By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
1For a pair of identical twin brothers at Fort Hays State University, football and wrestling were the sports of their choice at Minneapolis High School while competing in rodeos on the side.
Because of their accomplishments in rodeo, Ty and Cody Hamm also have another trait in common -- collecting belt buckles earned for their top finishes.
The two freshmen hope to add to that collection by the time they leave FHSU with degrees in ag business.
Not surprisingly, Ty and Cody are roommates and also both compete in the same event, saddle bronc riding, for the FHSU rodeo team.
Ever since their oldest sons could walk, Tim and Anita Hamm put them up on horses. And cowboying became a way of life for the boys while growing up on a ranch 6 miles east of Minneapolis.
They were learning to rope by the time they were 6 years old. At 15, they got on their first broncs.
The twins were fast learners and soon began adding buckles from the National High School Finals Rodeo to their collection. They capped off their senior year with Cody's fourth-place finish at nationals. Ty wasn't far behind in ninth place.
Last year, three of the top four state qualifiers for nationals in the saddle bronc event had the last name of Hamm, as younger brother Lane, then a high school freshman, joined his older brothers at the season finale.
Then it was off to college for Ty and Cody, who gave the Fort Hays team not just one, but two, experienced saddle bronc riders.
"We haven't really had a saddle bronc rider on our team for a number of years," FHSU coach Bronc Rumford said. "They were sought after by a lot of schools, so that's kind of a feather in our hat."
Even though they compete in the same event, the twins admit they are each other's biggest fan.
"We are always there to pick each other up," Ty said. "If I'm struggling with something, Cody can see what I'm doing wrong and can tell me how to fix it, and I can do the same for him."
Ty needed some extra support about a year ago when he caught his right hand in a rope while trying to rope a calf on their ranch and lost the top half of his ring finger.
He recovered in time to make it to nationals and was ranked first (with Cody second) until the last performance of the first go-round at the NHSFR. They also both competed in July at the International Finals Youth Rodeo in Shawnee, Okla., where Cody finished third, and Ty was 12th.
The twins also spend weekends and breaks together; they often go home to help with the cow-calf operation on the family ranch, where they also raise bucking horses.
Any free time is spent playing pool, hanging out and trying to settle into the ways of college rodeoing.
"We're trying to figure out how it all works," Cody said. "It's run a little different in college."
Their career goals mirror each other. They both say they want to work on a ranch following graduation and eventually own their own ranch.
How about owning one together?
"Yeah, maybe," Ty said with a smile.