He didn’t bring home a buckle, but a trip to the National High School Rodeo Association finals in the U.S. was still a win for Wyatt McCullough.
The Clinton youth travelled to Guthrie, Oklahoma last month after qualifying to compete in the steer wrestling event at the Lazy E. The NHSRA website describes the organization as the “World’s Largest Rodeo,” featuring about 1,500 contestants – aged 14-18 – from across the U.S., Canada and Australia. The top 20 contestants in each event advance to a final round of competition to determine who will walk away with the championship buckles.
“I got to make two runs down there. It was an extremely tough competition, you can imagine,” McCullough, 16, said. “The experience was so cool, getting to meet new people from all over. The whole atmosphere was just big, you could tell you were at something important.
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McCullough, who has been a rodeo fan since he started in Little Britches, got involved in steer wrestling about three years ago when a family friend introduced him to it. Steer wrestling, also known as bulldogging, involves jumping off a horse and wrestling a steer to the ground by pulling its horns to throw it off-balance.
It’s a risky endeavour. “I’ve had a couple of wrecks,” McCullough said. “I’ve had a few little problems when your horse steps out and the steer’s not there so you just hit the dirt.”
Even so, steer wrestling is “what I’m good at,” he said. Competitors in the NHSRA have to qualify in the top four of their event through their provincial or state association. Four from B.C. participated in the rodeo this year. With COVID-19 in full swing, McCullough and his mom, who accompanied him for the 11 days, wore masks on the plane and when shopping, but they didn’t have to wear them at the rodeo.
Once home, they quarantined for 14 days. It was worth it, McCullough said. “I felt like I did really good, hopefully I will get to go again.”
McCullough, who is going into Grade 12 at David Stoddart Secondary this fall, can’t imagine doing anything else and plans to pursue rodeoing after he graduates.
“I’d like to go down to the States and hopefully get a scholarship to college rodeo down there,” he said, adding he doesn’t know yet what he would like to study. “All I know is I want to rodeo. It’s in my blood, it’s just what I want to do more than anything. I feel like it’s my thing.”