Mid-Plains Community College has the top bull rider in the nation.
Koby Jacobson has proven to be a strong contender in the Great Plains Region throughout the fall and is now sitting at the top of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association's leaderboard with 636 points.
"I didn't set out to be first in the nation," Jacobson said. "My goal was to get a big lead and be sitting number one in the region by year end. It's hard to put into words how I feel about how things worked out. It's just nice knowing that all the hard work paid off."
Jacobson's winnings helped propel the men on the MPCC Rodeo Team to another victory at the national level. Standings show they are second in terms of overall points, 2,726.50, - ranked only behind the University of Wyoming.
Jacobson wasn't alone in making it onto the national leaderboard. MPCC's steer wrestlers have dominated the fall rodeos, and several of them are getting recognition at the higher level.
Steer wrestler Zane Patrick, of Bartlett, is third in the nation, followed by his teammates: Wynn Schaack, of Wall, S.D., who is currently sixth, Landon Sivertsen, of Ree Heights, S.D., and Sterling Lee, of Rhame, N.D., who are tied for 10th and Marshall Still, of Oconto, who is 18th.
Schaack is also ninth in the team roping header category, and the points from that, along with his steer wrestling ranking, made him fifth in the all-around standings with 625 points.
Austin Madison, of Whiting, Iowa, is 10th in the tie-down roping, while Lee is in the 17th spot and Jacob Haren, of Erie, Colo., is 20th. The women's team is 19th in the nation.
2020-21 MPCC Rodeo Team
"The rodeo team as a whole has done phenomenal this fall," said Garrett Nokes, MPCC Rodeo Team Coach. "Everyone has worked hard – especially Koby and the steer wrestlers. We've got five out of the top six steer wrestlers in the regional standings, and all of our steer wrestlers have scored points. That's pretty awesome. It shows they're really working at it, and I expect them to continue to do good things."
A long time coming
Jacobson's success is the result of a lifetime of hard work and dedication.
Although currently living in Hershey, Jacobson is originally from Haiku, Hawaii. His passion for rodeo began when he was about 3 years old.
"My dad basically threw me on a sheep and said, 'Go do this'," Jacobson said of his early days mutton busting. "It just kind of stuck."
As he got older, Jacobson progressed to riding calves, then steers, then junior bulls and, finally, started on the large bulls when he was in middle school.
"I'm kind of an adrenaline junky for it," Jacobson said. "From the beginning, it's been fun and exciting. I love the feeling of success I get from riding a bull, and I've always had lots of support from people back home telling me to stick with it. I guess that's why I have."
Jacobson was a two-time state high school rodeo all-around champion. By the time he graduated, his sights were set on competing professionally. He knew he would need more training first.
"My sister [Kaile] rodeoed for Mid-Plains, so I would come to Nebraska over the summers and hang out with her. I got to know the rodeo coaches during that time," Jacobson said. "When it was time to start college, I enrolled at MPCC because it had both the diesel degree I wanted to pursue and rodeo, and I was already comfortable with the coaches."
Jacobson initially trained under Dustin Elliott, 2004 world champion bull rider and former rough stock coach for the MPCC Rodeo Team. This year, Jacobson has been working with former MPCC bull rider, turned assistant coach, Aukai Kaai.
"Aukai has been great because he knows what's going through my head," Jacobson said. "He knows it's tough to balance school and rodeo, and he's very understanding and supportive. He's always there for me, pushing me and wanting me to do better. My riding ability has improved, and so has my mentality just by having him around."
The latter part is especially huge – considering what Jacobson's up against every time he swings his leg over a bull.
"In my opinion, bull riding is definitely more mental than physical or talent-driven," Jacobson said. "If I climb on thinking, 'I don't know if I can do this,' or 'I might get bucked off,' then I will get bucked off. What you think is how you perform."
He builds confidence by spending more time in the practice pen, honing his skills, and not fretting over mistakes.
"If I do bad, I don't doubt my abilities altogether," Jacobson said. "I acknowledge the slip up but know that I can correct it and can always go back to the drawing board. Aukai has been having me read some books on positive thinking, and those have helped a lot, too."
MPCC bull rider Koby Jacobson, of Hershey, spurs to a first-place finish at the Blue Hawk Stampede in Dickinson, N.D. on Saturday. Jacobson is currently ranked Number One in the nation in the collegiate bull riding standings. (Photo courtesy of Annika Plummer Photography)
Jacobson qualified for the College National Finals Rodeo in bull riding in 2019 and would have had enough points to qualify this year as well - if the finals had not been cancelled because of COVID-19.
Instead, he spent the summer practicing and traveling to local rodeos in addition to focusing on his health to get himself into the best shape possible.
"I'm having a lot more fun this year with the bull riding and not taking it so seriously," Jacobson said. "I think that's been a big part of why I've done as well as I have."
Jacobson graduated with a diesel degree but doesn't plan to transfer to a four-year college or university. He's staying at Mid-Plains to continue rodeoing for the team and to pursue another degree in Automotive Technology.
"I never intended to transfer on, I just wanted to rodeo professionally after I graduated," Jacobson said. "Then COVID hit, and I couldn't rodeo as much. I decided I might as well take some more classes and earn two degrees in three years."
He's also taking advantage of the lack of rodeos to prepare for when they start up again.
"Aukai has been helping me figure out the business side of the industry," Jacobson said. "He's taught me how to live on the road and spend money wisely. He's helped me figure out what's worth traveling to and what's not. I'm bettering myself so when I do go out there – I'm ready."
Kaai has been impressed with Jacobson's drive as well as his character.
"Koby has been outstanding," Kaai said. "He's been putting in the work – getting on the drop barrel and practice bulls every chance he gets. He's fun to be around and makes it easy to be a coach. Koby is definitely one of the team leaders. He might be first in the nation, but he's not taking time off. He's still wanting to practice and is getting better every day."