All Inductees

John Rothwell

Men Contestant

John was born on October 20, 1948, to Ann and Robert L. Rothwell. Raised with his three brothers and one sister on the family ranch in Nebraska’s sand hills, the ranch was founded by his great-grandfather in 1888. His high school agriculture teacher, Don Tapley, mentored John during his senior year, setting the stage for his future in rodeo.

After high school, John’s competitive journey in rodeo began, fueled by attendance at a Toots Mansfield roping school that honed his skills. In 1970, he started college at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas, where he pursued an Agriculture Business degree. There, Sonny Sikes, his rodeo coach, and L.N. Sikes, Sonny’s father, significantly influenced him. Despite finding the competition level in Texas to be quite high and only placing once in two years, John made the team that qualified for the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Finals in 1971, achieving success in saddle bronc riding and steer wrestling.

John obtained his Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association membership in 1972. Recognizing the importance of a good horse for successful roping, he purchased his first notable horse, Rabbit, from Robert Blandford in 1974. This purchase led to his first National Finals Rodeo (NFR) qualification. He qualified again in the years 1976, 1978, 1979, and 1980 on Kirk, a horse bought from Virgil Swanson and trained by Sonny Little. It took four years after Kirk to find a worthy successor, A.J., trained and owned by his friend John Brown. Leasing A.J., who was named the 1985 PRCA Calf Horse of the Year, John reached the NFR in 1985 and 1987. In 1987, A.J. was ridden at the NFR by both John and Les Cochran in all 10 rounds.

John holds the distinction of being one of three ropers to compete in three different NFR venues: the Oklahoma City Fairgrounds, the Myriad in Downtown Oklahoma City, and the Thomas and Mack Arena in Las Vegas. After retiring from full-time competition in 1987, John took over leasing the family ranch from his parents in 1999. He now spends summers running cattle on the ranch and winters around Leesville, Texas.

Reflecting on his career, John appreciates the opportunities living in Texas provided, including the chance to be influenced by some of the best in rodeo and to forge friendships with some of the finest people. Yet, he maintains, “some things don’t change. Go Huskers.”