Barker heads to NHSFR
Manson NW student will compete for national steer wrestling title
MANSON — Garrett Barker is about to embark on the biggest trip of his burgeoning career.
As the old saying goes, though, this isn’t the Manson Northwest Webster senior-to-be’s first rodeo.
Barker recently captured the Iowa High School Rodeo Association state championship in the steer wrestling competition at the National Cattle Congress Grounds in Waterloo. The title automatically qualified Barker for the 71st annual National High School Finals Rodeo in Rock Springs, Wyoming.
It’s a pressure-packed journey to face the nation’s best. But Barker is hoping his experience at nationals during both his seventh- and eighth-grade years as an Iowa Junior High champion tie-down roper will have him even more prepared for the challenge this time around at the Sweetwater Events Complex.
“Back in junior high, I remember it being both exciting and nerve-wracking,” said Barker, who lives north of Manson. “This brings kids from all over the United States together, and now Mexico, Australia and Canada are also a part of it. So it’s the best of the best and the pressure is on.
“But I know what I have to do, and I know what to expect now. I’m ready.”
Barker was first introduced to the rodeo scene by his father, Kevin, at the age of five. His interest in steer wrestling is a relatively new development; Barker first considered it after watching a friend in the fall of 2017, and he first officially began competing just last spring.
Steer wrestling, which is also known as “bulldogging,” is a rodeo event where a rider uses a horse to chase a steer, then jumps from the horse to grab the steer by the horns and gain control.
“Right now, it’s my favorite,” Barker said of steer wrestling. “But it’s hard. It’s still a work in progress for me. In the spring, I was practicing for about three or four hours a day after school two or three days a week.”
The 17-year-old Barker also placed sixth in tie-down roping at the Iowa championships, and competed in team roping as well. He left for Wyoming on Thursday with his dad, his mom, Jacy, and his sister, Bailey, to represent Team Iowa.
The NHSFR runs from July 14-20. Barker will be in action on Tuesday morning and again Wednesday night. The finals, which draws the Top-20 qualifiers from each event based on their combined times/scores in the first two rounds, are on Saturday night, July 20.
As he continues to mature both physically and mentally, Barker’s dreams have grown as well.
“I’d definitely like to do this professionally someday,” said Barker, who is considering the Iowa Central Community College rodeo program among other options after he graduates from MNW next spring. “You can get your PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) permit when you turn 18, and my birthday is in December.
“We’ll see how everything goes between now and then and decide from there.”
Barker added “I can’t thank my family enough for helping me” reach this stage in his journey.
“They’re so important to me,” Barker said. “They help get me everywhere, whether it’s to practice or competitions, and they’ve been supportive of me from the start. It means a lot that they’re coming with me to Wyoming. I’ll do my best.”
There will be nearly 1,700 contestants from 43 states, five Canadian provinces, Mexico and Australia in action at the NHSFR. Over $150,000 in prizes and $375,000 in college scholarships will be on the line.