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The Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology

Cole Dodds competing at the CNFR collegiate finals national rodeo.

Student Spotlight: Cole Dodds

Senior Cole Dodds wrapped up an amazing collegiate career for the Fresno State Bulldoggers team with a reserve national champion finish in the all-around standings at at the College Nationals Final Rodeo, June 12-18 in Casper, Wyoming. 

The Sanger native's best CNFR individual effort featured a third-place finish in the team roping event as the healer. Even more special was that his header teammate was his twin brother, Cobie, who competes for Feather River College.

Fresno State's Dodds added 18th place in tie-down roping  and 26th in steer wrestling.

In previous years at the College Nationals Final Rodeo event, he had competed in tie-down roping in 2021 (11th) and in team roping as the heeler in 2021 (37th) and 2019 (11th). His first team roping appearance came with his older brother, Bodi Dodds, who was a senior and a four-time College Nationals Final Rodeo qualifier himself for the Bulldoggers.

The trip was extra special since he was joined at the event by his parents, Melinda and Brett Dodds, who were former rodeo competitors and run the family’s Silver-D-Bar Training Center.

Read more about his memorable experiences in this interview (and click here for a team event recap and event preview).


Q: Take us through how the CNFR nationals went.

“The rodeo went well, and I think I was the only person that competed in three events. I started off well, and we won the first round of team roping (5.5 seconds), and I also placed top six in the first round of steer wrestling (5.4 seconds) and in the third round of tie down (fourth, 9.0 seconds). My expectations going in were to try and win the all-around. Everyone else there has high expectations, so it’s not an easy task.”


Q: What was your competition schedule like during the week?.

“Monday was the first day for the roping and timed events, and I did all three events, as well as a second round on Tuesday. I was off on Wednesday and then team-roped and steer-wrestled on Thursday, and then tie-down roped on Friday. Saturday night was the final round of team roping. It was pretty busy, but I like it that way. It was also nice so I couldn’t think about anything too much. I would do the event, and then immediately shifted my focus to get ready for the next event. Doing it that way, I couldn’t really overthink or get nervous. I would take it one run at a time.”


Q: Coach (Uhuru) Adem mentioned how great a job you did and how close you were to winning - give us a better feel for that.

“I had a near miss in the short go final round of team roping. That meant it was a five-second penalty which ended up putting us third overall, 4.8 seconds behind the winner. If I had roped that other leg cleanly we would have won the team roping title, and it would have also given me enough points to win the all-around title. I ended up being the reserve all around champion, and missed the overall title by 25 points. That’s not very much difference and is basically a little bobble here or there.  ”

“I took it a little hard initially, but my family was really supportive and said you can’t let it get to you. Later, when my brother and I walked out of the arena, he said how cool it was to be here with me and how much he enjoyed roping together. He said he was proud of how far we made it, and that we did the best that we could.”

“It’s nice to rope with someone who doesn’t get mad in those situations, and it’s not the end of the world if you don’t win. He is committed to you as a teammate and making your job easier - that why I love roping with him. It’s been even more special since I’ve been able to do it with him since junior high and high school. The same thing even happened in high school at a national championship. We drew a tough steer in team roping where we were also one leg from winning. You do it because you love it, not so much because of the place.” 


Q: How did you enter this competition mentally compared to past years, or change any of your techniques?

“It was my third time at the event, so I was better able to handle any nerves. You’re still always a bit nervous, but I tried to approach it as another rodeo, and stay as confident as I could. I also qualified for the (CNFR) nationals a fourth time, but they canceled it because of COVID in 2019.” 

“Overall, I tried to be smarter and more consistent (this year). Freshman year, I really wanted to focus on being fast. Rule number one, if you do that you’re going to make mistakes. This time, I tried to take it one run at a time, especially since I had three events, and there was always another event I needed to get ready for.”


Q: What about with your training this year, or even the horses you used?

“I didn’t change much up and trained mostly the same way. Maybe I practiced a little more on the horses, and made sure they were going into nationals at the best of their abilities. Altogether this year, I’ve used three calf horses, three heel horses and two bulldogger horses. I changed my tie down horse a little bit ago, and he is one that I trained. He had only been to four rodeos before CNFR, but I couldn’t have asked for any better than how he performed.”


Q: Talk about competing at nationals in the team roping event with your twin brother, Cobie (a fourth-year student at Feather River College), and how that experience compares with past years

“I have had great teammates each year, and competing at the CNFR with your brother is extra special. It started for me my freshman year when I rode with my older brother, Bodie, who was a senior. My second year was the COVID year, and I competed with Cutter Machatto from Cal Poly. My third year I competed with Riley George from our team. This year we (Cobie and I) were able to link back up together, and he’s my favorite header, because we’ve been doing it together for so long.”


Q: Talk about any differences in your style compared with your brothers.

"My older brother, Bodi, loved both tie down and team roping. He excelled in both and made the college finals three times in team roping and twice in tie down roping. Cobie also competes in three events - steer wrestling, tie down and team roping. He obviously excels in team roping and has also made CNFR in steer wrestling. He is a little different in that he goes in with a mentality that he’s going to win the tie down as well as steer. He doesn’t crave the team roping quite as much, yet is still a great header and really cares about how he does.”

“One good thing about competing as brothers is we’re not afraid to tell each other how we can improve. We both know how to do each position since I have competed as a header before, and we feed off each other. We know how to talk to each other and not fight, since we are each there to help the other get better. It goes both ways, and we’re both able to feed off that.” 


