WCRR Top Hand Connor Grokett
Connor Grokett had cows to feed. After being at the World Championship Ranch Rodeo for five days, he and his wife, Kalyn, had a list of chores piling up back at the JLB Ranch in Fall River, Kansas, where he is the division manager.
After rodeoing all week with the Robbins Ranch and Keith Cattle team (he day works for the Robbins Ranch in his hometown of Cottonwood Falls, Kansas), Grokett knew it would take him two weeks to get caught back up. So, after the Sunday performance, he decided to skip the awards ceremony and start driving.
“We knew we won the stray gathering and had some prizes coming, so we decided to stay for the event prizes and then we’d take off,” Grokett says. “The stray gathering was one of the last ones they gave out, so I thought, ‘Since we’re here, we might as well see who won Top Hand and Top Horse real quick.’ And I sure am glad I did.”
At his third WCRR, Grokett won his first-ever Top Hand award.
“I was surprised,” he says. “I felt like I had a good rodeo. I’m always thinking that there’s somebody out there who had just as good of a rodeo as I did. And there was, every other cowboy there had just as good a rodeo as I did. I wouldn’t take anything away from any of the other hands that were in the rodeo. It was just a blessing that I was able to get it.”
Grokett rides the bronc for his team, heels behind Adrian Vogel in the stray gathering, milks the cow, works the line in the team penning, and rotates duties in the branding. Asked to point out anything he might have done to catch the judges’ eye, he couldn’t.
“I don’t know what I could have done to make myself stand out,” Grokett says. “I try not to be flashy or show off. I was just trying to stay even and cool across the whole deal. When I go to that rodeo, Top Hand and Top Horse are the last things on my mind. I don’t want a guy who shows up to one of those deals planning to show off so he can win those awards. If you get it at the end of the day, it’s a huge bonus, it’s great, but I’m there for one reason and one reason only and that’s to win the rodeo.”
Grokett’s story is an unusual one for the cowboys in the WCRR. He did not grow up in the agricultural world. Both his parents were teachers and he spent his youth playing football and basketball for his dad. His passion for the lifestyle was undeniable, though, and he found Randy Peterson and Vogel to help him along.
“They took me under their wing and taught me everything I know about the agricultural world,” he says. “They got me a good start on horses, taught me how to read cattle and rope and ride, and really how to do it all. I owe a lot of credit to them. I fell in love with the lifestyle and I just kept going with it and gave every part of my life to it and God has blessed me with the ability to continue in it.”
He and his wife hope to someday own their own place, but until then, competing at the ranch rodeos stokes his competitive fire. Regardless of how the team does next year, Grokett will be at the Amarillo Civic Center in the tradition of the previous year’s Top Hand posting the nation’s colors in each night’s opening ceremony.
“It’s been a huge dream of mine since I was little to be the guy to carry that big American flag into the arena,” he says.
photo: Connor Grokett in the stray gathering, riding Drop It Peplow. Photo by Holly Clanahan