Clark named MPCC rodeo team coach

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Mid-Plains Community College has a new rodeo team coach. 

Wyatt Clark, of McCook, has been hired to lead the timed events, joining roughstock coach Aukai Kaai. Clark takes over the role of former MPCC rodeo team coach Garrett Nokes who passed away in February. 

"I'm excited for the opportunity," Clark said. "It's a big gap to fill, but I'm going to do my best for the college, the kids and the community to keep the winning traditions going forward." 

Those at the college are looking forward to having Clark on board as well. 

"We have been blessed with amazing coaches, athletes and community support for the MPCC Rodeo Team," said Mike Steele, MPCC area vice president of administrative services. "The accomplishments of the team these past seven years have set a standard and an expectation that Aukai and Wyatt are ready to continue and build on to take us to the next level. We are glad to have another talented Southwest Nebraska cowboy join our team to help mold and mentor the next generation of rodeo champions and leaders." 

A lifetime of rodeo

Originally from Wellfleet, Clark has spent more than 20 years competing in the rodeo arena. The sport, itself, has been part of his life for as long as he can remember - some might say it's in his blood. 

"Rodeo has paved a course in my family's lives since birth," Clark said. "It's helped us develop our careers and compete at the professional level, and has helped me, specifically, go on to earn three degrees, including a master's. It allowed me to build a network of good friends across the country, helped develop me as an athlete and given me drive, purpose and the ambition to take on any challenge." 

His family's rodeo tradition began with his grandfather, Dell Clark, a calf roper, team roper and bareback rider at the state level. 

It continued with Wyatt's father, J.R., who competed at the high school, college and professional levels and secured the reserve National High School Rodeo Association all-around title. J.R. was also a National Little Britches Rodeo World Champion all-around cowboy in the '70s. 

J.R.'s wife, Julie, was a barrel racer at the high school level, and together, she and J.R. passed their love of rodeo onto their children: Wyatt, Jaden, and Madison. 

Like his father before him, Wyatt went on to become student president of the NHSRA and Jaden served as vice president. 

Wyatt competed in calf roping, team roping and bareback riding in high school – earning the state championship in bareback riding as well as a National Little Britches Rodeo All-Around Cowboy title. 

After high school, in 2009, Wyatt headed to Eastern Wyoming College in Torrington, Wyo. where his uncle, Jake Clark, is the rodeo team coach. It was there that Wyatt added saddle bronc riding to his list of events. 

He qualified for the College National Finals Rodeo in bareback riding in 2010 as a freshman then was temporarily sidelined because of a shoulder injury. 

After three years at EWC, Wyatt transferred to the University of Wyoming, in Laramie, Wyo. He returned to the CNFR in the bareback riding in 2013 and finished fourth in the nation. 

Wyatt made a final trip to the collegiate finals in bareback riding in 2014 – that time representing Chadron State College, in Chadron, where he was pursuing a master's degree in Organizational Management. Wyatt went on to spend two years as the assistant rodeo team coach at CSC.

He got his Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association permit in 2009 and his card in 2015. In 2014, Wyatt qualified for the PRCA Permit Holder of the Year Challenge, finishing fourth in the bareback riding. He also ended up fourth in the bareback riding at the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo that same year. 

Looking ahead 

While he continues to team rope at jackpots, Wyatt has left most of the professional competitions behind. He currently works as a vice president at First Central Bank McCook but stays involved with the rodeo world as a judge for the PRCA, National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association, Mid-States Rodeo Association - and now as a coach for the MPCC Rodeo Team. 

"Garrett [Nokes] helped me as a young athlete," Wyatt said. "Growing up, I got to spend a lot of time with him, and he was a positive influence as I started my career and later on as I competed alongside of him. When we lost Garrett, there was a big hole in world of rodeo, in the community and at the college. I felt like I had a calling to step up and use the skills, involvement and connections I've developed over the years to help fill that gap and coach students through their academic and athletic careers. I want to help MPCC students have positive and successful experiences in the rodeo arena, the classroom and in our communities." 

To do that, Wyatt plans to draw on the influence of his college coaches. Those include his uncle Jake at EWC, George Howard at UW and Dustin Luper from CSC. 

"I think combining the positives from each of those programs will help me develop into a great leader at MPCC," Wyatt said. "I'm looking forward to working alongside Aukai. I think with our talents, skills and knowledge that we have a strong coaching base. The programs and facilities at Mid-Plains are top-notch, and the community support is amazing. I will work hard to give the students the best possible opportunities, to honor Garrett and his legacy and to continue to bring home championships."