Wyatt Rogers is the youngest rookie ever to ride in the Championship Bull Riding Finals. He turned 18 last October, and a week later had his card, his first CBR event title, his first professional 90-point score, and the CBR’s richest purse—all before he graduated high school. Right now, he has a 52.38% riding percentage.
The 90-Point Club
In his first Championship Bull Riding appearance in Mercedes, Texas, the Cherokee boy from Locust Grove, Oklahoma, scored 92 points on Boomer, won almost $43K, and beat out 5 world champions, the top 5 PRCA riders, and 6 other rookies. He followed up that feat with a pair of 90s, on Firehouse and White Wolf, in El Paso and Las Vegas. When I told Wyatt that he was in the 90-Point Club listed on the CBR website, he didn’t seem impressed with himself. “My first 90-point ride was when I was 15 years old, on a PBR bull, for 92, at a local bullriding. Three times, is what you said, on the CBR tour? CBR marks everyone really high.”
He was impressed with the bulls, though. “Getting on Boomer—that was at my very first event. Sage [Steele Kimzey] told me to pick him. He was owned by Brett Barrett, who told me he’s gonna be right there at the latch to the right, he’s gonna be really fun for me, and I should be a lot of points on him… He’s a little bull, small and quick. I remember thinking I was about to buck off, then all of a sudden I found that sweet spot and I knew I had him. White Wolf, he’s a great, giant bull; he weighs probably 2200 pounds. He came back to the right and spun really fast. He was so big, he just carried me around, and he felt really good. Firehouse is a bull not many people ride. He was pretty hard to ride; I was just hustling and staying loose.”
Would he like to get on them again? He chuckles. “You do 90 on them once, you can be 90 on ‘em again.”
Wyatt also likes Ragin’ JT, which is weird, considering that the bull bucked him off. I asked why. Another chuckle. “He’s so consistent; he’s just a great bucker every time. And I really need some redemption; I need to draw him to get to ride him. Brett Barrett said he won’t let me down.”
I asked about an uncharacteristic 74 he scored in Okechobee, Florida; was that a re-ride situation? “They didn’t give me an option for a re-ride. My bull just wasn’t much; he turned right just back at the latch, he was a flat spinner, and I got him rode. They weren’t marking any of the rides really high, so it was fair. That’s what I should’ve been: I should’ve been 74 points that day.” He’s pretty philosophical about the scoring. “I just go to ride my bulls, and I let the judges make their decision on what they think they should score me. I have no control over that.”
Teacher, May I Be Excused?
Most guys who ride in the CBR start out in the Horizon Series, then work their way up to the main tour—but those guys didn’t get a call from Tuff Hedeman during Ed class. “I was actually settin’ in my Ed class in school, and I got a weird number [on my phone] and I asked my teacher if I could answer it. Sure enough, it was Tuff Hedeman. I just got up and walked out of my classroom and left to where I could hear him—and that’s how I got the invitation to go to the CBR. I was pretty happy, I was smilin’ from ear to ear, and everyone was trying to figure out why I was smilin’ so big.”
I asked how Tuff found out about him. “I think he just got word of ear, from a guy named Scott Burruss who hauls ‘em everywhere… He actually is good friends with Tuff. I’ve been on Scott’s bulls a couple of times and made some really good rides. He gave Tuff a call and told him that I could really make it on tour, and to give me one shot. Riders usually start out at the Horizon Series events; I actually went to my first Horizon Series after I went to the CBR tour. I feel really special ‘cause I know hardly anyone gets to do that.”
When I asked what message he’d like to put out, Rogers said, “Just tell the kids out there that wanna grow up and be rodeo stars to never quit believin,’ and keep chasin’ their dream.”
This Is How We Do It
Wyatt described his riding style in terms of two role models: “I really try to follow Justin McBride; that’s who I grew up watching. He never rode much getting a hold with his feet; he went for balance, and that’s the way I ride. I don’t ever get a hold with my feet much. I took gymnastics when I was little, so I have really good balance, and grew up riding a horse all the time. I try to copy my spurring from Chris Shivers. You just gotta always keep moving your feet, and not just clamp down, which is what I’m doing right now.” I asked if he had a preference about a bull’s direction: he’s right-handed, so he prefers bull that go to the right, “but I ride just as well going to the left.” Not a lot of cowboys can say that.
It’s Not “If,” It’s “When”
Rogers rode in four more CBR events before he acquired a groin injury and had to lay off for a while. He enumerates the places he got bucked off: “Bossier City, fell off; Magnolia, fell off; Mulvane, fell off; Del Rio, fell off.” I almost laughed at how nonchalant he was about it.
He couldn’t “get busy” until last month; he spent time at home recuperating, then after July 2 was on the road non-stop—including the CBR Finals, where he came in 9th on the first night, with an 86 on No Hands, a Benny Cude bull he’d watched on the CBR tour before he was old enough to ride in it. In Round 2, he was in 24th place, and he didn’t make it to the semi-finals.
