OKLAHOMA CITY – Eleven months ago, tie-down roper Trenton Johnson was just getting out of hip surgery that saw him on crutches for eight weeks.
He spent four months going through physical therapy for a repaired hip labrum and a hip microfracture, then he handled the rehabilitation himself while taking care of the business of healing his body. Being on the sidelines because of injury is no place for a world-class athlete to be, but that’s just where Johnson was through much of the 2015 rodeo season.
“I rehabbed on my own for a little while, then I went to three rodeos after the Fourth of July,” said Johnson, 26, a three-time International Finals Rodeo from Centerville, Kan. “Then I got hurt again, so I took two more weeks off.”
He returned to action the final weekend of July and spent next seven weeks on a frantic travel schedule in hopes of returning to the International Professional Rodeo Association’s championship event. It all comes to fruition next week during IFR 45, set for Friday, Jan. 16-Sunday, Jan. 18, at Jim Norick State Fair Arena in Oklahoma City.
“I went pretty hard and was able to accomplish that,” said Johnson, who won tie-down roping titles in Kellyville, Okla.; Haskell, Okla.; Freemont, Ohio; North Washington, Pa.; Charlotte, Mich.; and St. Tite, Quebec, the last of which is the largest regular-season event in the IPRA. “It was good to do good at St. Tite. Without that, I don’t think I could’ve made the IFR.”
That two-month run paid off to the tune of more than $8,600. He rolls into Oklahoma City as the No. 12 tie-down roper in the standings – only the top 15 contestants in each event earn the right to compete at the IFR. He’s had considerable success inside State Fair Arena before, winning the average title during the 2011 championship.
“I’d have to say winning the average at the IFR was my biggest accomplishment so far,” he said. “It was a big roping, a good roping. There were a lot of guys there that roped good. I still wear that buckle today. It was a big win for me, and I’m proud of it.”
He should be. It’s an amazing honor and one he’d like to repeat during this year’s finale. In order to win that title, he’ll have to rope and tie all four calves in a faster cumulative time than the other 14 ropers in the field. That fits perfectly in Johnson’s wheelhouse.
“I’m more of an average roper,” he said. “I’m more consistent than trying to go fast. I try to be a well-rounded roper, but I do feel more comfortable making an average run.”
That’s something he’s learned over the years of roping. Raised on a ranch in eastern Kansas, he is one of two sons born to Jim and Pam Johnson. He and older brother Tyler began roping as youngsters.
“Dad brought home a couple of roping horses,” Trenton Johnson said. “He built us an arena, and we started team roping.”
He also started roping calves with a breakaway rope until he got into junior high. Upon turning 14, he started roping and tying down calves. He started putting in the work to be successful as a sophomore in high school, working with neighbor Wade Wilson and Wilson’s son, Cole.
“My dad raised cows for as long as I can remember,” said Johnson, who has a sponsorship agreement with Pretty Western Clothing Botique. “He roped a little bit, mostly for fun, and gave my brother and me an opportunity to rodeo. Along the way, I met a lot of people who helped us, and that includes Wade Wilson.”
The Johnson brothers learned a lot roping with the Wilsons. He won the tie-down roping and team roping championships in the Kansas High School Rodeo Association in 2007. That helped Trenton Johnson earn a rodeo scholarship to Northwestern Oklahoma State University in Alva, where he qualified for the College National Finals Rodeo in both tie-down roping and steer wrestling in 2009 and 2011.
He’s found success in every area of rodeo in which he’s competed, including the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. He aspires to qualify for the PRCA championship, the National Finals Rodeo, and battle for that organization’s world championship.
Of course, it’s the mettle of any true competitor to place themselves among the greatest in the game. It helps to surround oneself with greatness, which is something else Johnson has done most of his life. This past October, he married the former Ayla McCoy, whose uncles, Jet and Cord, own a combined 10 IPRA world championships.
“She comes from a strong rodeo family, and we met at Northwestern,” said Johnson, who began dating his wife in 2009. “She now works for Miller International, which is Cinch.”
Together, they bring a strong pedigree to Oklahoma City for the IFR. They’ll also bring Boone, an 11-year-old sorrel gelding.
“I’ve had him since 2011,” he said. “He’s consistent. He’s a powerful horse. He does everything good, and he’s honest. He understands roping, and he likes his job.”
So does Trenton Johnson. That’s why he’s chasing his gold-buckle dreams.