After the numbers were counted—and re-counted—Sturgis, South Dakota’s Bodie Mattson was awarded year-end championship titles in both the all-around and the calf roping after edging out his competition by the slimmest of margins at the 2023 Badlands Circuit Finals Rodeo, Oct. 13–15, in Minot, North Dakota.
Six cowboys entered the rodeo within $6,000 of the lead for the year-end championship. After three rounds of intense competition, Mattson prevailed with $5,847 won in the tie-down and $1,671 in the team roping at the event.
Badlands Circuit standings knife fight
While Austin Hurlburt stole headlines during the Finals, it was Mattson, 21, who walked away with a pair of titles in the year-end competition. He closed out the All-Around, where he led by a wide margin entering the finals and came from the middle of the pack to swipe the tie down roping championship on the final run.
Unfortunately, due to some errors, Mattson was awarded the year-end title in the heading during the closing ceremonies of the rodeo while Grant Turek was initially awarded the tie-down title.
Once things were lined out a few days later, Mattson learned he had won the calf roping by just about $90 over Turek and $201 over Hurlburt in an incredibly tight race. Mattson won $18,781 in the tie down roping for the season and better than $34,000 overall.
Double the wins, double the NFR Open entries
“Originally they said I won the heading,” Mattson said. “But I should still make it [to the NFR Open] because I ended up second in the year-end and the guy who won the finals also won the year-end.”
That double play means Mattson will be competing in two events in Colorado Springs next July at the 2024 NFR Open, not long after he wraps up his degree in marketing at the University of Wyoming and hopefully makes another appearance at the College National Finals Rodeo, where he finished fourth in the 2023 tie-down with 145.0 points.
All-Around, all along
Mattson—the son of Jay, who spent two decades on the ProRodeo trail, and Melinda, who was also a two-event competitor through the college and amateur ranks—was born into the sport. Together, they own and operate Mattson Performance Horses.
“We own a small cattle ranch and dad trained horses for a living, so I’ve always been around it,” Mattson said. “We’ve kind of transitioned to breeding and training our own, and I enjoy that process of training and seasoning young horses. I enjoy seeing the progress they make.”
Bodie Mattson’s main mount
For competition, Mattson rides 13-year-old gelding Obama, who has been his main mount for the last three years.
“He’s not the flashiest,” Mattson said. “He’s not the fastest or deepest stopping horse, but he’s honest and scores phenomenal and pulls every time in the run. He never does anything to hurt me and always gives me a chance to win.”
That included over the three runs in Minot. After two years competing inside the tiny arena in the team roping, Mattson added the tie-down for the first time this year, making the competition in the finals much like the regular season for the two-event cowboy.
Mental toughness momentum
In fact, he credits bad luck in the team roping in the opening round with getting him off on the right foot in his second event.
“It’s weird. I told my dad, ‘All summer, whenever the team roping didn’t go the way I wanted it to, I seemed to have an extra edge in the tie-down, since we usually rope calves after the team roping.’ When we missed that steer in the team roping, it was like it gave me momentum in the tie-down.”
He tied his first calf down in 10.0-flat to take fourth in the go and took advantage of a really good draw in Round 2 to go faster at 9.0-flat—good enough for second.
“I knew where I was in the standings; knew I came into it about $4,000 back,” he noted. “I also knew a lot was going to have to go my way in order to win it.
“In the third go, the people who were ahead of me in the standings went ahead of me, so I had an idea what I needed to do,” Mattson added. “That calf stepped off to the right and I tied her down and was able to place in what turned out to be an easy round.”
Eyes on the prize
Hurlburt and Turek went 1-2 with 8.1 and 8.2, but Mattson’s 10.9 took third and easily put him second in the average at 29.9 seconds. He banked $5,847 in Minot and needed every penny to seal the deal. In fact, the top four ropers were separated by a paltry $1,600.
Mattson’s title run was a steady march through the regular season and finals. He points to a run in the mud in Watertown, South Dakota, mid-summer as one turning point.
“That boosted me from the bottom, giving me a chance to win,” he explained. “Then, on the last week of our season, I won first at both rodeos of the double header in Killdeer, and that pushed me from the middle of the standings more toward the front and gave me a legitimate chance to win it.”
Not bad for a guy who calls himself “primarily a team roper.”
“The last couple of years, I have worked hard to improve my calf roping and put just as much into it,” he said. “It’s a close second now.”