story by Lindsay Humphrey Few father son duos have collected more Linderman Awards than Chip and Kyle Whitaker of Chambers, Nebraska. Kyle alone has 10 […]
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Meet the Member Gage Kraeger
story by Lindsay King
Four bull doggers, all bearing the same last name: Kraeger. At 21 years old, Gage is the youngest in his family and following closely in the footsteps of both his dad, Bump, and two older brothers, Hoyt and Reed. “There are a lot of people who are pretty handy with a rope but not a lot of people who have the courage, or stupidity if you will, to jump off a horse onto a steer and throw it down,” said the Weeping Water, Nebraska, cowboy. Gage and his brothers grew up in rodeo, but didn’t get started competing until high school. “I remember thinking bull dogging was super cool. My buddies’ dads were all roping steers or calves while my dad was throwing some steers down.” In the Kraeger family, bull dogging isn’t a viable option until after their 16th birthday.
“I don’t really know why my dad has that rule. I wasn’t much of a roper, so I started riding broncs as a freshman.” Although the roughstock event might not have been Gage’s first choice, he certainly showed promise in it after he made the National High School finals in it that year. As soon as he turned 16 though, it was full steam ahead in the family event. “My dad and brothers have really pushed me to get better over the years. It’s a competitive sport and we are a competitive family.” Now a junior studying animal science at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Gage is a steer wrestler for the Huskers.
“My dad was the rodeo coach when I started college, so I got to rodeo for him for a few years.” Now with Marshall Peterson at the reins, Gage essentially has two coaches in his corner. “I really like what Marshall is doing for the program. I am trying to do my best to help the team succeed and he is trying to help me be more competitive in the college ranks.” After Gage graduates he wants to follow in the footsteps of a different family member than the ones that led him to rodeo. “My grandpa had a commercial cow calf herd and I really appreciate what he did on his operation and developed a passion for it as well. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.”
In 2019 Gage took his first steps into the world of amateur rodeo through the M-SRA. He wasn’t alone of course, he traveled with his dad, oldest brother, and a family friend, Lynn Nieveen. “My brothers and I really push each other to get better. We send videos to each other all the time and break down what we did well and what we need to work on. I get a lot of feedback from them.” Of course, no rodeo family would be complete without their cheering section. “My mom (Leesa) is always, always there for us. She likes seeing us all go out there and do our thing. She’s always in the stands cheering for us and videoing. She tries her best not to move the camera when things go bad though.”
As many athletes will say, iron sharpens iron, so does Gage in reference to his fellow bull doggers in the M-SRA. “The thing that drew me to the mid states association is just the amount of stout competition there is. If you want to keep getting better you have to compete against the best.” This year one of the best was Gage’s older brother, Reed, who won the steer wrestling at the M-SRA finals. Gage walked away as the M-SRA Rookie of the Year. Gage’s favorite rodeo after just one year in the M-SRA happens in Madison, Nebraska. “The crowd is always hooping and hollering. They want to see some good competition and know what it’s all about.” As the rodeo season closes in on the summer months, Gage is looking forward to his second year in the M-SRA but also the NHSFR coming to Lincoln, Nebraska. “I am excited for the Lancaster Event Center to host the high school finals, I think it is going to be a great thing for Nebraska and for the sport of rodeo.”