Cinch steer wrestler Will Lummus shows off his elite status
Will Lummus was born to be a professional steer wrestler; he just didn’t realize it until he’d entered high school.
He proved to be a quick study, but he’s had a considerable amount of help along the way. He has a family that has supported him since he was a youngster and helped direct him when they were needed. It’s paid off. He’s qualified for the National Finals Rodeo each of the past four seasons and walked away from Las Vegas this past December with the coveted average championship.
All roads lead back to his youth in the community of West Point, on Mississippi’s eastern edge near Starkville, home of Mississippi State University.
“My family’s support is just huge,” said Lummus, a Cinch endorsee who finished the 2021 campaign as the reserve world champion, second only to Louisianan Tyler Waguespack. “It didn’t matter if I decided to play golf; nobody in my family plays golf, but we would have figured it out.
“I just grew up watching rodeo, watching my uncle at rodeos. That’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.”
That’s Uncle Bob, as in four-time NFR qualifier Bob Lummus, who more than offered his assistance to his young protégé; he actually quit his job as a pilot for Dale Earnhardt Jr. to assist his maturing nephew.
“When I started steer wrestling, he came home and helped,” Will Lummus said. “Him, my dad and my Uncle David helped a lot. Practice was always serious. We didn’t practice with other people very often. It was us, and it was nothing but business.
“We hollered at each other. There were a lot of tears shed in that arena, but I couldn’t have asked for a better upbringing.”
It has paid plenty of dividends. In his first venture to the NFR in 2018, Lummus finished third in the world standings. He was 11th a year later and fifth in 2020. His best finish came a season ago, where he won $169,152 over 10 December nights in Las Vegas. He placed in six rounds, sharing the victory on the fourth night and winning the eighth round outright.
While he chased the elusive Montana Silversmiths gold buckle in the go-rounds, he still earned nearly $70,000 by claiming the average title for having the best 10-run aggregate score among the 15 bulldoggers at ProRodeo’s grand finale.
“The average is the second most coveted buckle in rodeo, so it means the world to me,” he said. “There’s only one better, and I’ve been really close, but you can’t stub your toe, especially with Wags, because he doesn’t make mistakes.”
It all stems from a great foundation. Now 29, he wrestled through his first few years before finding solid footing in a sport he loves and the competition he craves. He’s grown as a man and as a steer wrestler, and it shows in his performance.
“I think the biggest thing that’s changed for me since my rookie year is maturity,” Lummus said. “Just getting the knowledge and the confidence has been part of that. When we practiced when I was young, our goal was to make the National Finals. My uncle and my dad always made sure I knew they thought I was good enough to do it. They instilled a lot of confidence in me at a young age, and that carried over.
“When I first started, I had a lot more confidence than a lot of rookie guys in the way I was raised. Everything we did was funneled toward that one goal.”
Lummus took the baby steps provided him, and he continued to build his case. In 2017, he finished 20th in the world standings, missing the NFR by five spots – only the top 15 in the world standings at the end of the regular season advance to the championship. He hasn’t missed his place among the elite since.
“I think it’s because I’m always getting to ride good horses, and I have great partners, great teammates,” said Lummus, who is traveling this year with Clayton Hass, Dakota Eldridge and Ty Erickson while primarily riding Hass’ horse, Benz, voted as one of the top three bulldogging horses in the PRCA last year.
“I think it shows. I think guys have always been very welcoming to ride their horses. There are so may people that bulldog great in the world today. The only thing that separates them is the horsepower. I always get to ride one of the best horses, and I always have, which has been a blessing.”
Benz is his go-to mount, and the four members of the traveling posse enjoy what the big bay gelding has to offer. Hass is a four-time NFR qualifier, while Eldridge has earned eight trips to the finale, and there are eight qualifications for Erickson, the 2019 world champion. Eldridge earned NFR average crowns in 2015 and ’17.
“You’ve got three average titles and a world championship in that rig, and Clayton’s been to the NFR as a bulldogger and a hazer,” Lummus said. “We’ve got a lot of talent in the rig, and that does nothing but help your confidence. You end up competing with your teammates, and that does nothing but help you use it in a productive way.
“It’s us against the world, but we’re also trying to beat each other in a way. When you get beat by your buddy, you’re just as happy for him as you would be if you’d won it yourself.”
It’s a matter of teamwork, and that’s just fine with the Mississippi cowboy, who played baseball and football as a youngster. He’s done just about every event in rodeo and, for the longest time, focused mostly on tie-down roping. It was his favorite thing, and he lived and breathed the idea of making a living with a rope in his hand.
Lummus’ dad and uncle made him wait until his freshman year in high school before he could wrestle steers. They wanted his body to grow and his mind to mature.
“When I started steer wrestling, Uncle Bob told me he was going to make me throw my rope away, because I’d love to bulldog that much,” he said. “I was built for it. It came naturally for me. In calf roping, there are just so many variables that have to go right for you to win. In bulldogging, if you’re big and strong, you can run a strong steer and still place on it.
“I miss roping calves, but bulldogging is simpler. It’s also a contact sport, and it fits my style.”
Much has changed in the cowboy’s life in the 15 years since Lummus ran his first steer. He’s an ox of a man with a brilliant bulldogging mind and a boatload of friends who will stand up and boast about his accomplishments. When COVID hit two years ago, he started a steel-pipe fence building business that’s taken off. That’s good, because he spends more time at home in Byhalia, Mississippi, because of it.
He’s also been married to Jenna for four and a half years, and they make their relationship work even though he spends a great deal of time on the road chasing his quest for rodeo’s gold.
“My wife’s a pharmacist, so I refer to her as Dr. Jenna sometimes,” Lummus said. “She’s also a realtor. She’s a go-getter. It’s insane what she does for me. The support system I get from her is incredible. What’s honestly really crazy is how much you have to love somebody to support them even when they’re gone as much as I am. It just blows my mind.”
It’s what makes Will Lummus the man he is and the champion he hopes to be.