Roping some success

Rodeo cowboy dual-sport standout again at Killdeer

A rope and time are both simple, unassuming, and versatile, yet essential.


A cowboy knows how to use a rope. And in this case, a cowboy named Rope knows how to use time.

The cowboy is Rope Smith, a senior at Killdeer High School. And with a name like Rope, well you just know his mamma let him grow up to be a cowboy.

Rope comes from a long line of rodeo cowboys and he’s following in the footsteps of his great grandfather Clarence, his granddad Gene, and his father, Chad.

And it was Chad, a high school state rodeo champion and a national qualifier during his time at Dickinson State University, who gave Rope his name.

Actually, Rope is his middle name. His first name is Charlie, but Rope has always been Rope.

“My family has always been a rodeo family,” Rope said. “I guess he thought that (name) would be something that would fit the family well.”

It has. And the 6-foot-5-inch, 195-pound Rope has roped his way to some success in the rodeo arena. He participates in team roping, calf roping and bulldogging.

But these days, those arenas are covered in snow.

And the cowboys is now a wrestler.

And a basketball player.

He is the epitome of a double agent. He has the talent, the drive and time management skills to do both.

But it’s nothing new. He did the same in the fall when he partcipated in rodeo and played football. And last spring when he did rodeo and threw the shot put and discus for the track and field team.

Oh, and by the way, he’s also a Future Farmers of America guy.

And a King.

It would be a monstrous understatement to say that Rope Smith is a busy guy. That’s like saying it gets cold during the winter in North Dakota.

These days, the Stetson and Ropers have taken a back seat to Nike basketball shoes and wrestling head gear.

On one night, he will score a pin on the mat, and on another, he’ll score on a 3-point bomb from the top of the key on the court.

Bo Jackson? Nope. He’s Rope.

“He lives for sports,” said Janell Smith, his rodeo coach who happens to be his mom. “He just loves to compete.”

The cowboy named Rope has had to learn to manage his time. The 18-year-old has his schedule entered on his cellular phone, and he checks it every week to make sure he doesn’t miss anything.

Right now, his primary focus is wrestling. He’s 30-8 for the Cowboys, wrestling at 195 pounds. He’s currently ranked fifth in the state. He’ll have a chance to qualify for the 2017 North Dakota High School Wrestling Championships this weekend at the Region 7 tournament in Beulah tomorrow.

“My main goal is to win state,” said the soft-spoken Smith. “I feel confident, but I still have to go out there and handle business.”

He’s been working hard this season, getting up at 6 every morning to work out before school starts. And after school, he’s usually one of the first to practice and the last to leave.

And after practice, he’ll slip out of his wrestling gear and into his basketball clothes. If he’s lucky, Rope will get to work with the basketball team for a few minutes before practice is over. But then he works on his game for an hour – sometimes with the coaches, other times by himself – working on his foot work, positioning and shooting.

He’s played in five games for the Cowboys, but his size and strength gives them some additional inside presence.

He will join the team fulltime after state wrestling tournament in Fargo in mid-February.

“It’s tough. It’s something I enjoy doing,” Rope said. “I just try and focus on the positive things and know that if I work hard, things will be OK.”

For now, he wants to taste championship glory. He’s had a bite of the golden apple before, but never in wrestling. He won a state title in rodeo and qualified for the junior high school national rodeo finals.

And he’s received plenty of accolades for his athletic prowess. In football, he was named to the Class B all-state team, as well as all-Region and all-conference.

He recently signed a national letter-of-intent to attend Dickinson State University on a football scholarship.

And that hardware is nice. But that’s not why he does it.

“I’ve always just enjoyed being out there and playing all the sports I can,” Rope said. “Each are different, so I just focus on the positive things that each sport has.”

So what would he be like if he couldn’t compete?

“Impossible,” said Smith.

During his freshman year, he suffered a knee injury that sidelined him from March to August.

Him at that point is like a nightmare because you are trying to keep him from hurting himself worse and he’s trying to get back to where he wants to be,” Smith said. “He got cleared to play by the doctor and was riding and playing football the next day.”

Rope smiled when he talked about his injury, acknowledging that injuries are part of the plan.

The cowboy is like a rope, simple, unassuming and versatile. The cowboy is Rope.

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