On The Trail with Nathan Hatchel

by Siri Stevens

Nathan Hatchel just graduated from Southwestern Oklahoma State University with a degree in business management. The 22 year old from Hennessey, Oklahoma, is heading to Casper for his third appearance at the College National Finals Rodeo (CNFR) in the bull riding. “This year I’ll go first in the nation. It’s a clean slate going in, but sitting first through the season is bragging rights; but whenever you get to Casper it’s all even, so it’s about riding good and getting good bulls. That’s the fun part to me – everybody has a chance.”

Nathan is getting prepared for the upcoming Finals (June 8-15). “Right now, whenever I’m climbing on the bulls I feel like I’m physically and mentally ready and trusting in God. I go to my Bible every day.” He credits his coach in college (Mike Visnieski) for the mental game, and his dedication to the gym every day for the physical preparation.

“I’m doing a lot of stretching and I do cardio and free weights. Right now I’m trying to gain muscle, but I ride the best at a certain weight so I try to keep that going.” He is also very careful about what he eats, avoiding sweets, cutting down on carbs, and doing meal preparation before heading out to a weekend of rodeos. “I get people laughing at me like I don’t have enough money for food, but I’m just trying to keep it healthy.” One of his favorite road foods is chicken and rice. “I could take that every weekend.” He puts chicken in a crock pot with barbeque sauce, Worcestershire sauce, lemon pepper, seasoning salt, and garlic salt. He adds onions, bell peppers, carrots, asparagus, and takes that with cooked rice. “I don’t even care if it’s hot.”

“Wherever I go now, the preparation I’ve done through the week is done and I just have to react and trust myself that I’ve done the work in the week to be successful on the weekend.”


Nathan bull riding at the 2014 NHSFR for Team Oklahoma - JenningsRodeoPhotography.com
: Nathan and his dad Craig - Courtesy of the family
Nathan and his coach, Mike Visnieski, in front of the “Duke” statue at Southwestern Oklahoma State University .

Nathan grew up in a small 2A school, where everybody knew everybody, with his dad, Craig, and his older brother, Dylan. He came from bull riding stock, both his dad, Uncle Glenn, and grandpa, Corky Hatchel, rode bulls, but he wasn’t allowed to get on one until he was 13. Instead, he concentrated on sports – basketball, football, and baseball. He played on a traveling team in the summer and enjoyed basketball the most. “That’s what I played until my junior year of high school – then I put my focus into riding bulls.” His goal was to get a full ride scholarship, and that’s what he did at SWOSU. He competed for Oklahoma State High School Rodeo, making the National High School Finals both his junior and senior year. He was fourth in the nation his junior year, and was riding with a torn MCL his senior year, so he didn’t ride as well. “I got that fixed and went to college,” he said.

His dad works in the oil field and was instrumental in teaching Nathan the basics. “He’s always there,” said Nathan. “He goes to every rodeo – he drives umpteen miles – Rock Springs to Casper – and everywhere in between.”

Craig wasn’t crazy about Nathan riding bulls at all. “I know how dangerous it is – now I’m pleased that he is. He’s very gifted – Nathan is very athletic and has put a lot of time and effort into this.” Craig has supported him with practice bulls at home and helping him find the coaches he needed along the way. “He is very dedicated and when he sets his mind to something, he puts 110% in it. He finishes what he starts.”

Nathan remembers watching his dad and uncle ride when he was young, but he wasn’t formally introduced until one day when Craig offered to let Nathan and his brother get on a steer. “We didn’t know what we were getting into. My brother was a football star, and I thought it was fun, but didn’t ride one steer for the entire year to date, not one.”

The second year, he won the championship in the COJRA – Central Oklahoma Junior Rodeo Association. After that, he kept riding in another little association in Edmond. He started going to a bull riding school put on by David Berry (Monster Bull Company) out of Locust Grove, Oklahoma, “He puts them on once a month and he had the perfect stock for me to get on,” said Nathan. “We went back month after month and I spent summers out there in high school and worked for him. We did drills and drills and that’s how I got started. He’s been a huge help to me. Still to this day, he welcomes me and is always there to help and comment on my riding.” The drills consist of a stationary drill on a barrel as well as walking on a pipe for balance plus other things. “Another good one is getting a medicine ball and sitting on them and squeezing it with your legs – then try standing on top of that ball and keep that ball underneath you. When I’m on the back of a bull, I can’t see, so that’s where the subconscious comes into play. And the balance comes in.”

