After a one-year absence, Andy Seiler will be back announcing the Junior World Finals alongside Steve Goedert next month. Seiler worked the JWF from 2017-19 before announcing the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo with Bob Tallman last year.
As someone who grew up competing in rodeo – Seiler and Corey Robinson won the team roping title at the 2004 National High School Finals Rodeo – Seiler is looking forward to working this year’s Junior World Finals. The 2021 JWF takes place Dec. 2-11 at the Wrangler Rodeo Arena in the South Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center.
“I think the Junior World Finals is a great measuring stick,” Seiler said. “When you bring that level of talent from all over the country and all over the world to Vegas, it’s like an appetizer. I never would have been able to compete in Vegas before the age of 18, so now it’s stoking the fire for the passion that these kids already have.”
By the time the Junior World Finals began in 2016, Seiler was no longer competing professionally in rodeo. But the Florida native has remained involved with the sport. He began announcing at rodeos when he was still in college at Troy University in Alabama, where he was a three-time qualifier to the College National Finals Rodeo (2006-08).
He continues to announce at professional rodeos across the country, but he’s a firm believer in what Las Vegas Events has accomplished with the JWF.
“What they’re doing at the Junior World Finals works,” Seiler said. “I grew up in junior high and high school rodeo and I got lots of buckles and ribbons, but at the end of the day what they’re doing in Vegas is giving young people an opportunity to win real money and get exposure against the best in the business.
“It’s an opportunity that wasn’t presented to young people like myself 20 years ago.”
Seiler estimates he took home around $4,000 in prizes and scholarships when he won the NHSFR back in 2004, but that pales in comparison to what JWF contestants can win in Vegas. Seiler recounted the story of Madison Murphy, who won the Kelly Kaminski Run for Vegas senior barrel racing championship in 2019. Among Murphy’s winnings were a check for $10,450 and a brand-new horse trailer. Murphy, who was 12 at the time, didn’t have a way to get the trailer back home to North Fort Myers, Florida, until Seiler volunteered to drive the trailer from Vegas to Florida.
“There are cash prizes and other awards available to these young men and women that just weren’t there 10 years ago,” Seiler said with a laugh.
Seiler also believes the Junior World Finals is a proving ground for today’s up-and-coming rodeo stars. And competing against the best the country has to offer only pays dividends down the road.
“The one thing that Steve and I have talked about quite a bit is that today’s younger contestants have zero fear of the other competition,” Seiler said. “Because they have so many opportunities to compete I don’t see these contestants getting nervous. I think that’s why you’re seeing so many 18-, 19-, 20-year-olds make the NFR is because they’ve had opportunities like this one.
“And when they go to a pro rodeo they don’t look at a Trevor Brazile or a Tuf Cooper or a Sage Kimzey and cower. They’re just like, ‘No, I’m going to ride this bull and beat whoever else is entered.’ That’s the mentality they have in my opinion.”
Of course, the Junior World Finals offers more than an opportunity for contestants to see how they stack up against top-flight competition. The Cowboy Channel Cowboy Christmas, which features more than 350 exhibitors and takes place at the convention center throughout the 10-day run of the JWF, is just a starting point for things to do in Las Vegas.
“The Junior World Finals is also letting people know that Vegas can be a family town,” Seiler said. “There’s more to do in Vegas than just gamble, go out to dinner and go to the rodeo. I think the genius of the Junior World Finals is letting people know that there are things to do in Vegas with your family.
“It’s pretty neat to see people from my neck of the woods,” he added. “It’s a pilgrimage now. There are events they hit along the way, but that’s where they want to go and that’s where they want to be. There are so many opportunities in Vegas for them to make a name for themselves and to make some real money.”