UT MARTIN READY FOR UPCOMING COLLEGE NATIONAL FINALS RODEO
June 6, 2016
MARTIN, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee at Martin men’s rodeo team will compete for its second national championship in the last three seasons when the 68th annual College National Finals Rodeo takes place on June 12-18 in Casper, Wyo.
Widely known as the “Rose Bowl” of college rodeo, the CNFR is a weeklong event where the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association crowns individual champions in nine different events. More than 400 cowboys and cowgirls from over 100 universities and colleges compete at the CNFR each year after taking part in one of the NIRA’s 11 regions for a chance to rope or ride at the national event.
The UT Martin men is coming off yet another Ozark Region championship in 2015-16, the team’s 14th since head coach John Luthi joined the program in 1997. The men’s team, who became the first program east of the Mississippi River to win the CNFR championship in 2014, is currently ranked No. 4 in the nation with 5,965 points and is making its 43rd consecutive trip to the CNFR.
“One thing different about this team is that every person we are taking has been there before,” said Luthi, the 2013 NIRA National Coach of the Year. “They know the setting and they know the situation. A lot of times that doesn’t typically happen so that gives you a little better mental preparation. They have experience and they know they can win at that level.”
When UT Martin opens the 2016 CNFR on June 12, it will have been six weeks since the team officially competed in the regular season finale at Cossatot Community College. Each UT Martin participant will also compete in an official capacity for the first time since their teammate Coy Lutz passed away during an independent competition on May 28. Each of the seven UT Martin team members will wear an armband at the CNFR to commemorate the life of Lutz, who recently completed his freshman season.
Representing the UT Martin men’s team will be Tanner Phipps (bareback riding), Slade Bronson (calf roping), Ben Walker (team roping, calf roping), Lane Mitchell (team roping) and Douglas Rich (team roping). Nealey Dalton (barrel racing) and Natalie Fletcher (breakaway roping) will also compete on behalf of the UT Martin women’s squad.
Next week will mark the third career CNFR appearance for Phipps, Walker, Mitchell, Dalton and Fletcher while Bronson and Rich will make the second CNFR appearance of their careers.
The official CNFR draws were released on June 3 and can be found at the link above. ESPN3 will also broadcast the CNFR on Wednesday, June 15 through Saturday, June 18 at this link found at the top of the webpage. The official CNFR website will also provide daily results and updates at the link above.