech’s rodeo coach, Hofstetter was hesitant to apply.

He worked diligently to fill the open position of Texas Tech’s rodeo coach before deciding to go for it himself.

“A friend of mine, Jennifer Brazil, who ran the equestrian center last year goes to church with me, and she asked me to help find a rodeo coach,” Hofstetter said.

Shaking his head, Hofstetter said he must have called 15-20 people who he believed were qualified for the position and was turned down by each of them.

“My wife ended up telling Jennifer behind my back that I wanted the job,” Hofstetter said, “but I’ll be really honest and say I don’t have a degree, so I never applied.”

Hofstetter said Brazil convinced him to apply and shortly after he was named the new Texas Tech Rodeo coach.

“It’s been a blessing being here,” Hofstetter said. “The kids are absolutely amazing. The people I work with are amazing. This really is a neat, neat program that we have out here.”

No stranger to the highly competitive world of rodeo, the first-year coach qualified for the National Finals Rodeo on three separate occasions before retiring.

According to the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas is widely acknowledged as the world’s premier rodeo, which showcases the best rodeo athletes in the world each year.

“I have been fortunate in my career to have seen what it takes to win, and the kids out here are outstanding, but a lot of them haven’t been around somebody that understands how to get to that next level,” Hofstetter said. “This year’s been a huge learning experience for a lot of them.”

Kim Lindsey, the director of the Texas Tech Equestrian Center, said Hofstetter has made an impact on every part of the equestrian center, not just the rodeo team.

“I think Jerrad is probably the best thing that’s ever happened to the Texas Tech Rodeo program,” Lindsey said. “It takes a special individual to be a great coach, and I think we’ve found ours.”

Lindsey said Hofstetter is a team player and has fostered a sense of unity between the four teams housed in the equestrian center: rodeo, ranch horse, equestrian and horse judging.

“We’re all one big team, and if we work like that, we can get more done and be more successful,” Lindsey said.

Hofstetter and Lindsey both agreed the best part of working at the equestrian center is the students. 

“It’s really fulfilling to get to see these kids, especially a freshman, come in and get to see them mature the four years they are here,” Lindsey said.

Lindsey said the whole purpose of what they do is to produce outstanding individuals and build the character of the students.

“A lot of our rodeo kids become professionals, then they go on and do other great things,” Lindsey said. “You have to think about it. If they are going to school and doing all this too, they are pretty driven.”

Hofstetter beamed with pride as he talked about the students on the rodeo team.

“The strongest part about the rodeo team is the character of the kids that are on it,” Hofstetter said.

The 2018-2019 Texas Tech Rodeo Team

In his role, Hofstetter has made sure the students on the rodeo team, even with their busy schedules, are giving back to the Lubbock community.

“We’ve done a lot of community service,” Hofstetter said. “Right before the year started, we laid 1,500 feet of water lines. We put on a rodeo for kids with special needs, and then for Christmas, we went to the children’s hospital and helped make cookies with them.”

Hofstetter said the rodeo program is centered around the students and everything they do starts with the students.

“We are actually not funded by the university,” Hofstetter said. “We are the only school in our region, which is the biggest and toughest region in the country, that is not a part of the school’s sports program. We are like a club.”

Hofstetter pointed out the students have to raise money for everything the rodeo team does and all the gear they need.

“The strongest part about the rodeo team is the character of the kids that are on it.”

“They go out to local businesses, and we’ve been very fortunate,” Hofstetter said. “The local community has been outstanding this year. We’re trying to get past alumni involved and just get this program back on the map.”

Hofstetter stressed the equestrian center and rodeo team can move forward in multiple ways with more notoriety and more involvement from the community and alumni.

“I’ve got a lot of things that I’m pushing for,” Hofstetter said. “We want the whole town to know about us, and we also want to win. We’ve got the talent.”

Hofstetter said they need more seats, stalls and plug-ins at the facility in order to have more events.

