February 19, 2024

2024 Jr Ironman Contestants

Colin Fox 

Age: 18 
Hometown: Manvel, Texas 

Colin Fox started competing in rodeo when he was just 8 years old and, as an all-around cowboy, he’s been waiting for the chance to compete in the Jr. Ironman. 

“I’ve always wanted to get the chance to do it someday,” Fox said. “When I saw they had the Jr. Ironman, I didn’t really know how to get into it. So this year, when I saw that [the WCJR] was a qualifier, I was pretty excited to jump all over that. I’ve always enjoyed working multiple events, so it seems like a lot of fun.” 

The freshman on the rodeo team at Sam Houston State University qualified through the 2023 WCJR at the Lazy E. He considers the steer wrestling his strongest event, but he’s roped calves and headed all through high school and college.  

“So the team roping is definitely my weaker side, but I would say I can head pretty well,” Fox said. “My heeling is definitely just something I need to work the most on.” 

With a covered arena at school, Fox has been getting plenty of practice in for the Lazy E, despite the weather. 

“We’ve been taking horses over there pretty much every day, steer wrestling, roping calves and then we team rope at the end,” Fox said. “I feel like I’m getting mentally right for it as well. I’ve been keeping the calf horse free and everything because it’s more of getting everything knocked down instead of trying to be fast.” 

Fox is a three-time NHSFR qualifier and was the Texas High School Rodeo state champion bull dogger his sophomore year. He’ll be riding his own calf and steer wrestling horses—he’s had both since high school. His head and heel horses are still in the works, but one thing is for certain, he has a knockout helper in the team roping—2022 NFR average champion Tanner Tomlinson. Hazing for him will be John Schueneman. 

Eli Green

Age: 18 
Hometown: Oakdale, California

Eli Green practically grew up at the Cinch Timed Event Championship, watching his dad, three-time Timed Event champ and 10-time NFR qualifier Daniel Green. 

Green is the youngest of Daniel and Shawnda’s three children—Grace and Kyndall being his older sisters—and having a 24-time CTEC contestant for a dad just might come in handy in Green’s first Jr. Ironman appearance. 

“I don’t know if it gives me a leg up, but he’s been helping me get ready, and we’ve been running a bunch of steers and everything,” Green said. “I’ve been bouncing around to some other places, too, getting practiced up.” 

Green qualified for the Jr. Ironman in July of 2023 through the Cinch World Champion Junior Rodeo, after finishing third in the team roping and placing in a few rounds. 

“I’m very excited for it,” Green said. “I’ve been wanting to do it the last couple years, but this was the first time I got around to going out there to get qualified.” 

The high school senior is an all-around hand, competing regularly in the heeling, calf roping and steer wrestling. Aside from his multiple California High School Rodeo Association wins, Green won the 2021 Hooey JR BFI #10.5 at the Lazy E. 

He’ll be riding his sister’s bay head horse “Sven,” his heel horse “Buddy,” bull dogging horse “Siete” and calf horse “Ralph.” Green’s plan for his first Jr. Ironman is to remain smooth. 

“I just want to knock down 12 head and try not to be super slow as I do it but not be irrational, either,” Green explained. 

Evan Bottini  

Age: 20  
Hometown: La Junta, Colorado

In 2024, Evan Bottini returns to the Jr. Ironman competition for the third time, and with hard won wisdom. 

“I’ve learned to never, never count yourself out, that’s for sure” said Bottini, 20. “A lot of things can change. And just because you’re winning the first round doesn’t mean you’re gonna win the last one. So you just gotta stay real humble about things and keep your head high and just keep doing what you’re doing. It’ll sort out how it’s supposed to be.” 

Last year, Bottini was coming off a pretty fresh ankle injury and, though there’s still some tenderness to it, he’s happy to report he’s managed to stay healthy ahead of the event so far. This year’s challenge instead comes from the fact that he’s since lost his calf horse, Goose. 

“My calf horse died after the last Iron Man,” said Bottini, a sophomore on Kansas’ Colby Community College rodeo team. “I’ve got a new younger horse coming, Tom Cat. I’m not real worried about him, I just don’t know what to expect. I haven’t had him in that big of a setting, but I think he’ll be alright.” 

Bottini’s mom and dad are helping him get the rest of his horsepower in order, which includes again counting on Jackson Seibert’s Pac Man for the heading, while his own horses—Netflix and Maverick—will carry him in the heeling and the steer wrestling. 

For manpower, Russel Cardoza will be helping on both ends in the team roping this year and, in the bulldogging, Tyler Pearson will again be hazing for Bottini, the 2021 NHSFR steer wrestler, 2021 Little Britches Dally Ribbon Roping World Champion and 2017 National Little Britches Rodeo Junior Boy World Champion Breakaway Roper.  

In school, Bottini is wrapping up his studies in beef production, and he’s entertaining a few different paths forward. 

“I might come back to continue another year here to get a welding degree and some other things that I would like to get,” said Bottini, who hails from the southeastern corner of Colorado. “But I’ve also got some colleges—Fort Hays, and some colleges down in Texas—that have offered me to come and talk to them.” 

