HATTIESBURG – Coming off back-to-back Top 10 national finishes the past two years, the East Mississippi Community College men's rodeo team successfully opened the 2017-18 National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association's Ozark Region slate by claiming first-place honors this past weekend in an event hosted by Pearl River Community College. The three-day PRCC college rodeo concluded Saturday night at the James Lynn Cartlidge Forrest County Multi-Purpose Center.
Featuring three returning cowboys who helped lead EMCC to a seventh-place national team finish this past June at the College National Finals Rodeo, the Lions totaled 600 points in this year's season opener to finish ahead of runner-up Missouri Valley College (510 points), the University of West Alabama (465) and host Pearl River (355). In the women's competition, MVC edged Arkansas-Monticello, 320-300, for the team title.
The EMCC men collected most of their points in the team roping and steer wrestling competitions during their season opener. Leading the way for the Lions, Kemper Academy product Jacob Watt partnered with the University of West Alabama's Tyler Thornton to earn top honors and 170 points apiece in team roping with an average score of 12.7 seconds on runs of 6.0 and 6.7 seconds. As reigning CNFR team roping reserve champions, EMCC's Ethan Wheeler teamed with Ross Mitchell of UT Martin to pick up 100 points each in this year's season opener with their first-round effort of 5.4 seconds.
Fellow 2017 CNFR participant Tristan Martin captured the steer wrestling title in the PRCC event with 120 points and an average score of 7.9 seconds on runs of 4.7 and 3.2 seconds. Zack Varner garnered 80 points for the Lions in steer wrestling as well as adding 30 points during the tie down roping event.
Jace Harris, who also represented EMCC earlier this year at the CNFR in Casper, Wyoming, contributed to the Lions' team total this past weekend with 40 points in team roping and 30 points during tie down roping. Dylan Bobo and Rivers Irby also contributed to the Lions' points total in the steer wrestling and tie down roping events, respectively.
In women's competition during the season opener, EMCC's 10 points were earned by Carli Hodges in the barrel racing event.
The Lions' season-opening title at the PRCC-hosted event in Hattiesburg marked East Mississippi Community College's 10th overall team event title earned since the program's inception in 2010. Now with seven rodeo team titles on the men's side, EMCC previously claimed back-to-back victories at Murray State University and Southern Arkansas University a year ago. EMCC's most recent of three women's team event titles came during the 2015-16 spring season at the University of Arkansas at Monticello.
Coach Morgan Goodrich's East Mississippi rodeo teams continue NIRA Ozark Region action this week (Sept. 21-23) at Missouri Valley College.