A Look at Day One of The Cowboy Channel Jr. NFR


The 2020 Cowboy Channel Jr. NFR launched out of the chutes on Friday, February 28, as the first round of preliminary action in the three rough stock events began inside historic Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum in Fort Worth, Texas.

With a purse of better than $200,000, the Cowboy Channel Jr. NFR is the first elite competition offered under the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s new Jr. Rodeo program.

Competitors in nine disciplines—bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, bull riding, tie down roping, steer wrestling, team roping (heading and heeling), barrel racing and breakaway roping—will work through several preliminary rounds, hoping to be among the top six to qualify for the Jr. N

Bull Riding

Florida cowboy Norman Osceola made history as the first cowboy to nod his head in the Jr. NFR. Though he came up just short, 18 bull riders were able to conquer their bulls during the opening go round.

Oklahoma’s Caden Bunch eked out the first-round victory after covering Watusie for 86.5 points, just one point better than Canyon Bass of Wimberley, Texas. The top six cowboys are separated by just 5 points.

Bunch is no stranger to top national level competition. He is the reigning National High School Rodeo Association (NHSRA) champion, a title he earned last summer in Rock Springs, Wyoming as a freshman.

Adding a championship from the Jr. NFR would be just as sweet.

“I’ve been involved [in rodeo] since I was a little kid,” said Bunch. “I started out riding sheep and calves and I’m starting to be on big bulls now.”

Riding out of the iconic red diamond bucking chutes in Will Rogers—classic chutes in which such PRCA champions as Jim Shoulders, Don Gay, Billy Etbauer, Kaycee Field and Sage Kimzey have—Bunch was not daunted by the pressure of the moment.

“I’d been on the bull I had today,” he said. “I wasn’t too worried about it. I just knew if I rode my bull, I’d be setting pretty good.”

Bunch will be looking to pair his first-round win with another good score in round two on Saturday, February 29. The top six in the two-head average will move on to the Finals in AT&T Stadium, held just prior to the Semi-Finals round of RFD-TV’s The American.

“I hope I’m there one day,” laughed Bunch. His strategy to make that happen within the next week is pretty simple. “Just get my bull rode and hope for the best.”

“I’d be real happy,” he said when asked what he’d do if he won the Jr. NFR World Title and the winner’s $10,000 check. “Probably go buy me a car or something.”

Bareback Riding

In bareback riding, another cowboy on a hot streak took the first-go win. Brayze Schill recently captured the championship at the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo’s Youth Rodeo in his signature event. That win came just over a week before he competed in the Jr. NFR.

Unlike Bunch, he didn’t know the horse he’d drawn, Base Camp.

“I didn’t know but I heard that was a good horse; I just knew I needed to take it jump for jump and bear down,” noted the West Columbia, Texas cowboy.

As the last rider of the go-round, he snuck into the lead with an 82.5 point ride aboard the good little white horse that allowed him to show off an outstanding spur ride; the ride was marked 43.5 points, also the best on the day. Oklahoma cowboy Trevor Lattin finished second with 82 points.

Schill was inspired to ride bareback horses by his father, Adam, and the Internet.

“My dad rode bareback horses,” Schill said. “Then I saw the ponies on YouTube when I was little and I said I want to do that! He said alright, so he took me to his friend’s house to practice and I loved it.”

The elder Schill competed professionally but retired before his son was born. Schill started at 10 years of age and competed in youth rodeos until recently.

“I went to youth rodeos, then junior high rodeo last year,” he said. Schill has competed at the National Junior High School Finals Rodeo, finishing eighth in the nation. “This year my dad told me to sit out high school rodeos. I’ve just been going to Branded for Christ (Cowboy Church in Huntsville) for practice.”

Schill has watched RFD-TV’s The American on television the last few years and would love a shot to compete inside the huge stadium.

“That would be awesome. I’ve watched it but not ever been there,” he said. “Hopefully I can make it there.”

Saddle Bronc Riding

Saddle bronc rider Deaglan Lundquist shares that sentiment.

“I’d be pretty starstruck being there,” laughed the 17-year-old from Powell Butte, Oregon. He has a great chance to check out that prediction after winning the opening go-round in his discipline on Friday afternoon.

Lundquist make a crowd-pleasing ride of 76 points aboard Bad Check, a ride that just lasted the required eight seconds and ended with Lundquist on the other side of the arena fence.

“It felt alright, I marked him out and he took a little bit of a scoot coming out of there,” replayed Lundquist of his winning ride. “I kept losing my feet and I could feel my binds getting real, real loose so I was trying to fight to keep my feet back.”

“I tried to stay safe tied up and make kind of a businessman ride so hopefully I could get at least one score down and come back for the short go,” he said of his recovery mid-ride. “Then he kind of set up kind of towards the end and got me real, real loose. He tipped me into my hand and I had to bail off on the fence.” In fact, Lundquist rolled over the top rail and into the holding pen area but was relieved when the judges confirmed he’d made a qualified ride.

“Kinda not like I wanted to do but ended up getting out there alright.”

Lundquist finished a point ahead of Mason Stuller, a fellow Oregonian who competed in both the bareback and saddle bronc riding on Friday. Stuller split sixth in the bareback riding and has a great chance to make the Finals in both events. A slim three points separates the top six saddle bronc riders going into the final preliminary round.

For Lundquist, rodeo has been a passion all of his life and no other event caught his eye more than saddle bronc riding.

“I just always thought the bronc riding looked a lot more classy, more cowboy, than the other events and my grandparents and uncles and everyone rode bucking horses. It’s not exactly tradition but just something I felt I ought to do,” he said.

“I watched 8 Seconds but bulls always scared me. I have some friends who bull ride and I’ll leave that to them.”

“And mom told me no way she was letting me ride bareback.”

Mom Kim and dad Bob Lundquist have been supportive of his dream, however, and with him every step.

“Dad is here,” noted Lundquist. “He usually comes back behind the chutes with me and when I was little he used to help me set my saddle. Now, he’s just kind of there for decoration,” he joked.

Lundquist has benefitted from attending numerous schools in his young career, including one taught by Buster and Deanne Bain in Redmond, Oregon which he now helps put on with his local rodeoclub. He’s also learned from the likes of Ike Sankey and Wrangler National Finals Rodeo cowboys Heith DeMoss and Bradley Harter during a school hosted by Stace Smith.

“Bradley Harter and Heith DeMoss helped me the most; they helped me make some stuff click, and fix some stuff that I was doing wrong, picking up some bad habits and they helped me correct that.”

The junior at Crook Country High School in Prineville is hoping to parlay his talents into a rodeo scholarship before eventually turning pro. He’d love to one day to also raise both cows and bucking horses, and help the next generation of rodeo cowboys learn the sport.

In the meantime, he is focused on the second round of the Jr. NFR. Like Bunch and Schill, he’s in a great position to advance to the Finals with a solid score on Saturday.

“I’m really hoping to make a good ride, win a bit of money but just keep doing what I’m doing,” he said. “I hope everyone else has good rides tomorrow and makes it a real good short go and good finals going over to AT&T.”

The Jr. NFR rough stock preliminary rounds continue on Saturday, February 29, at Will Rogers Coliseum, beginning at 12:00PM CT with the bull riding. The top six in the average in each event will advance to the Finals on March 7 at 3:30 P.M. CT.

The Jr. NFR timed events begin on March 5, also on the grounds of the Will Rogers Memorial Center.

Check jrrodeo.org for more updates and information on the 2020 Cowboy Channel Jr. NFR.