NIRAA Honorees

by Rodeo News

courtesy of Don Reichert

Additional honorees at the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association Alumni, Inc. (NIRAA) Reunion held in June were Brad Gjermundson, Dean Wang, Jesse Bail, Jordan Ann Thurston-Miller, and Tucker Chytka. They were introduced in the arena during the Friday performance of the College National Finals Rodeo (CNFR) where top contestants of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA) competed for the 2021 Championships.
Rancher Brad Gjermundson won the NIRA Saddle Bronc Riding Championship in 1980 after placing 5th in the nation in 1978 and 2nd in 1979. After joining the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) in 1980, he promptly earned the ‘Rookie of the Year’ award. Gjermundson qualified for his first National Finals Rodeo (NFR) in 1981 and competed there every year through 1988. He’s a four time PRCA World Champion Saddle Bronc Rider, winning in 1981, 1983, 1984 and 1985. Gjermundson qualified again in 1994 where he entered in 13th place and earned $81,000 in 10 days, more than any other contestant that year at the finals. He also earned the PRCA Badlands Circuit Saddle Bronc Championship six times between 1983 and 1995. Gjermundson married Jackie Brown in June of 1984. They live on a ranch near Marshall, North Dakota with their three children.
Dean Wang, a fourth generation Montana cowboy, won the NIRA Steer wrestling in 1990. Dean become two time Montana High School Rodeo Steer Wrestling Champion before he graduated from high school in 1985. He attended the University of Montana at Missoula on a football scholarship and switched to rodeo after the Mytty family took him in and he began rodeoing with the late Bob Schall. Bob taught him about rodeo travel and conducting himself. The Carpenter family at Kalispell, and especially Jeanne, influenced him to go to California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. College rodeo opened many doors for Dean and gave him numerous great friends over the years. Dean said the highlights of his rodeo career were winning the NIRA Steer Wrestling Championship and qualifying for the NFR. College rodeo took him to California and on to the PRCA and provided a lot of opportunities and to make friends all over the country. Dean and his wife Karen have four children and ranch near Baker, Montana where he is president of the Bank of Baker.
2000 College National Finals Rodeo all-around champion and the NIRA all-around champion, Jesse Bail was National High School Finals Rodeo Saddle Bronc Riding Champion in 1998 and runner-up in 1997. Jesse started riding bulls at age 12 and saddle broncs at 13. He has over $2 million in PRCA career earnings and is the only South Dakotan to win the Bill Linderman award. He has a long history of professional highlights from 2000 to the present. Bail traveled far and wide during his heyday, reaching the National Finals Rodeo six times as a bull rider and six times in saddle bronc riding. He said in recent years his activities have been confined mainly to the Badlands Circuit while ranching near Camp Crook, South Dakota with his wife Kim and three children.
Jordan Thurston-Miller is the youngest member of the NIRAA Board of Directors. Jordan was the College National Goat Tying Champion in 2010 as a freshman at Gillette College and again in 2013 as a senior. Born in Lance Creek, Wyoming, Jordan attended Niobrara County High School. In Wyoming State High School Rodeo, she competed all four years, winning championships in goat tying each year and an All Around title as a freshman. She qualified for the CNFR all four years at Gillette College. She credits her parents John and Tiffany Miller Thurston of Lance Creek, for much of her success. Tiffany’s father went to college with the help of a rodeo scholarship, as did Tiffany and her siblings, and now Jordan and her brothers. “I remember how helpful rodeo scholarships were for me and my family and I want to help support and enlarge that tradition.” Jordan and her husband live in Moorcroft, Wyoming.
Tucker Chytka was the 2020 NIRA President and dealt with the Covid 19 Pandemic and its effect on College Rodeo. He helped Roger Walters, NIRA Commissioner, and the NIRA make the tough decision to cancel the 2020 CNFR. Tucker played football for his high school team at Belle Fouche, South Dakota and competed in the South Dakota All Star Football game in 2016. He competed in team roping and steer wrestling at Black Hills State University in Spearfish, South Dakota. Tucker credits his dad, sculptor Tony Chytka, with advice that has served him well in life. Tucker said his dad told him, “Every time you time you leave past those fence posts is a new day and a new attitude and when you come home leave the negatives outside the fence posts.”

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