As a kid in Gonzales, Tyler Waguespack knew what he wanted to do. Football? Baseball? Piano lessons? Those were for his classmates.
Waguespack wanted to be a steer wrestler. Roping calves was fun, too, but his dream was bulldogging those steers.
“I practiced every day throughout the week, and we went to rodeos on the weekend,” he said. “I never did any other sports.”
That single-minded focus has paid off big time.
Waguespack won his second world championship in three years last month in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association 2018 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. The $260,013 check boosted his six-year pro career earnings to over $1 million.
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The victory came just four days before his 28th birthday and a few days more before he married Sarah McDonald, of Brunswick, Georgia.
Talk about a December to remember.
Waguespack came by his obsession honestly. His father, Michael, was a professional steer wrestler, and he encouraged his son’s pursuit.
Tyler Waguespack won three state high school steer wrestling championship while attending East Ascension High School, and, after graduation, he learned how to shoe horses and did that full-time while competing in amateur and smaller professional rodeos.
People who spend most of their time in Baton Rouge may not realize how much rodeo there is outside the city limits.
“There’s several young kids around the area that’s found success in (rodeo), but it’s under the radar,” Waguespack said. “Nobody really knows about it. If you cross the Sabine River going west, it’s big out there.”
Waguespack earned his living exclusively from shoeing horses for 2½ years, then began pursuing rodeo full-time, using his horseshoeing skills to supplement his income, which has grown steadily as he honed his skills while competing against the best in his sport.
The sport looks simple: Steer and horse and rider are released into the arena at the same time, and the rider’s job is to get close, dismount at full gallop, grab the steer by the horns and twist its head to force it off its feet onto its back or side as fast as possible. Tenths of seconds matter.
“A lot of people assume that it’s strength that helps you out the most, but you cannot overpower the animals that we’re competing on,” Waguespack said. “It’s a lot of timing, a lot of technique and stuff in order to be able to make a good, competitive run on the cattle that we’re running.”
It also helps to have good horses. Waguespack and two other pro steer wrestlers, Tyler Pearson and Kyle Irwin, travel together and ride each other’s horses. Different horses work better with different rodeo setups. At the national finals, the starting chutes were close to each other, and Waguespack rode Scooter, one of Pearson and Irwin’s horses
“He’s extremely easy to get along with,” Waguespack said. “He stays calm with everything throughout your run. You can’t win a NASCAR race if you’re driving a go-kart. He’s a horse that runs very, very hard, and at each event, I believe he’s the best one out there.”
Having focused on this goal for so long, the same now might be said about Waguespack.
“Whenever I first came in as a rookie, you’re going against the best in the world at the time. There is no AAA ball where you’re playing with people on your same level,” he said, comparing his sport to baseball. “If you want to go out and have success, you have to beat the best there is. After you can gather up enough experience, if you have what it takes, eventually, you’ll start winning more and more, and that’s what happened.”