By Andrew Towne
TORRINGTON – Mesalands (N.M.) Community College rodeo coach Matt Hughes is always looking for “good calf ropers and team ropers.” Torrington High School senior Blake Afdahl fit that bill.
On Tuesday, Afdahl made it official by signing his National Letter of Intent to continue his rodeo career at the New Mexico two-year college, where rodeo and golf are only athletic programs at the trade school.
“Blake called me a couple years ago, but ever since, I’ve been getting to know him and figured I really wanted him on my program,” Hughes said. “I’m excited to get him down here in the warmer weather, and we can practice every day.”
Afdahl is excited about venturing away from Wyoming.
“It will be a different experience and something new,” he said. “I’m excited about the opportunity.”
The big draw to Mesalands, located on I-40 halfway between Amarillo, Texas, and Albuquerque, N.M., was for its western silversmithing and fabrication program.
Mesalands is one of the only schools in the country to offer such a program while allowing him to continue to rodeo.
“One thing that really pushed it was the program they offered there,” Afdahl said. “Learning how to make bits and spurs and jewelry and engrave all that stuff. Rodeo is a plus but getting to go to college and peruse something I’m really interested in really pushed me to making that decision.”
Afdahl, who finished eighth in the average in team roping at the 2019 National High School Finals Rodeo, is currently ninth in the state team roping standings with partner Clay Reiner, of Buffalo, and sixth in the calf roping standings.
Afdahl was hurt going into the fall portion of the schedule, resulting in a slow start to the season.
“It didn’t go that well. I was hurt going into the fall season. I was in a horse wreck before it,” he said. “It was a battle. We had a rough go in the team roping. I was able to get quite a bit won in calf roping.”
With the first two events of the spring high school season cancelled, he needs the final five events to happen if he hopes to make a return trip to the NHSFR in Lincoln, Neb., in June.
“I’m in a place where I can make a move, but I could definitely use the spring season to get qualified,” Afdahl said.
Afdahl has also steer wrestled in the past but plans to focus on team and calf roping for the remainder of his senior season and at the collegiate level.
“I know he and I have talked about just focusing on team roping and calf roping for right now,” Hughes said.
If all goes according to plan, Afdahl will be returning to roping action April 24-26 in Big Piney.