r By Deborah Goodman
Clayson Hutchings, 17, fourth-generation Springville native and son of George and Julie Hutchings, won second place in the Saddle Bronc category at the National High School Rodeo Association Finals in Rock Springs, Wyoming on July 21. Hutchings is a member of Team Wasatch of the Utah High School Rodeo Association.
As a freshman in 2015, Hutchings’ aunt and uncle insisted he and his cousin, Scott Lauaki, also 17, begin competing in rodeo. Clayson’s mother, Julie, agreed to allow him to compete, but only wanted him to participate in the roping events because of safety concerns.
But the rough stock was a natural way to go, since he’d been breaking horses on the family ranch for years. So, the next year, he started doing saddle bronc riding and hasn’t looked back.
“Saddle bronc is the event that, when done right, looks like they’re in a rocking chair,” Julie says. “It’s totally applicable to what cowboys really do: get into a natural rhythm and have a connection with the animal.”
Last fall, Hutchings set his sights on qualifying for the state finals. To do so, he had to win a rodeo and be in the top ten in the state in this event. He completed this goal right at the beginning of the season, and continued throughout the rest of the year, practicing two or three nights a week with his Wasatch team and competing in every rodeo he possibly could.
Julie says Hutchings and his cousin, Lauaki, are so close, they are nearly “one and the same.” This year, they’ve been neck and neck in their events, often taking turns coming home with a first-place trophy buckle while the other comes home with the second place one.
The week of Nationals was a whirlwind. Hutchings rode six horses in one week, going back and forth from rodeos in Manila, Evanston, and Kamas in between the intense and stressful rounds at Rock Springs.
When Lauaki narrowly missed his mark out by one place at Nationals—he placed twenty-first and only the top twenty could advance—he became Hutchings’ biggest supporter. He was the one behind the chute, offering advice and encouragement.
And as has often been the case this past year, Hutchings far surpassed his initial goal. “We’d just hoped he’d make it to the top twenty (out of a total of eighty competitors) at Nationals. That was what he wanted to do,” says Julie. But at the end of each round of the six-day event—which features participants from Canada, Australia, Mexico, and forty states—he kept holding onto first place, and excitement mounted.
Finally, on the evening of July 21, twenty of Hutchings’ family members ascended on Rock Springs to join the crowd of several hundred. Hutchings was entering the short go at first place, with 139 points. After the standard eight-second run, he scored a 71. That made his total 210 points, just seven points behind first, earning second place and the title of “World Reserve Champion.”
Hutchings will start his senior year in a few weeks and it’s back in the saddle again for the fall season of high school rodeo. He’s already had some college scouts show interest. By this time next year, he’s hoping to have his pro card.
“It’s been a great experience for him. An experience of a lifetime,” Julie says.