“It’s funny because there are a lot of people in Lubbock that don’t realize we have a college rodeo team,” Hofstetter said. “Students right there on campus, they don’t even know we exist. That’s really a shame.”     

“There are too many great things going on out here to be overlooked, and it gets overlooked,” Lindsey said. “We’d just like to share that with everybody. I think we’ve only scratched the surface.”

Building a Rodeo Legacy

  • Members of the Texas Tech Rodeo Team come from all across North America. The rodeo life is part of their heritage and all have the goal to continue building Texas Tech’s legacy.
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odeo is a tradition passed down from generation to generation. It is in their blood. For some Texas Tech Rodeo Team members, rodeo success is part of their heritage.

“My grandpa on my dad’s side is a world champion steer wrestler, and my Uncle on my mom’s side is a world champion tie down roper and team roper,” Rainy Robinson, a team member from Caldwell, Idaho majoring in agriculture economics said. “It was just bred into me, I guess.”

It was just bred into me, I guess.

The Texas Tech Rodeo Team is built on tradition, and the new coach, Jared Hofstetter, is coaching a team to carry on that legacy. The current team has many accolades under their belt buckles, including members participating in The American, members qualifying for the College National Finals Rodeo, and the reserve champion Southwest Region women’s team.

The Texas Tech Rodeo Team has also participated on the international stage. Kashley Seitz is a team member from Canada, she ropes and runs barrels. While in high school, she was the first Canadian to win the all-around title at the National Junior Highschool Finals. Shelby Spielman is a barrel racing, goat tying, roping team member that has more recently made her Canadian debut.

“Outside of college rodeo, my biggest accomplishment thus far would be that I qualified for the Canadian Finals Rodeo.” Spielman said, “And I also won a $20,000 slot race this past summer, which was cool.”

Spielman was also one of the three team members that competed at The American in February 2019.

Being a member of the rodeo team requires many hours of hard work and practice. The team spends at least three hours a day practicing on their own. They own their own horses and they spend a large majority of their time breaking and training them. Each member started this sport at an early age.

“Whenever I was old enough to start entering it just seemed like the natural thing for me to do, and I have been going to them ever since,” Seitz said.

The rodeo way of life brought many of the team members to Tech as they were recruited by the previous coach Stetson Corman.

“I also was very interested in going to Texas Tech because of the opportunity to get such a high-quality education at a high-quality university,” Seitz said.

Members of the Texas Tech Rodeo Team come from all across North America. The rodeo life is part of their heritage and all have the goal to continue building Texas Tech’s legacy.

Life On The Rodeo Road

A s he backed into the roping box looking under the brim of his Resistol hat, Hunter Cure saw the dust of his competitor, and knew it was his moment to shine at the 2013 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in 2013. He nodded his head and his steer sprinted out of the chute. Before he knew it, the run was over, and he had claimed his first world championship. For the Texas Tech alum, it was a dream come true.

Growing up with a family that owned and managed a grain elevator in the small north Texas town of Electra, hard work was something very familiar to Cure, a 2006 agricultural and applied economics graduate. However, he made his name in the rodeo arena.

Cure began rodeoing at age 13 and has not looked back since. Following in his older brother’s footsteps, he began steer wrestling using the steers and horses his family already had. Steer wrestling proved to be a pretty prosperous hobby that transformed into a career for Cure.

After a successful high school rodeo career, Cure found himself on a rodeo scholarship at Howard Junior College in Big Spring, Texas. His freshman year proved to be a learning curve, but he had a smooth transition into college. After gaining valuable opportunities, Cure realized there were still areas he was lacking knowledge and experience and decided it was a good time to transfer to Texas Tech to continue his college rodeo career.

Upon transferring to Tech, Hunter bought two acres of land, built a barn and practice pen, bought cattle, and set to work on another successful year of college rodeo. During his first year on the Texas Tech rodeo team, Cure did not miss more than a couple of short rounds throughout the year. He went on to win the southwest regional championship and the national inter-collegiate rodeo championship later in the summer. During his junior year, he was a member of the Texas Tech men’s rodeo team, that placed third in the nation at the 2006 college finals.

