Aukai Kaai, a former bull rider for the team, has been transitioning into the role for the past several months. He will officially take over the assistant title July 1 and will work primarily with the team's rough stock competitors.
"It feels awesome to be able to give back to the program that opened so many doors for me," Kaai said. "After Mid-Plains, I transferred to a university. Altogether, I did five years of college and got all my school paid for because of rodeo. I'm looking forward to helping others succeed through rodeo as well."
Up to this point, the team has been led by Garrett Nokes, timed event coach, and Dustin Elliott, rough stock coach. Kaai will take over much of Elliott's responsibilities as Elliott steps back into more of a volunteer role.
Kaai is originally from Waimānalo, Hawaii. The four-time National High School Finals Rodeo qualifier and three-time state champion was recruited by Elliott in 2014. Kaai competed for MPCC from 2014-16 in both the bull riding and team roping events.
While at Mid-Plains, he finished fourth and fifth, respectively, in the Great Plains Region bull riding standings.
"The quality of coaching and the scholarships I was offered to rodeo were the deciding factors in me coming to MPCC as a student," Kaai said. "Once I got here, I learned a lot about the business side of rodeo and how to be presentable."
Kaai went on to rodeo for Colorado State University, in Fort Collins, Colo., where he earned a bachelor's degree in Agricultural Business. As of last year, he also had a pro card. He hopes to continue competing professionally, but for now, that has taken a backseat to buying his own bucking bulls.
"I have a couple right now I've been letting the MPCC rodeo team use," Kaai said. "I've basically just been helping the guys learn fundamentals up to this point."
He is, however, already starting to think about recruits. Kaai has his sights set on a few rough stock riders that he either knows from the past or found through social media.
"I'm looking forward to seeing how far the team can go in terms of winning national titles, but I'm especially looking forward to watching MPCC athletes excel as individuals and further the sport of rodeo," Kaai said. "I hope they give it everything they've got and have fun doing it. That's all I can ask for. I appreciate Dustin and Garrett for allowing me to step up to this role. I have a big set of shoes to fill."
Timed Events Coach
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.
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.
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."