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Poplarville ropers excited for chance to still compete

Bryce Graves and Kason Davis are hopeful that what once didn’t seem possible will actually happen with the Mississippi State Rodeo Championship still set to take place the third week of June.

The duo watched as the rodeo world came to a grinding halt because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and they wondered if the state finals would be cancelled.

However, with restrictions being lifted the Mississippi High School Rodeo Association said the championships are set to take place late in the month of June in Purvis, Mississippi.

The two participate in the team-roping event, and having won nationals last year, the athletes were excited to compete again at the highest level.

Their training hasn’t been severely affected by the pandemic with the athletes lucky enough to have facilities at their homes that allowed continual practice.

“We get about 2 or 3 horses and 20 steers, and we just go rope. We work on the horses so they’re ready, and then we’ll work on little things. We’re staying sharp and aggressive,” Graves said.

The only hindrance was that when it rained the athletes’ facilities would be too wet to use, and with the local fairgrounds closed no work could be done.

However, the fairgrounds were recently reopened and Graves said they’ve already had to use it because of rain ruining plans to train at home.

“It’s really important (for it to be open). When you rodeo you practice year round, every day if you can, and that helps a lot because we do have a lot of rain in south Mississippi,” Davis said.

Davis said he and Graves will have to go up against 30 to 40 team roping duos at state, with only the top four teams advancing to nationals.

Making it to the next stage is not guaranteed, but having already won nationals last year, the chance to win back-to-back titles is too enticing to not dream about.

“We’ve talked about it. We talk about it all the time. It would be pretty incredible, it really would. From my knowledge, I don’t know of anybody that’s done it before,” Davis said.

Graves has been using the past couple of months to adjust his horsemanship after having to sell the horse he won nationals with last year.

It’s a learning process for the rider and horse, but Graves said with the amount of work he’s put in the new horse won’t hinder his performances when it’s time to compete.

“My brother gave me a horse that’s really good and that made it a lot easier, but I’m still not with him like I was (with last year’s horse). I feel like I’ve gotten better in the last few months in roping, so it’s really not going to be that hard to pick it up again,” Graves said.

The duo is competing in the same event their fathers took part in years ago as a team.

Team roping runs in the family, and Graves and Davis are ready to carry on the family legacy.

“It’s almost like a family affair, a tradition is almost what it feels like. It feels like what we’re meant to be doing this,” Davis said.