By: Amy Wilson
J.D. Draper won his first buckle in Cheyenne, Wyoming, at a USTRC dummy roping when he was 5 years old. Since then, he's won numerous titles and prizes, including nearly 50 trophy buckles, several of which he won this past weekend at the Kansas High School Rodeo Association Finals in Mulvane, KS.
As he completed his senior year of high school this year, Draper excelled under pressure to win his third KHSRA Steer Wrestling Championship after winning both rounds and the average at the state finals. With his dad, Chad, as his hazer, Draper won 44 of the available 45 points.
I had a goal to be a four-time state champion in the bull doggin', but I didn't get it done my freshman year -- there were a lot of tough kids in there," Draper said. "But, I got it done three years so I was pretty tickled about that.That's not to mention, he didn't even jump his first steer off a horse until about three weeks before the first high school rodeo his freshman year.
Draper's new addition of Docs Cowboy Up "Chance," has been an essential key to his success this year.
"He was that next step up and is helping everything be faster now," Draper said of his steer wrestling horse, who was named AQHA Jr. Ironman Top Horse in March.
Draper is also appreciative of his calf roping horse, Victory, who he described as "really wicked" and recently helped him qualify for the National High School Finals Rodeo.
"I had a slim chance of making the [NHSFR] finals in the calf roping coming into the state finals since I didn't have a very good fall. I knew it could be done, but it was a long shot. I just went in and roped tough and made them," Draper said after he earned 42 of the 45 available points, won the average at the KHSRA finals, and finished fourth in the year-end standings.
Before heading to Gillette, WY, for the NHSFR on July 16-22, the 18-year-old will get to showcase his talent at the National Little Britches Rodeo Association Finals in Guthrie, Oklahoma, on June 16 to July 4. He'll be competing in the calf roping, team roping, and steer wrestling.
"It's been a good learning experience for sure," Draper said of his eight years competing in the youth association. "I just hope to keep winning."
And winning is exactly what he's been doing. Following his win at the Duvall Steer Wrestling jackpot in the 19 and under, Draper leads the standings to qualify for Ote Berry's Junior Steer Wrestling World Championship, which will be held December 12-16 in Las Vegas.
In case his schedule isn't busy enough, there's more.
"I just got my [PRCA] permit the other day. I need to fill it now," Draper said.
Plus, he's headed to Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne this fall on a rodeo scholarship and plans to study agri-business.
What does he enjoy most about rodeo? "Meeting new people and having good friends," Draper said.
He also values the support from his family: "My grandparents go to them and my mom and Ted and my dad and Kelly -- they all go and support me," he said.
One thing is for certain, J.D. Draper is a winner -- both inside and outside the arena -- and his dedication to the sport is being noticed in a big way.