CLARENDON COLLEGE SOPHOMORE WILL COMPETE SUNDAY AT THE AMERICAN
CLARENDON, Texas – Many would love the opportunity to win $1 million.
Wyatt Casper has that opportunity.
The Clarendon College sophomore will ride at The AMERICAN, a one-day rodeo that will take place Sunday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The event offers a purse of more than $2 million, with $1 million being paid to the winner or winners who earned their way via a series of qualifiers. That’s where Casper’s opportunity lies.
“I don’t know if it’s set in on how big of a deal it is,” said Casper, a member of the Clarendon College rodeo team from Balko, Okla. “I’m confident in my bronc riding, and I think I can compete with all the best guys there. I’m sure that riding in front of that big of a crowd it will be real nerve-racking.”
It’s all a bit of a whirlwind for the young cowboy, who grew up roping at his Oklahoma Panhandle home. He has competed in team roping and tie-down roping all his life and actually just started riding bucking horses three years ago as a way to increase his opportunities for all-around championships.
“It was a pretty goofy deal,” he said. “They had two bronc riders (in his high school rodeo region) in the first semester, and the pot filled up to about $700. That’s what motivated me to start riding. I’ve roped my whole life, ever since I could walk.
“Rodeo is all I wanted to do when I was little bitty. My parents didn’t start roping until they met each other, and my dad and grandpa picked it up as a hobby. I’m almost a first-generation rodeo cowboy.”
He’s taken to it well. For the Clarendon College rodeo team, he sits third in the Southwest Region saddle bronc riding standings and is eighth in heading. His primary focus before advancing to The AMERICAN was to qualify for the College National Finals Rodeo. Now his eyes are set firmly on the top prize available.
“It’s a chance at a million dollars,” Casper said. “It’s what everybody hopes to do, and it could really set you up for the rest of your life.”
In The AMERICAN’s inaugural run in 2014, bareback rider Richmond Champion became the first cowboy to win the $1 million prize. Most of the field is made up of invited contestants, and none of the seeded cowboys and cowgirls is eligible for the $1 million. Champion was the only non-seeded winner in 2014.
A year ago, there were two, bareback rider Taylor Price and tie-down roper Reese Reimer. They split the top prize. They, along with the other event winners, also won $100,000. That kind of money great incentive for any rodeo competitor.
While the saddle bronc riding field at The AMERICAN will feature many of the top cowboys in the game, Casper has had some tremendous lessons, especially from Clarendon rodeo coach Bret Franks, a three-time qualifier in saddle bronc riding to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
“He’s been a great role model to me and taught me everything I know about bronc riding,” Casper said of his coach.
For his part, the longtime cowboy-turned-coach realizes there’s something special in Casper, who is a big part of the school’s rodeo team.
“He’s got a natural talent, and he approaches things very mental,” Franks said. “He was a high school quarterback, so he’s always been a leader. He’s definitely our leader.”
That mentality can go a long ways in rodeo. Not only does it take tremendous athleticism to compete in the sport, it takes a strong mind and a willingness to overcome any challenge that comes a cowboy’s way.
“There’s nothing better than getting tapped off on a bronc,” Casper said of matching the rhythm of the horse’s bucking action with a strong spur stroke. “Everybody else tries to stay away from bucking horses, and I try to ride them.”
In just a few days, he will try to ride a couple for his chance at a million dollars.