The Johnston family name is well-known in the rodeo circuit for their talent in the steer wrestling contest, and now the fourth generation is setting his sights on winning a national title as he competes in his home state.
As a sophomore, Coy Johnston of Stapelton, Nebraska, is preparing for his second trip to the National High School Finals Rodeo (NHSFR) in Lincoln, this time in steer wrestling.
“It’s a great feeling to qualify for nationals,” Coy said. “You’re competing with the best of the best when you get there.”
Coy is no stranger to the best of the best, though. He comes from a family that runs deep with rodeo greats, including his grandpa, Jim Johnston.
“My dad purchased practice stock for me and my brother, and so I had practice stock for my boys,” said Jim. “And now Coy’s dad, Jason – he’s got practice stock for Coy, Cayson and Cotter. So it’s a family tradition.”
Rodeo in the Johnston family stems back generations. Jim recalled his dad – Coy’s great grandfather – competing in rodeos when Jim was little. Jim said he and his brother would enter calf riding at some rodeos, which grew their interest in the sport.
“When we got a little older, we were still very interested in rodeoing, and so we had one of the first practice arenas in Cherry County,” Jim said.
That practice arena allowed the Johnston boys to build their name in the rodeo industry and practice to become the best. Coy said it’s taken him a lot of practice to get where he is, crediting his dad and role model, Jason Johnston, for the help along the way.
“He’s out every practice with me,” Coy said. “He drives me to be the best and helps me to accomplish that.”
Now Coy will compete at his second NHSFR as a high school sophomore. He qualified in team roping his freshman year and finished 11th in the nation. This year, he wants to win the national title in steer wrestling.
“If you set your mind to it, you can do it,” Coy said. “It just takes lots of hard work and dedication.”
Jim said he’s excited to watch Coy compete in Lincoln, adding that he thinks Coy will do very well in the event.
“There are some things about rodeoing that no matter how good you are, you have to compete on livestock, and they have minds just like people,” said Jim. “Some days they might not feel as good. Some days they might feel really good. Some run fast. Some run slow. But you have to be able to adjust yourself to the steer that you drew, and Coy is very good at that.”
Since the NHSFR is being held in Lincoln, Nebraska, for the first time, Coy said he’s excited to compete on home turf and he wants to represent his state well.
The NHSFR will be held July 18-24, 2021 at the Lancaster Event Center Fairgrounds. The NHSFR will also take place in Lincoln in 2026 and 2027.
Tickets are available for pre-purchase or can be purchased at the event. Find more information at nhsfrlincoln.org.