On the Trail with Cade Svoboda

by Ruth Nicolaus

Cade wrestling in high schoolCade Svoboda doesn’t do anything half-heartedly.   When the Nebraska High School Rodeo Association member decides to do it, he’s all in.

Not only does he ride barebacks, steer wrestle and team rope, he also plays football, wrestles, runs track, is a member of FFA, Science Olympiad, Swing Singers, shows cattle, and is on his school’s straight A honor roll.

The eighteen-year-old cowboy from Ord, Nebraska comes from a long line of cowboys, starting with his grandpa, Jim Svoboda, who competed in four events for years and has been a rodeo photographer for the last half-century.

And his dad, Von, was also a rodeo athlete, riding barebacks, bulls, steer wrestling and team roping.

Of his three rodeo events, bareback riding is his favorite, and his strength. He came into that event in a unique way. Cade started out riding bulls, winning the Nebraska State Junior High Finals and making the short go at the National Little Britches Rodeo Finals. But after he and his older brother Cole, had broken bones and a hospital stay, the bull riding was over. Cade ruptured a spleen and broke ribs, then Cole followed with a leg broken in two places, and later, an arm broken in three places, all while riding bulls. Their mom Angie said it was enough. “That was it,” Von said. “Three strikes, you’re out. No more signing releases for the bull riding,” which included both boys. So Cade went out and bought a bareback riggin’, and the first bareback horse he got on, at a high school rodeo, he placed, and that was that.

Cade excels at school academically as well as athletically. He is the student in physics and calculus class who everybody asks for help when they’re confused. “I get it pretty quick,” he said about the work. “I usually get it right away and then I can help them.” He had a tough schedule this year, with physics and calculus classes back to back, one and a half hours each, “but it’s worth it.” He also took College English.

His track coach and former wrestling coach, Coach Trampe (who is also his favor


ite teacher) gave him the nickname “Wick”, short for Wikipedia. “If I ever have a question that deals with sports in Nebraska, I can ask him, and he’ll know the names of the athletes, where they’re from, everything. He’s a student of all sports. He knows the stats on everybody.”

Of all his sports, wrestling is his favorite. He is a three-time state qualifier, and last year, placed second in Class C in the 170 lb. division. This year, he placed fourth in the 182 lb. division.

Wrestling is where his athletic future lies. He has been asked to walk on to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s wrestling program, and with other scholarships, including some academic ones, his tuition is paid. Cade has attended Husker wrestling camps for three summers, and the coaches were impressed with what they saw. Coach Manning, the Husker

Cade and heifer group champion in 4-H and FFA

head coach, said he stood out. Ord High School is one of the smaller schools in the state, and yet the Huskers pursued Cade, alongside kids from Omaha and Lincoln schools. “Obviously, they like the country kids that have work ethics and physical toughness,” Von said.

The coaches were also aware of another incident with Cade. Last summer, prior to the Husker wrestling camp, he broke his hand while riding a bareback horse at a Mid-States Rodeo Association rodeo. He assumed it was broken but didn’t get it x-rayed, knowing if it was, he wouldn’t be allowed to wrestle. He spent four days at the camp, wrestling one handed, with no grip, and held his own. That Friday, he went to the National High School Finals and rode bareback horses with a broken hand, his riding hand no less. His physical toughness contributed to his getting to walk on the wrestling team.  The Huskers plan to add twenty pounds to his frame, bringing him to the 197 lb. class and redshirting him.


Cade Svoboda wrestling in high school

He has qualified for state high school finals rodeo all three years and is currently leading the state rankings in the bareback riding, having maxed out in points. His goal is the all-around title and the Fort Western Whitaker Award, an award similar to the Linderman Award and given to the Nebraska high school rodeo athlete who excels in three events, including a roughstock and timed event.

His dad says what makes Cade tick is his competitiveness. “He’s always been a real competitor,” Von said. It might be due to having an older brother to compete against, but maybe it’s genetic. Angie was a standout high school athlete who won a state track championship and who excelled academically. But the stakes are also high at the Svoboda household. “Even around home, we play a game of cards and it gets competitive. It’s kind of how our family is wired.”

At the University of Nebraska, he will major in food science technology, which includes biochemistry, organic chemistry, and investigation of the chemistry and biology of foods. “It’s the only major on East Campus (the agricultural campus of UNL) that gives you all the prerequisites for medical school,” Von said. “He’s covering his bases to go to med school.” Cole is a junior at UNL in the same major, and he enjoys it. “It’s a damn tough degree,” Von said, but Cade is up to it. His uncle, Von’s brother J.B., who is a medical doctor, suggested that Cade stay with his food science degree instead of the medical field, as a very good job is nearly guaranteed any student who graduates with that degree. The food industry: ConAgra, Cargill, Hershey’s, and others, are the main businesses that hire food science graduates.

Cade will graduate as valedictorian of the 2016 Ord High School class. His principal and former football coach, Mr. Hagge, speaks highly of him. “He’s a young man of character,” he said. “He’s got an incredible work ethic, and he’s a bridge builder, a leader. He’s willing to cross boundaries with students and develop relationships with everybody in school.” Cade has grown and matured throughout his last four years. “When he was a little younger,” Hagge said, “he didn’t quite have the perspective and there were times he got upset with himself or others. But what I’ve seen in the last few years is his leadership to a point where he gets it. He elevates the games of those around him, with his level of performance.”

The Svoboda Family (from left to right) Cade, older brother Cole, father Von, mother Angie and younger sister Cora Coach Trampe said the same. “He’s a good leader. He expects a lot out of himself, and out of every other kid, too. Kids like him make kids around them better. It forces them to go to another level that maybe they didn’t want to go to, and that makes it better all around.”

In addition to his athletics and academics, he loved playing baseball in the summer, but forgave that sport due to time constraints. He was also part of his school’s choir, 18th Street Singers, and band (where he played the tuba and drums). He is on the Quiz Bowl team.

His unusual last name is Bohemian and is pronounced “Sa-BOH-da”. He has a younger sister, Cora, who is a junior in Ord High School. Cora is also a very personable, very involved, all sports, all A honor student, who ovbiously is following in her family footsteps of not doing anything half-heartedly.


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