Was his injury still affecting him? “I’m just making stupid mistakes right now that I shouldn’t be making: settin’ on my pockets, not gettin’ up, not gettin’ it with my feet; trying to stay tight and not loose, just not ridin’ my bulls right. My groin is fine; I’m not using that as an excuse, but I’ll just have to figure it out. I feel like I’m 100% but I’m just trying to get back in the groove and work it out.” I tell him that I sometimes the body just wants to protect itself from what happened to it. “That’s what everyone’s tellin’ me,” he acknowledges. “Without doing it on purpose, I’m protecting my groin and being hesitant.”
I asked Wyatt about the relatively new safety requirements for young riders. “I grew up wearing everything I’m wearing now: a helmet, vest, chaps, mouthpiece. I’ve worn it all since I was about 4 or 5 years old. I ride with a hockey helmet, which is different from most people. I just go to the roller rink and buy a hockey helmet. I don’t feel like I need to go buy a bullriding-approved helmet. I guess I just got used to it; the bars don’t bother me anymore; I see right through. Since I’ve been wearing it since I was little, I got used to wearing a helmet. If you first didn’t start wearing it, I could see how it could bother you quite a bit.”
After his injury, Wyatt had a game plan: the week before he went to the International Youth Rodeo Finals, he got on three practice bulls and four steers. “I rode every one of them before I came back and got on any rodeo bulls. I just had to know if I could still ride bulls before I came back and started riding again on TV!”
The Energizer Bunny
It’s pretty hard for Wyatt to stay dormant. “I’ve just always been a busy kid; I‘ve never had much time off. While I was growing up I was always playing sports: baseball, basketball, some football, and recently I’ve been trying golf, which is just a bunch of walking.” I agree: a bunch of walking, in ugly pants. He’s about to start at Southeastern Oklahoma State University this month, well-known for its rodeo team, and plans on not only riding bulls but also steer wrestling, calf roping, and team roping.
“How do you have time to do homework?” I asked.
“I’ve always been smart in school,” he said. “This whole year I didn’t take one book home, and I still have managed to maintain a 4.0 grade point average for my senior year. My mother griped at me plenty; I think she got tired of griping and realized I was never gonna read a book.”
Movin’ On Up
Wyatt also rides in the PRCA, won his first event with an 81, and will ride in more. “They don’t have a break; you go year-round. Shane Proctor goes to almost twice as many rodeos as other guys.” Wyatt will ride in amateur rodeos, too. “Rodeo isn’t like any other sport. It’s not like baseball or football where you can’t go back down the levels.”
Normally Wyatt travels to CBR events either by himself or with his mother; to PRCA events, he travels with fellow bullriders Tate Stratton and Guthrie Murray. “We just knee up and go to PRCA events together,” he says. “They’re really good guys.”
I asked if working in bigger and bigger events makes him feel differently or prepare differently. “I just look at every event the same, and I go into every one of them the same,” he said. “I do my same routine as I would do at a high school rodeo. I love to ride bulls, I don’t care at what level, and I don’t think about it when I’m at the event. I just love to be there and I love getting on bulls.”
Interesting note about competition at the high school level: Sage Steele Kimzey [2014 CBR & PRCA Champ and PRCA Rookie of the Year] is the only rider to beat Wyatt; in his freshman year, Rogers came in second. This year he missed 13 high school rodeos going to professional events…it’s a hard knock life.
What about the kind of hazing new riders get on the pro circuit, with guys trying to make them nervous to the point of throwing up? “Yeah, they tried to get me to, at my first event in Mercedes, Texas,” he admits. “David Todd over at Cowboy Outfitters USA, and Cody Teel [two-time CBR Champion], they was trying to make me nervous, trying to get me to throw up, but I just looked at it as another bullriding that had $70,000 added instead of $500 added. David just tries to pressure you up: ‘You know, you’re at an event with $70,000 added, right? You’re gonna go showcase yourself, you know,’ and stuff like that. He’s really fun; I enjoy being around him; he’s funny.” Wyatt didn’t throw up. He won.
I asked about how the different organizations treated him. “They’ve accepted me pretty well; they just treat me like the normal rookie, play pranks on me and stuff like that. They’ll mess the clock around on you when you’re driving: when you go to sleep, they’ll fast-forward the clock to where it looks like they’ve been driving 3 or 4 hours, and then you have to drive again. Me and Cody Rostockyi [also on the CBR tour], we mess around with each other and play little bitty pranks: I actually hid some of his stuff before the Las Vegas CBR event: his gear bag; his helmet, his rope—it was scattered throughout the rodeo arena. I gave it to him in plenty of time for him to get ready, but he was freaking out for a little bit. I’m waitin’ on him to get me back; he told me in March he was going to; he still hasn’t done it, so…” Cody, take note: his guard might be down now.
“I plan on finishing college and then going for the PBR,” Wyatt says. “I had a plan with my Dad; that’s the plan we had imagined, so I’m just going to carry it out, and when it’s my time to go to the PBR and I feel like I’m ready, I’ll be able to buy my card and try to make it on tour.”
I joke about what he’d do if he gets a call from Ty Murray saying, “Come on, hurry up!” Wyatt laughs. “If that happens, I’ll just have to make that decision when the time comes.”
I asked a few silly questions, including what his favorite book was. “I haven’t read many books,” he says, “but To Kill A Mockingbird was pretty good.” His mom should be happy.