West Brazos eighth-grader Brayze Schill, already a veteran on the junior rodeo circuit, will compete at the 15th annual National Junior High Finals beginning today in Huron, South Dakota.

A three-time National Junior Finals Rodeo qualifier, the West Columbia native will compete in bareback steer riding. He qualified for the National Junior High Finals by finishing second at the Texas Junior High Finals from May 26 to June 1 in Gonzales.

He has come a long way from his days of mutton busting as a 2-year-old.

“My dad rode in it and I started riding sheep in it when I was 2,” Brayze Schill said. “Whenever I was 9, I saw a video of the little ponies so I started doing that. Then it moved up to little bit bigger horses and then it moved up to bigger horses. In junior high, it is on steers. I am riding steers this week and I am very blessed because nationals is a huge accomplishment.”

Rodeo is in Brayze Schill’s genes with his father, Adam Schill, who did it when he was young as well. Brayze Schill rides bareback and saddle bronc also, but in the National Junior High Rodeo Association, the young cowboys ride bareback steers.

“He used to see my pictures when he was a little kid,” Adam Schill said. “He always wanted to do it. We put him on the sheep and then it is all he has ever talked about.”

Success came fast for the young cowboy, who has already made three trips to the National Junior Finals in Las Vegas.

“Starting out, it was pretty rough,” Adam Schill said. “Whenever he was 10 years old, his first few horses were pretty rough. He got ahold of it pretty quick. By the time he was in his second year, he qualified for the Junior National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas in two events. Last year, he went to the Junior NFR in just bareback riding. He has been riding in the junior high division on steers. He won his region and from his region, he qualified for the state finals and he was reserve champion at the state finals, which got him to nationals.”

Brayze Schill said he loves everything about rodeo and has the support of his parents, even though they do get nervous watching him.

“As a parent, it is a nervous wreck,” Adam Schill said. “It is even harder on my wife than it is me. But it is amazing to watch him do it and watch him progress and just keep climbing the ladder.

Adam Schill enjoys watching his son follow in his footsteps.

“It’s really neat.” Adam Schill said. “I really like watching it and we like being around rodeos. I think it is just really, really neat. All the kids in rodeo are the most special you will see and they are good. I think it is just awesome.”

While competing in big arenas and events such as the Junior NFR in Las Vegas might be a lot to take in for his parents, Brayze Schill said he doesn’t let it affect him. A strict practice and workout regimen has him prepared for the competition at the highest level.

“I think that me and his mother might get overwhelmed, but he is just like, ‘Nah,’” Adam Schill said. “He doesn’t stress about it. He knows whenever he gets there, it is time to do his job. He has lots of practice. He works hard. He goes to Grit Fitness in West Columbia and works out two days a week and he has his exercise routine he does at the house. Then he plays football, which helps him stay in shape. He just stays prepared and takes it as it comes.”

Brayze will use that preparation beginning today in Huron as he goes up against the field at the world’s largest junior high rodeo. The event features roughly 1,000 contestants from 44 states, five Canadian provinces, Australia and Mexico.

The contestants will compete for more than $80,000 in prizes and more than $200,000 in college scholarships along with the chance to be named National Junior High Finals Rodeo World Champion.

“I am excited, but I am just thankful to be here,” Brayze Schill said. “But I am excited.”

It is just another stop in a career Brayze Schill hopes continues for a long time.

“I hope to do it for as long as I can,” Brayze Schill said. “Hopefully I can go pro and do the big world championships one day.”

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