Panola Rodeo Team Earns Nationals For First Time

Rodeo is a growing sport among Texas colleges, and for the first time, Panola College has qualified for the nationals.

Ryan Thibodeaux is a calf roper on that team, six of the ponies will be going to Casper, Wyoming, for the national championship. Ryan said they've all been successful individually, but it's special to be a part of the first team.

"I'm honored that we've done so well." Thobodeaux said. "No one else has done this from Panola. It's kind of an honor to be the first ones to do this."

"You're going up against the best in the country. You've got tough guys in your region, but this is guys from all around the country that you don't see all year long, and you're brought together to see who's the best that week."

Ryan is the fourth generation of his family to rodeo, and for the college athlete especially, rodeo is a full-time job. Ryan competes in about a hundred rodeos a year. Last night he was in Navasota, tomorrow night he'll be in Winnsboro, then on to Casper, Wyoming for the nationals.

"You can take time off," he said, "but the rodeo season is a full year. Rodeo comes off the working ranch, and the working ranch never stops. They doctored cows and took care of things all year."

"They never had a day off, so I don't like to take one."

Next year, Ryan will be on the rodeo team at Texas A&M.

Reid Kerr can be reached at