During his senior year, Cure bought his Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association card. The rather large investment and transition from living in a dorm room to buying land and building facilities in Lubbock proved to be worth it when Cure won the national inter-collegiate rodeo steer wrestling title. He says that his time at Tech was a learning experience and gave him the option to succeed or not to.

“I felt like while it was a learning experience,” Cure said. “It put the ball in your court to do what you want you could either sink or swim for the most part.”

Transitioning from his college rodeo career to the professional world wasn’t easy. It came with many learning curves and took time for him to asses and work through his weaknesses. In 2007 and 2008, he was in the top 25 in the standings, but couldn’t quite break through the top 10 to qualify a the trip to Las Vegas for the Wrangler NFR. However, four years after buying his PRCA card, Cure made his first WNFR appearance, the ride every cowboy works towards.

Cure’s first trip to the finals was another learning experience. Not performing quite as well as he had hoped, Cure vowed that if he ever qualified again, he would be better prepared and have a winning game plan. It took four years of struggling and growing, but through the cowboy’s dedication and determination, Vegas was in sight. Cure returned to the finals in 2013 with a different horse and a different plan.

Going into the finals ranked no.7 in the world, Cure won two rounds and placed in five. He walked off the dirt in Vegas’ Thomas and Mack Center after the tenth round of the WNFR with a gold buckle that read “World Champion.”

Soon after the glory of winning the world title, came tough luck. What Cure thought was just a sore back after a day of practice turned out to be a career-halting injury. A pinched nerve led to back surgery, which disabled Cure for the majority of the 2014 summer. Unsure of where his career would go, Cure considered if he was be out of the rodeo world for good.

“That was a huge letdown after feeling like I was on top of a mountain after winning the world in 2013,” Cure said.

However, 2015 proved to be a very successful year. Cure faced trials after recovering from surgery and getting back into the rodeo circuit, but the challenges paid off. He qualified for the NFR again, and brought home another gold buckle to Electra.

“That year was very justifying knowing that I was able to come back after surgery and win the world again,’ he said.

Though rodeo is a full-time job for Cure most of the year, he manages to find time to put his agricultural and applied economics degree from Texas Tech to use in multiple entrepreneurial facets. He started college pursuing a degree in engineering, but went back to his agricultural roots and changed his major to agricultural and applied economics. In May 2006, he graduated with his bachelor’s degree.

Cure and his mother work cooperatively together with cow-calf operations. His mother’s operation is strictly cow-calf with 175 head of Angus cows she breeds back to registered Angus bulls. Cure’s part in her operation is managing the cattle. He has a mix of Hereford cows and white Brahmer bulls he is currently trying to breed to break into the tiger stripe heifer market. Along with his cow-calf operation, Cure has a herd of Mexican steers he contracts out for steer wrestling at most of the major stock show rodeos in Texas.

The last of his entrepreneurial pursuits is a sideline business of appraising land and farm equipment for banks. Through this business, he has the opportunity to meet other producers around the state and see what works in their operations.

Whether Hunter has been on the road rodeoing or on the ranch all day managing cattle, one thing is the same everyday: coming home to a wife and kids. His wife Bristi is also a Texas Tech graduate and now works in the wind energy business. Together, they have two children, Halli, 4, and Hayes, 2. They keep Hunter and Bristi busy and on their toes.

“Kids have definitely changed our way of life, and it’s an ongoing circus act for the most part,” Bristi said.

The couple’s hectic rodeo and work travel often create challenges when coordinating family time. A support system of Hunter’s mom nearby and Bristi’s parents only two hours away they are able to make it work.

“We usually just do a handover in the middle of the night or early in the morning when he gets home, and I leave,” she said.

Cure says it is difficult to balance all of his irons in the fire, but that is just his way of life.

“It’s a juggling act, and I drop the ball every once in a while, but I try to keep them in the air as best I can. There’s no set pattern to it, just work.”

There’s no set pattern to it, just work. Hunter Cure

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