Technically, 16-year-old Billy DeLong didn’t compete at the 2022 National High School Rodeo Association (NHSRA) Boys Cutting Finals with one arm tied behind his back. Rather, the junior from Winnemucca, Nevada, did it with his left arm wrapped securely to his chest.
Qualifying to the NHSRA Finals in three events—saddle bronc, steer wrestling and boys cutting—DeLong opened the week-long event, held in Gillette, Wyoming, July 17-23, 2022, marking a 51 on his first saddle bronc ride.
Following the whistle, DeLong hit the ground particularly hard. After a visit with Justin Sports Medicine professionals and a trip to the Campbell County Memorial Hospital, it was determined that DeLong severely dislocated his left elbow.
With only one healthy arm, DeLong was forced to turn out his NHSRA Finals saddle bronc and steer wrestling runs. The long trip from Nevada was not for nothing, though, as officials cleared the three-event athlete to remain in the Boys Cutting.
As DeLong walked into the cutting pen with his left arm wrapped tightly to his chest, he received a standing ovation even before entering the herd. Without the use of his free hand for balance, he laid down a 145 which was enough to tie to win his first performance.
The overwhelming amount of support for the epic story of the young man continued as he received yet another standing ovation during his second performance where he again took the set placing first with a score of 146.
“My favorite part of nationals this week has just been the support I’ve been getting from everybody. Even people I don’t know. It’s just been amazing. I never expected that” said DeLong.
First out in the final set, DeLong once again scored a 145, finishing third overall in the nation in High School Boys Cutting. Aboard the 9-year-old gelding, Highbrows Swingin CD, DeLong had the support of owners, and neighbors, Bob and Susan Hoenck as herd help for all three performances.
Proud of the team’s performance in Gillette, Susan Hoenck said, “He’s got so much heart and is super gritty, and I’m talking about both of them when I say that.”
She was happy to share “Swing” with such a special young man.
“Billy is really coachable. He’s sincere and an athlete,” she said. “It just makes it so much easier to work with somebody like that, [somebody] that wants to be there, wants to learn and that’s craving it. When folks say that’s awful nice of you, we tell them, ‘You don’t know Billy.’ He’s that great of a young man,” she said.
Highbrows Swingin CD is the leading earner of five money-winning performers out of Justa Little Gal, a mare by Justa Swinging Peppy. The 2013 gelding by High Brow CD has more than $28,169 in total earnings in the cutting pen.