Q: At what age did you start competing with him?

”We started team roping steers together at age of 10, but we had a rope in our hands before we could even walk, and we were still in our diapers. My mom (Melinda Dodds) competed in college in team roping, barrel racing and goat tying. My dad also competed in steer wrestling, tie down roping and team roping. My grandpa (Al Dodds) also used to rodeo and did the tie down and team roping events. He is also in the mule racing hall of fame and has several plaques on the wall at home. It’s great that he’s 83 years old and still comes out with my grandmother to watch us practice.”


Q: How do the two of you handle the drive to Casper together?

“We went up together in the same truck and trailer together since I had three horses and he had one. It says it’s 16-17 hours if you map it online, but it’s a little slower pulling a trailer. We also stopped in Elko on our way there to let the horses out. They’ll get very tired if you go straight through, so we stopped at the fairgrounds there, and gave them an hour to get out and loosened up.” 

“We left on a Wednesday night around at 7 p.m. and got there the next night around 8 p.m. We each drove about eight hours or so and then switched off, so the other person could nap. It’s still nice to have a friend there you trust him. You probably don’t cherish that bonding time as much as we should, but it’s in the back of your mind.”


Q: What did you do after you arrived and before your first event?

“There was a Friday team-roping jackpot, and that was a nice way to break the ice and see some friends, too. We didn’t do great there, but we did OK. Saturday was check-in, and there was another jackpot on Sunday. Both were open to CNFR riders and whomever else wanted to compete.”


Q: Talk a little more about the family ranch or operation you were raised on.

“All three generations are from the Central Valley and from either the Sanger or Visalia area. I grew up in Sanger, and since our family trains racehorses there, we have a ranch and can use our own cows and ropes. My Grandpa started the ranch, and then my dad turned it into a thoroughbred operation. I still live with my brother around the corner from my folks and rent a house. We can keep our horses at home and use our own arena and cattle, which makes it easy to practice. I practice on campus, too, with Coach (Adem) to get experience in a different arena and with different bulls.” 


Q: What were their roles in helping you develop your passion for rodeo as you grew up?

“Growing up, my grandfather taught us how to ride for the most part since my dad was fairly busy with the company. I started out with barrel racing first, since that teaches you the basics on how to ride aggressively. My dad did teach us how to rope, so I got a lot of good instruction.”


Q: Were any of them there in Wyoming watching you at the CNFR event?

“My father and mother were there, and they were extremely happy with how we did. They were also a little sad that I was that close to winning both titles, but you can’t dwell on it, and you have to be happy with what you have and move on. My grandmother and grandfather were also watching from home, and we talked to them quite a bit. I remember how my grandmother (Donna) told me during the competition to keep my head and keep moving. My dad was giving me tips all week. He also doesn’t want to tell me too much, but would give me exactly what I needed to hear and help me to succeed. They were really proud of us and are always really supportive.”


Q: Why did you choose Fresno State to compete in college?

“I love the diversity of the agricultural program, and my older brother equally appreciated it and did well here. The rodeo team and ag program are great, and I knew a lot of the people going there. It was also close to home, so I didn’t want to go anywhere else.”


Q: Talk about working with Coach Uhuru Adem, who is in his fourth year with the team.

“Coach has been a close friend of mine for a very long time, even before he was the coach here. If I’m ever nervous that’s what I love about him, because he knows how to settle me down. We also have a great relationship because if I’m doing something wrong he will definitely straighten me out and in the way that it needs to be done. He won’t beat around the bush, and he wants me to be the best I can. At the same time, if I ever need anything he’s there in a heartbeat. We’ve been friends for a long time and couldn’t ask for a better mentor.”


Q: Do you remember any special advice Coach gave this year before or during the event?

“His advice is usually pretty simple, which is a good policy at these events, because it’s easy to make it more complicated than it is. Things like - take it one run at a time, or put the cow in the rope. He also emphasizes to go out and have fun. That’s important, because if you’re not having fun, why are you even out there.” 


Q: Did you get any advice from former teammate, Colton Campbell, going into the event since he had won the national all-around title four years ago

Dodds: “I have talked to him in the past month or two. He told me just do the best you can and take it one run at a time, and let everybody else beat themselves. Seeing him do well when he was a senior gave me confidence. We were good buddies, and his success when I was a freshman made me want it more. He helped give me a blueprint on how to do well here, so I fed off that. I still remember how cool it was to see him achieve that in person.”


Q: What’s ahead for you this summer and after that?

“After I give my horses a few days off, I’ll stay busy this summer, and will compete at some PRCA rodeos in Utah, Oregon and California a little bit this summer starting in July. Since we missed a year because of COVID, I’m coming back next year to compete again and give it all I got.”


Q: After college, do you have a general direction you’re thinking about with rodeo or other career options?

“I first want to see where rodeo will take me and maybe win a pro championship. After that I want to use my ag business degree, and there’s always a chance to help with the family business. Right now I start and ride the race horses, and put the first so many rides on them, and then they’ll take them on a flat saddle. I like being on the young horses - it helps me stay fit and on my game with my riding and roping.”


Q: Is there anybody you would like to thank you for their help?

“Obviously my family and my coach, and I also couldn’t have done it without my teammates. All year long they push you as well as all the other riders from our region. Teammates don’t give enough credit, because their support is so important, both in the rodeo and in life. That’s one reason why I was attracted to Fresno State. The team has grown a lot.”