Ranger College star wins national bull riding championship at CNFR

Ranger College’s Gray Essary displays the saddle he earned by winning the 2015 College National Finals Rodeo bull riding title on Saturday in Casper, Wyoming. A native of Moscow, Tenn., Essary became the first CNFR bull riding champion in Ranger College’s 89-year history. Shown with Essary is Ranger College head rodeo coach Llew Riust.

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by Tommy Wells, Public Information Officer for Ranger College

CASPER, WYO. – Gray Essary etched his name into the history books on Saturday evening at the 67th Annual College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyoming.

Deep into the history books.

The Ranger College star nailed down the collegiate national championship in bull riding by finishing as the top point-getter at the week-long event. Overall, he edged out College of Southern Idaho star Trasen Jones by 15 points in the final point standings en route to claiming his first title. Defending CNFR champion Joe Frost finished third.

“He did an outstanding job,” said Ranger College head rodeo coach Llew Rust. “He drew two really nice bulls to start the rodeo and had great rides. From there, he just rode out the storm.”

With the win, Essary became the first CNFR national bull riding champion in the Ranger College’s 89-year history.

“We’re thrilled for him,” said Ranger College President Dr. William Campion. “He is an outstanding young man. You couldn’t ask for a better ambassador for Ranger College. Ranger College is truly a better place because Gary went here.”



A native of Moscow, Tenn., Essary came on strong in the second round of the event, which was held at the Casper Events Center. After a score of 75.5 in his first go left him trailing Jones by 2 points heading into the second of their four rides, he came up huge. He posted an identical mark of 75.5 in his second go, while Jones struggled to post a mark of 73.

Jones’ struggles sent Essary into the third go holding a one-half point advantage.

He got a little help from the stock from there.

With Essary and Jones holding narrow leads heading into the final round, Frost made a strong bid to repeat as the national bull riding champion. The Panhandle State cowboy came up just short, however, when he was bucked off at the 7.57-second mark of his final ride.

While Essary found success, the bulls pretty much controlled the action at the 2015 CNFR. Of the 102 attempts at the event, only 16 of the nation’s top young riders managed to complete 8-second rides.

Essary’s title, Rust said, was a product of his refusal to quit.

“He’s worked hard for this,” said Rust. “He’s battled his way through injuries to reach the top.”



Essary, who graduated with an Associate’s Degree in the spring, missed much of his first two seasons at Ranger College. Shoulder injuries that required surgery in each of his initial two years at Ranger slowed his progress. Finally healthy, he was among the more dominant riders this season and punched a ticket to the CNFR, which was held June 13-20.

Essary’s championship helped Ranger College continue its run of being among the top 2-year rodeo programs in the country. With just three entrants in the CNFR, Ranger College finished 15th overall with 320 points. Tarleton State University and Panhandle State, both 4-year programs, finished first and second, respectively, in the final team standings.

Ranger College’s Wesley Thorp also did well at the CNFR by placing 24th in the team roping standings. The Throckmorton, Texas, standout teamed with Weatherford College’s Aaron Macy to notch a time of 6.2 seconds.

Thorp and Macy, who were third after the first round, failed to hit on either of their final two attempts and finished with 60 total points.

Ranger College’s Austin Barber and West Texas A&M’s Logan Harkey placed 35th in the team roping standings.



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