As reported by Taylor Welsh of the Picayune Item
In 1986, two lifelong friends and Poplarville High School freshmen, Frank Graves and Kirk Davis, won the Mississippi High School Rodeo Association State Finals team roping, accomplishing a feat they thought two freshmen could never achieve again.
Then, 31 years later, something amazing happened.
This year, two PHS freshmen won the same title, and it just so happened to be Graves’ and Davis’ sons, Bryce Graves and Kason Davis.
“Man, it’s hard to explain how proud I am of these boys. It’s every dad’s dream that their son would take an interest in the same things we did, but to see them accomplish the same exact thing I did with my best friend at that age, that’s priceless,” Kirk Davis said.
The two fathers met in the 5th grade, and though Kirk Davis didn’t come from a rodeo family, he quickly found an interest in the sport after meeting his best friend.
“We’re just like the two boys; we did everything together and still do to this day,” Frank Graves said. “You rarely hear of a lot of freshman winning a state championship in any sport, especially rodeo, but what makes it even more special is that they won it together just like we did.”
Bryce Graves said he was overwhelmed with happiness after following in his father’s footsteps.
And even though the thought of repeating their fathers’ title crossed both of their minds, Kason Davis said their motivation came from a promise they made to one another prior to the MHSRA State Finals.
“In January I lost my grandfather. I was real torn up about it, so after that, Bryce and I made a promise that we would win the state championship and dedicate it to him,” Kason Davis said. “I believe he was watching and I promise you he had the best seat in the house.”
Even though the two pairs of state champions are 30 years apart, they still believe their recipe for success included a close friendship for as long as they can remember.
“It makes a world of a difference being able to be around your best friend while training and competing. You always know what their next move is going to be,” Frank Graves said.
Kirk Davis said that his son is a gifted athlete, with a knack for baseball. Despite that, he said he let Kason Davis decide what he wanted to do, telling him “just promise me that if you’re going to do something, you will work as hard as you can at it.”
When he learned his son chose to be a cowboy, Kirk Davis bought him a horse from Oklahoma and stood by his side every second of the way.
“My father is a huge part of my success. He’s raised me to be close to God, who I give all the glory to, and has put forth so much help and support throughout the years,” Kason Davis said.
The Poplarville natives were one of the four teams chosen to advance to the National High School Finals Rodeo in Gillette, Wyoming July 16-22, and will compete in the self-proclaimed largest rodeo in the world against over 1,750 contestants from 43 different states, five Canadian provinces and Australia.
According to an NHSFR release, they will compete for $350,000 in college scholarships and the chance to be named an NHSFR World Champion.
“We are excited to compete. I think we can string together some good rounds and put some pressure on other teams,” Bryce Graves said.