‘The Wild Child’ brings high-flying fun to ProRodeo’s national championship
OKLAHOMA CITY – ProRodeo’s National Championship means a lot to every cowboy and cowgirl who has ever qualified to compete for the coveted title.
It means a lot to plenty of others who make their livings on the rodeo trail. Take Troy Lerwill, one of the greatest entertainers in the sport who has been named Act of the Year in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association six times.
“I actually rate the (Ram) National Circuit Finals Rodeo right there with the National Finals Rodeo, because there’s only a handful of barrelmen or acts that get to work that thing,” said Lerwill, a funnyman who has been selected to work the Wrangler NFR three times in a storied career. “It’s very prestigious. The buckle that I wear every day and the buckle you will see on me until the day I die is the very first Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo that I ever won.
“I won that in 2001. That was the first buckle I ever won and the only buckle I’ve ever worn. I have three NFR buckles and opening act buckles, circuit finals buckles and Coors Man in the Can buckles, but that one was the coolest thing I’ve ever gotten to do.”
That’s why Lerwill is excited to be part of ProRodeo’s National Championship, where the very best the sport has to offer will be part of the tremendous entertainment package during the five performances from March 29-April 1 at Jim Norick Arena at the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds. The 192 cowboys and cowgirls in the field have earned 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 RNCFR is part of Oklahoma’s storied rodeo legacy, a place that knows what makes a true champion.
“Troy is one of the funniest guys out there, not just in rodeo,” said Pete Carr, owner of Carr Pro Rodeo, a Dallas-based livestock firm that will have bucking horses and bulls in the RNCFR. “I try to get him as often as I can, because he brings a whole new dimension to each show. He’s the best entertainer in rodeo because of how he handles the crowd.
“Then you add his motorcycle act into the mix, and it’s just over-the-top. Everybody wants to come back the next day just to see it again.”
Enter “The Wild Child,” the motorcycle daredevil that jumps a Bloomer trailer and a Ram pickup in a showcase comedy mixed with tremendous athleticism.
“It’s funny every time I see it,” said Ken Stonceipher, a ProRodeo announcer who serves as production manager for the Guymon (Okla.) Pioneer Days Rodeo, where Lerwill will perform in May. “There’s just something magical in that entire act.”
It comes quite naturally to Lerwill, the son of a roper who grew up going to rodeos in Utah and Colorado with his father. Though he never competed, Troy Lerwill was hooked … even if it took a few years for him to realize it.
“I had a Shetland pony growing up, and I always like horses,” Lerwill said. “I roped with my dad when I was little, but I always wanted a motorcycle.”
His parents realized he was pretty good at maneuvering the machine and began taking him to desert races. By the time he was 12, Lerwill was excelling at motocross.
“It just evolved from there,” he said.
Racing was a big part of Lerwill’s life for a long time. But at age 24, Lerwill had begun riding mountain bikes through the Utah trails instead of the motorized ones over the quick jumps and turns of motocross. Through all that, he found a new rush: Bullfighting. The rodeo arena was drawing him back. He went to a bullfighting school, and a new career was born.
“I got my PRCA card in 1993,” he said. “I started doing the comedy stuff in ’95.”
It didn’t take long for Lerwill to step up his game. A local stock contractor hired him to fight bulls and entertain.
“I was in Evanston, Wyo., the first time I put the microphone on,” he said. “I was so damn scared that I was dry-heaving. But I got it done.”
He’s gotten it done a lot in the years since. He has become one of the most sought-after acts in ProRodeo, and there’s good reason.
“People just love to watch Troy, because he’s that good,” said Carr, who watched Lerwill work just two months ago during the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo. “He can bring people to your rodeo to see what he can do; that’s a true entertainer.”
For Lerwill, life is about reaching out to people and sharing his passion for the rodeo way of life. He may go about it in different terms than most cowboys, but there is a distinct passion involved in everything he does.
“I really don’t want the Western heritage and lifestyle, and the tradition of cowboy to go away, and I want young people to enjoy it like I did,” Lerwill said. “Rodeo is a huge chunk of our history.
“Even though I take a motorcycle to a rodeo and do a stunt, I hope it makes fans of people and they come back.”