David Berry has put on bull riding schools for more than 20 years. “I wasn’t a world champion bull rider; my claim to fame was the PRCA Resistol Rookie of the Year in 1988 alongside Ty Murray,” said the 51-year-old. The next year, in the short go of Cheyenne he broke his jaw. “That was the same year Lane Frost died – the bull after me. Growing up in Oklahoma all you heard about was Lane Frost. His school helped me a lot – he gave me the time of day.” David took his love of bucking bulls and started raising them and helping others learn how to ride. “I recognized the heart and try in Nathan – you can help coach to ride, but you can’t teach them to try. They have to bring that on their own.” David saw Nathan’s work ethic and dedication to learning. “Talking about riding a bull and getting on one are two different things. I can’t remember Nathan ever talking about riding a bull; he just gets on them. And he does everything with a grin on his face.”

Once Nathan went to college, he turned to Chad Drury, with Nothin’ but Try Ranch. “They have accepted me into their family – I took a bunch of buddies over there and got on some of his young bulls and he ended up sponsoring me and we’re pretty much family – that’s the name on my chaps.”

Both Chad and his brother, Shane, went to college at SWOSU. After college, Chad stayed around and Shane moved to Nebraska. Chad raised bucking bulls and would call the college to get his young bulls ridden. “Nathan is a good kid,” said Chad. “He’s talented and takes care of business- that’s the kind of person I wanted to sponsor. Anytime I need help, Nathan comes over and helps. It works out really great for both of us. He’s a really good kid and his fiancé is good as gold. He’s a winner, but he’s not arrogant and that’s the kind of guy I want to represent me and our ranch.”


Nathan and his fiancé Kodi Holloway - Cody Roper
Nathan at the 2019 National Western Stock Show - Greg Westfall
Nathan with his nephews Kayston Hatchel (left) and Karsyn Hatchel (right) - Courtesy of the family

Nathan met his fiancé, Kodi Holloway, through friends at SWOSU, she’s on the soccer team, and will also graduate this spring with her nursing degree. The couple got engaged on August 6, 2018. They will get married on September 20.

After the college finals, Nathan will move down to Castle Rock, Colorado, and start learning the tricks of the trade for his grandfather’s (Jim Lovell) construction business (Lovell Group), hoping to become a project manager and perhaps eventually taking over the company. He will also continue rodeoing, and plans to shoot for Resistol Rookie of the year next year once he buys his card. For now, he definitely is aiming for the Permit Challenge at the South Point this coming December. “I was leading the permit standings until April, and since college rodeo I’m sitting 7th and I’m focusing to make the permit standings challenge which happens during the Benny Binion Sale. This is my fourth year to fill my permit, but as long as you have a NIRA card, you can fill your permit more than twice.”

“Graduating college is a big deal for me. There is a life after rodeo, especially riding bulls, and this degree will help me provide for my family,” said Nathan. “The biggest thing I learned from college is responsibility – showing up for class – nobody is there to get you going, you have to do it yourself and grow up and learn that responsibility.” He admits that college has gone by very fast, but he is looking forward to settling in Colorado with his wife and eventually starting a family and raising some bucking bulls of his own. “I want to take what I have and run with it and help others the same way others helped me.”

He has been a believer his whole life, thanks to his grandmother, and the generosity of others that would get him to church since none of his immediate family went. “I bounced from home to home when I was young, and my brother and I finally ended up with my dad. We never had much money growing up, but I learned it’s not about your past; it’s about where you’re going. My past doesn’t define who I am now. I definitely didn’t have a very good childhood but I’m blessed it all worked out.”

“Follow the Lord and your dreams will follow you. Everybody is chasing their dreams, but I’m chasing the Lord and my dreams have come to me. Don’t let anything set you back from that.”

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