Bareback rider bringing gold buckle talent to Oklahoma City for RNCFR
EDITOR’S NOTE: Attached is a feature story about one of the great world champions who will be part of the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo, set for March 29-April 1 in Oklahoma City.
OKLAHOMA CITY – Will Lowe’s resume is extensive and paints a magnificent image of what it means to be a champion.
Just 29 years old, Lowe already is considered one of the greatest bareback riders in ProRodeo. He was the event’s rookie of the year in 2002, his first season to qualify for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. A year later, he won his first Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association world championship. In the decade since, he hasn’t missed an NFR and has added two more Montana Silversmiths gold buckles.
Lowe’s legend continues to grow, and he’ll showcase his tremendous talent at the 2012 Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo, set for March 29-April 1 at Jim Norick Arena at the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds in Oklahoma City. He earned the right to compete in the Sooner State’s capital city by winning the Texas Circuit’s year-end championship and claiming the average title with the best cumulative score at the Ram Texas Circuit Finals Rodeo, which took place in early January.
“It’s a great accomplishment, especially in the Texas Circuit,” said Lowe, a Kansas-raised cowboy who moved south after graduating high school. “Texas is the toughest circuit, in my opinion. You’ve got bareback riders who have been to the NFR, and I’m really proud to be in that field.
“There are some really good young kids through the Texas Circuit that are going to be really tough in the next couple of years.”
The RNCFR is ProRodeo’s National Championship, where the very best competitors in the sport earn the right to play for one of the largest purses in the sport, more than $525,000. The event provides another prestigious championship event for rodeo-savvy Oklahoma City, the longtime host of the NFR and the Clem McSpadden National Finals Steer Roping. The 2012 event marks the second straight year the National Circuit Finals Rodeo is part of Oklahoma’s storied rodeo legacy.
“The circuit system is such a great building tool for our sport,” said Lowe, who has qualified for circuit championship just twice in his storied career, the other occurring seven seasons ago. “This is the original extreme sport. For a cowboy that was working all day, this is what he got to do to blow of steam and show what he was worth.
“I’ve always wanted to be a cowboy, and this is the most fun way to show it.”
The RNCFR pits the top cowboys and cowgirls from the 12 regional ProRodeo circuits against one another in the battle for the national title. Contestants will compete in seven traditional rodeo events: bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, tie down roping, team roping, steer wrestling, barrel racing and bull riding.
It is the perfect proving ground for young contestants who want to make it to an elite level, and having a three-time world champion in the mix is just further motivation for a growing youth movement.
“Every time Will rides, it’s the same,” said Wes Stevenson, a seven-time NFR qualifier from Lubbock, Texas, who also travels with Lowe. “It doesn’t matter if it’s in the practice pen or for $100,000, it’s all the same.”
That demeanor has carried Lowe quite well over the years, from his days riding ponies at youth rodeos.
“When you turn 14, you start riding regular size horses,” said Will Lowe, who grew up in a Kansas suburb of Kansas City, Mo. “When I turned about 15 or so, I was in Oklahoma, Missouri or Iowa about every other weekend at the amateur rodeos. Even when I was on my (PRCA) permit, I was going to a lot of those amateur rodeos. There were a bunch of them fairly close, but you could make it to Oklahoma City in four and a half hours or so.”
Rodeo was in his family’s blood. Not only were the kids active in the sport – Will competed in every event other than saddle bronc riding – but also the family had season tickets to the American Royal Rodeo. Even now, that hometown event is still a big part of the family’s life; Will’s older brother, Alex, is co-chairman of the American Royal’s rodeo committee.
Still, Will Lowe moved onward and upward. He attended Vernon (Texas) College on a rodeo scholarship; the team won the national championship in his second year of riding bareback horses and wrestling steers – “I like to team rope, but it’s more of a hobby than a competition,” he said.
He knew at a young age that he had a special talent for riding bucking horses.
“With bareback riding, I always kind of excelled at it,” he said.
Everyone else saw that, too. Many insiders to the game recognized his elite talent as an 18-year-old permit-holder.
“Probably the biggest thing with him is his positive attitude and the thrill of winning,” Stevenson said. “I think the biggest thing I’ve seen is the father figure he is now where he is in his life, being a father himself. Everybody’s evolving, and change is inevitable.
“Some people fight it, and some people embrace it. It seems like he’s embraced the changes in his life very well.”
One thing that hasn’t changed is Lowe’s passion for the sport; he craves riding great bucking horses as much as he did a decade ago.
“I think the main thing that’s changed is how good the livestock has gotten the last five years,” Lowe said. “Everyone’s trying to make rodeo better.”
So is Will Lowe, one bucking horse at a time.
RNCFR tickets are on sale now. For more information, contact the Express-Lazy E at (405) 282-RIDE or (405) 232-GOAL.