Zane Kilgus is just 21 years old, but he’s already carving out his own name in Eastern roping circles in a big way.
The Watsontown, Pennsylvania, native just wrapped up a standout performance at the First Frontier Circuit Finals in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on January 12-14. Not only did he sweep the team roping with partner Drew Carnes and draw money in the steer wrestling, Kilgus took the tie-down roping first round, placed in the third round and won the aggregate with a total time of 32.1 seconds. His efforts earned $5,851 in the tie-down roping, which gave him enough to upset the year-end race. Kilgus’ totaled $16,791 event earnings also helped him secure the circuit all-around championship.
Kilgus isn’t the only rodeo hand in his family. His brother, Zach is a well-known team roper and moved to Texas several years ago to further his roping career with wife, barrel racer and team roper Alicia Kilgus. His father, Ned, is a decorated tie-down roper and well-known trainer in the Northeast.
“I think this was the first circuit finals I can think of that my dad hasn’t been entered in since I was a little kid,” Zane said.
His mother, Deneiss is also a skilled roper. She was alongside Zane at the FFCF in her second breakaway appearance. Although the fastest event is her specialty, Deneiss also competes in WPRA tie-down and team roping events and helps train horses whenever she isn’t working as a cosmetologist.
“My mom’s just on tough as me as my dad is when it comes to my roping,” Zane said, laughing. “She knows her stuff. I’m pretty lucky, though, because I’ve learned a lot from both of them and mom and dad are always there to support me whether they’re entered or not.”
The Kilgus family training program was well-represented at the FFCF in the roping events. In team roping, Zane rode a horse he and his father trained. In breakaway, Deneiss called upon the roan gelding she raised, Ike.
In the tie-down roping, the top three aggregate finishers rode horses owned by the Kilgus family. Zane was aboard his 2016 gelding Major CatDaddy, or “Gus,” in the No. 1 position. Kilgus and his father took Gus in on training as a 4-year-old, and Kilgus finally convinced the gelding’s owner, Scott Limscomb to sell him years later.
“He’s been a great horse for as young as he is,” Kilgus said. “He stops hard and pulls well, which makes things easier on me. He gives me a chance to win, even when I don’t draw the best.”
Trent Turner came in No. 2 in the aggregate aboard “Maggie,” who Turner started with and sold to Ned early in the horse’s career. The third-place finish went to Zane’s team roping partner, Drew Carnes. He called upon Zane’s mare “Playgirl,” to cash in during the FFCF.
Zane will be joined at the 2023 NFR Open by reserve year-end champion, JR Myers.
First Frontier Circuit Finals Tie-Down Roping Results
January 12-14, 2023
First round: 1. Zane Kilgus, 9.8 seconds, $2,127; 2. Drew Carnes, 10.7, $1,596; 3. J.R. Myers, 12.2, $1,064; 4. Trent Turner, 13.2, $532
Second round: 1. Tyler Zebrovious, 8.8 seconds, $2,127; 2. J.R. Myers, 10.2, $1,596; 3. JC Fisher, 11.2, $1,064; 4. Charlie Goerlach, 11.6, $532
Third round: 1. Tyler Zebrovious, 9.9 seconds, $2,127; 2. Michael Tash, 10.0, $1,596; 3. Zane Kilgus, 10.1, $1,064; 4. Charlie Goerlach, 10.6, $532
Average: 1. Zane Kilgus, 32.1 seconds on three head, $3,191; 2. Trent Turner, 41.0, $2,393; 3. Drew Carnes, 43.5, $1,596; 4. Tyler Zebrovious, 18.7 on two head, $798