But for the moment, his focus is on the next few college rodeos and getting to the Jr. Ironman arena in good working order. 

“We’ve been healthy all year. We’ve still got a couple weekends to go but, hopefully, everything stays strong, and we’re good to go by the time we get there.” 

Hank Burgess 

Age: 19 
Dalton, Georgia

Georgia’s Hank Burgess is set on representing the Southeast at his first Jr. Ironman and proving that rodeo talent isn’t only in the purview of the Western states.  

“I’m ready to go out there and show that talent comes from all over and not just way out West,” he said. “I’m excited to cheer on Justin Thigpen—he’s from Georgia, too—and bring back some titles to the Southeast.” 

Burgess, 19, came up through the ranks of junior high, high school and Little Britches rodeo and currently competes on the Northwest Mississippi Community College team under renowned coach and NFR steer wrestler, Will Lummus.  

Burgess qualified at the National Little Britches Finals and has been pleasantly surprised by the subsequent celebrity treatment. 

“I’m announced as the kid going to the Jr. Ironman and all sorts of people come up to me to wish me luck,” he said. “I get phone calls and texts offering me horses to ride. It’s wild. It’s great!” 

Luckily, Burgess doesn’t need to call in any favors and has his horses lined up, including a few that are home-raised and self-trained.  

“When I’ve made my own horses, I know them and I know how they’re going to react to stuff,” he said. “I’ve always liked working with the young ones and making them into what I want them to be.” 

With tie-down ropers like Tim Pharr and Danny Phillips as neighbors to offer advice and practice time, calf roping is Burgess’ strongest event, but he’s aiming for “businessman’s rounds all week across the events.”  

“I’m going to go out there and do the best with what I have,” he says. “If it works out, I come home with a paycheck. And if not, at least I got to go and that’s pretty cool.”  

Helping Burgess in the roping will be Travis Klingeman. Hazing for him will be Ironman competitor and World Champion Steer Wrestler Tyler Pearson.  

Jake Shelton 

Age: 18 
Hometown: Krum, Texas

When Jake Shelton caught the roping bug, he caught it from the best.  

“I started roping steers when I was around 11,” Shelton, 18, said. “I went with some family friends to rope calves at Roy Cooper’s place, and I’ve been in love with it since.”  

And when he caught the bulldogging fever, he caught that from the best as well.  

“K.C. Jones taught me how to bulldog,” he said. “I’ve had some good teachers.” 

That top-notch education successfully carried Shelton through the ranks of junior high and high school rodeo to a 2023 Cinch World Championship Junior Rodeo steer wrestling title and a qualification for the Jr. Ironman.  

“The Jr. Ironman has always been a goal of mine,” the Krum, Texas, high school senior said. 

Though feeling strongest in the calf roping and steer wrestling, Shelton is going “full throttle” on training for all the events.   

“Whenever I’m not in school, I’m practicing,” he said. “I try to practice at least two events every day. I might take off a night to go jackpot, but otherwise, it’s all day, every day.”  

Shelton’s horse string will include some of Jones’ bulldogging team.  

“I’ve been fortunate enough to be real good friends with K.C. for a long time,” he said. “He told me, ‘Well, you know, the team, they’re in shape. Why don’t you just take them?’” 

Hazing for Shelton will be his father, Daryll Shelton. And in the team roping, his good friend Cash Fretwell will be helping on both sides.  

Ketch Kelton 

Age: 18 
Hometown: Mayer, Arizona 

Reigning Jr. Ironman Champion Ketch Kelton is the definition of cowboy cool. The Arizona roper garnered the 2022 Arizona High School Rodeo Association and NHSFR All-Around Cowboy titles before smashing the Jr. Ironman aggregate record in 2023 with a time of 107.4 seconds on 12 head. 

Specializing in heading and heeling, the 18-year-old isn’t rattled by the thought of coming into the 2024 event with a bullseye on his back.  

“I don’t have a different perspective this year,” Kelton said. “You know what to expect, and you know you need to pace yourself throughout the competition. Just treat everything the same and try not to make a mistake. I really enjoy competing up there with those guys. I’ve always wanted to do the Ironman.” 

The son of 12-time Cinch Timed Event Championship competitor Chance, Kelton literally has the Ironman competition in his blood.  

His horse lineup closely matches his 2023 roster, starting with personal gelding “Boon” in the heading and heeling. He’ll be riding Damian Padilla’s bulldogging horse again and calling Brent Lewis for a calf horse.  

In the help department he’ll have Cody Lovell heading and Cade Rice heeling.  

Kelton’s supporters will include parents Chance and Tammy, as well as grandparents Willy and Phyllis Kelton.  

Kreece Dearing 

Age: 19
Hometown: Chico, Texas

It’s a busy time of year for Kreece Dearing. The second semester of college rodeo just kicked off and the South Plains College freshman only had a few days between competing in Odessa and heading north to the Lazy E for his second Jr. Ironman. 

College rodeoing has given Dearing, of Chico, Texas, good opportunity to prepare for the event. 

“We have practice Monday through Thursday,” he said. “I’m getting to practice a lot more than I did last year.” 

