Utah Tech Student Sebastian Hotalen Takes On The CNFR in Casper, Wyoming

By Jake Harber

Sebastian Hotalen, of Belgrade, Montana, is hitting the road to compete at the College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyoming. Hotalen is studying management at Utah Tech University in St. George and is hoping to be the first in his family to get a college degree. “I’m feeling pretty confident,” he said about competing as a bareback rider in Casper, and with good reason. Hotalen made it to the National High School Rodeo Finals three times, and in his senior year was named top 15 out of high schoolers in the world.

"I'm feeling pretty confident."

Hotalen stated that he doesn’t have much of a family background in rodeo – just some great-grandparents that own ranches in Texas. When he was a kid, he participated in “mutton busting”, an event where children ride sheep for as long as they can. From there, he graduated to steer riding, then bull riding, and eventually found his calling as a bareback rider – a rodeo event in which the rider doesn’t have the advantage of a saddle or rein, but must ride their horse for eight seconds while using a leather rigging, which has a makeshift handle for the rider to hold onto.

Hotalen hangs on to his bronc in Colorado. Picture credit: Michael Pintar Photography

Hotalen has enjoyed his time in St. George, with the warmer weather and plethora of outdoor activities being a major bonus for him.  “The scenery is completely different than Montana’s,” Hotalen said. “I saw it and said, ‘You know what? Gotta adventure the world.'” The low tuition that Utah Tech offers drew him down here as well, with one of his primary goals being to graduate college without any student loans. “In high school, we always had to turn in our transcripts to be able to rodeo. I’ve always been very disciplined on having good grades,” Hotalen commented.

College rodeo isn’t all sunshine and roses, however. It comes with its fair share of injuries and scares. Hotalen has had a number of injuries, ranging from horses falling on him to being kicked in the head.

"A couple of weekends ago, I went over to Stoneham, Colorado, and rode ten horses in three days. There were horses falling over, running through the fences... I was getting ready on my horse, and there was a hole in the fence, I didn't know if the horse was gonna take me right through it... it didn't, but it was kind of exciting, you know?"  

Hotalen forms part of the Rodeo Club at Utah Tech University, where the members are primarily responsible to raise money so that they can travel and continue to rodeo. He hopes to see the rodeo team grow and keep going even after he’s done. “Not very many people know about it – not even a lot of professors at the school,” said Hotalen. This will be Hotalen’s second appearance at the CNFR, missing his freshman year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Hotalen will compete among the best of the best Sunday, June 12th throughout the whole week.

Good luck, Sebastian!

To learn more about Utah Tech University and its clubs, please visit utahtech.edu.