CASPER, Wyo. – For the second time in three years, East Mississippi Community College can claim a national champion in collegiate rodeo. Tristan Martin captured the individual steer wrestling national championship during Saturday night's championship round of the 2018 College National Finals Rodeo held at the Casper Events Center in Wyoming.
Along with bringing home another individual rodeo national championship to the Scooba campus, Coach Morgan Goodrich's EMCC Lions posted a third consecutive national Top 10 team finish by tying for 10th-place honors with 355 total points during the week-long CNFR event. East Mississippi previously finished seventh as a team at last year's CNFR after recording a school-best, fifth-place national finish among the 2016 men's team standings.
Martin, who won this year's National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association Ozark Region regular-season steer wrestling championship to earn a return trip to nationals, joins former EMCC rodeo standout Marcus Theriot as CNFR individual national champions for the Lions. Currently a member of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, Theriot claimed the 2016 CNFR All-Around Cowboy title and the tie-down roping national championship as an EMCC freshman out of Poplarville.
A product of Sulphur, La., Martin benefitted from consistent go-round performances throughout the week during this year's CNFR steer wrestling competition. With a pair of 4.2-second efforts and a 4.3 run during the long-go qualifying rounds, he held better than a second lead over Cody Devers of Northwestern Oklahoma State University heading into Saturday night's short go-round. Martin held off Devers by putting together a solid 5.0-second showing in the championship round to lock down the national title with an aggregate score of 17.7 seconds and a total of 260 points for his week-long consistency.
"I just wanted to make the same run I've been making all week," Martin said after taking the CNFR's traditional victory lap around the rodeo arena in Casper. "(Just) throw the steer down and go from there."
Martin was making his second straight CNFR appearance for East Mississippi following his transfer from McNeese State University and on the heels of an outstanding prep career at Sulphur High School. After winning the 2014 Louisiana High School Finals Rodeo All-Around Cowboy title and steer wrestling championship, Martin closed out his successful summer four years ago by capturing the steer wrestling championships of the National High School Finals Rodeo and the International Finals Youth Rodeo held in Rock Springs, Wyo., and Shawnee, Okla., respectively.
"Tristan is an outstanding athlete who has worked extremely hard to put himself in this position of becoming a national collegiate champion," EMCC rodeo coach Morgan Goodrich added. "He is a true champion in and out of the rodeo arena."
Marking the fourth straight year that East Mississippi Community College has had at least three competitors participate in the College National Finals Rodeo, the Lions were also represented in Saturday night's championship round by team roper Jace Harris. The sophomore heeler from Vilonia, Ark., and Logan Graham of Southern Arkansas University finished in eighth place nationally in the team roping competition with a fifth-place run during Saturday's short go-round. The tandem won the second go-round earlier in the week with a winning time of 5.7 seconds.
In addition, fellow EMCC sophomore heeler Ethan Wheeler, of Pisgah, Ala., also made his second straight CNFR appearance for the Lions this past week after previously collecting national reserve champion (runner-up) honors with UT Martin header Ross Martin during last year's College National Finals Rodeo.