Dearing has been an avid roper since the start, and he added steer wrestling to his all-around repertoire some five years ago. Since his Jr. Ironman debut last year, Dearing has also added a WCRA Division Youth All-Around title to his long list of rodeo accomplishments. It’s momentum he hopes to carry into this year’s competition. 

In 2023, Dearing won the third round of the Jr. Ironman, “but had no luck in the first or second round.”

This year, he plans to “gun it a little more.” 

“I’m going to make sure I get a time in every single event,” he said. “A time is a lot better than a 60.” 

Helping him out in the team roping on both sides will be NFR heeler Levi Lord.  As for horsepower, Dearing will be bringing his horses “Big Jake” on the head side, “Carmela” on the heel side and “Tooley” for calf roping. He’s still debating on his bulldogging horse. 

His parents Anita and Rodney Dearing will be there to show their support.  

Luke Tippmann 

Age: 17 
Hometown: New Haven, Indiana

Luke Tippman is entering the Jr. Ironman for the first time in 2024 after being awarded the NLBRA All-Around Cowboy World Champion title in 2023. 

“In the spring I had a really good season,” Tippmann, 17, recalled of his championship season. “I started getting on broncs and earning more points, and my best rodeos were in the spring, leading up to the finals.” 

Bronc riding seems to have grabbed ahold of Tippman’s heart, but he claims team roping as his strongest event and, at the Lazy E come February, he’ll be heeling with the help of his partner of six years, Brazil’s Junior Fornazin. 

“I just want to go into it with a level head and take it one run at a time,” Tippmann said with the wisdom of the Cinch Timed Event Championship veterans. “You can’t beat yourself up over something you can’t fix, so if I make a mistake, I’m just going to do my best to move on.” 

Just a few weeks out from go time, Tippmann had his horses ready but was still determining his hazer for the steer wrestling. He believes one of the Tierney brothers is lined up to pull his steers tight for him in the heading.  

When he’s not in the arena or in school, the high school junior with plans to attend Panhandle State University also works for his dad, Tim, at his company Beastmaster Rodeo, which sells rodeo gear and accessories.  

Micah Kearney 

Age: 17 
Hometown: Holt, Florida 

Though born into a rodeo family, it was only six years ago that 17-year-old Micah Kearney of Holt, Florida, first swung his leg over a saddle. But since then, he’s more than made up for lost time, punching his ticket to the 2023 National Little Britches Finals where he qualified for his first Jr. Ironman.  

“Honestly, I was scared of horses for the longest time, so I didn’t get started young like most people,” he said. “But once I did, I was hooked. I didn’t want to do one event; I wanted to do all of them—and I wanted to be good at all of them.”  

Competing at the Jr. Ironman has been a longtime goal of Kearney’s, and he’s been laser-focused on returning to the Lazy E.  

“It was the thing I was working toward,” he said. “So it was very, very rewarding to get that email.” 

Since the official invite, Kearney has been putting in the hours “practicing everywhere and anywhere to get as sharp as possible, physically and mentally.”  

Kearney says he favors the team roping and bulldogging, is keeping his strategy simple: “I’m going in just making sure I get all 12 head caught about as fast as I can.”  

Roping with Kearney will be two-time NFR header Nelson Wyatt. Hazing for him will be World Champion Steer Wrestler Tyler Pearson.

Tyler Porter 

Age: 17 
Hometown: Tylertown, Mississippi

Mississippi all-around star Tyler Porter will be competing in the Jr. Ironman competition for the first time in 2024, but he’s leaving the jitters at home. 

“I’m excited about going,” said Porter, 17. “I’m pretty confident about doing it because I’m practicing doing all my events, so I’m doing pretty well. I just practice hard and go there and compete, you know?” 

Porter qualified to compete in Guthrie through the National Little Britches Rodeo Association and was a top 10 header at their 2023 Finals. Back home in Mississippi, the homeschooled junior is sitting pretty in the standings, currently ranked No. 2 in the Boys All Around, No. 1 in the steer wrestling, No. 3 in the team roping and No. 1 in the tie-down roping.  

For help, he’s calling upon two-time World Champion Kaleb Driggers for help on both ends of the team roping and, in the steer wrestling, World Champion Tyler Pearson will be supplying the haze.  

For horsepower, Porter will be riding his own. 

“My steer wrestling horse, we bought him last year and I’ve been riding him for about six months now,” Porter said. “My head horse, we’ve had him for about four years, and then my heel horse, we just got.” 

Porter’s dad, Sean, is also a calf roper and he helped put the finishing touches on the steer wrestling horse when they got him, but they’ve been teaming up with Gonzales, Louisiana’s five-time World Champion Steer Wrestler Tyler Waguespack for extra help, too. 

“I’ve been going down there for a about a year now,” Porter said. “We’re all good friends, and he’s helped me a lot with my steer wrestling.” 

At the event, dad Sean, mom Amanda and 11-year-old brother and fellow roper Jake will be cheering Porter on through the three, four-event perfs of the Jr. Ironman, all with the goal of winning the championship and $20,000.