Tyler Waguespack of Gonzales, Louisiana, first qualified for the National Finals Rodeo in steer wrestling in 2015. This year he went all the way and won the World Championship.
Tyler is grateful to his dad, Michael, who taught him the value of hard work. He also thanks Arthur Smith, who started teaching him how to rope calves when he was only ten, and Troy Aucoin, who worked with Tyler during his high school years.
The Finals are held in the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas. Tyler says that the arena is small and the start is really fast. “You have to have your horse moving off of the corner of the box before the gates open. It’s kind of a weird feeling, because you are running at a barrier. It’s hard to make yourself ride, hoping that the gate is going to open!” Tyler worked hard on his starts to get ready for the 2015 competition and ended up sixth in the average. This year all the stars aligned: hard work, good steers, thorough mental and physical preparation, great teachers, super horses, and supportive friends.
Tyler, congratulations! Let’s talk about how you got to the National Finals Rodeo.
This year I competed in about 70 or 80 rodeos—I’m not sure of the exact number. I traveled with Clayton Hass and Ty Erickson. We had some outstanding horses in the rig, and that was a tremendous key to our success. We had a great season: we all started in the top five, and by the end of the year we were still in the top five. We started off with a bang and still finished strong. Ty went into the finals in first, I went in at third, and Clayton went in at fifth.
Going into the finals, I had just over $85,000.
Take us step-by-step through the finals.
It started off great. Clayton and I split the first round with a 3.8. That gets your confidence rolling, when you start off at the top. But it really messes with you when you start off slow like my buddy Ty. He’s a great bulldogger, one of the top in the world, but unfortunately he missed his first steer. That drops your confidence level. He worked hard to get out of that hole and he had a really great week, but I know that if he’d won that first go-round he would have been neck and neck with us the whole time.
In my second round, I had a steer that wasn’t quite as good as my first one, but I was still able to win fifth place. I was the only one to place on that steer the whole week! I came back and won the third go-round (with J. D. Struxness), which kept gas on the fire.
I placed in every round except the eighth and the tenth. I split the sixth with Billy Bugenig and Riley Duvall, with a 3.6. In the eighth, my steer stepped hard left. Great horsepower helped me get by that steer. The horse was able to swap leads and come back to the steer and give us a good go.
In the tenth round, all I had to do was throw the steer down, so we backed off the barrier a little bit, ran the steer to the middle of the pen, caught him, laid him over, and won the World Championship! My time was 4.4. I was actually only one hole out of placing.
Tyler, it looks like all you guys at the finals have a great relationship—anybody will help anybody.
Yes, sir. I had a lot of support from everybody. That’s what I like about the steer wrestlers at the NFR. We are good buddies. In steer wrestling, we respect a good run. No matter if you do it, your buddy does it, or the guys you’re competing against do it, a good run deserves a round of applause. If somebody makes a good run, they deserve the credit and a “Great job!” for the run they made. Everybody is pushing everybody to do better and you just feed off of one another.
When did you realize you were going to be the World Champion?
Well, there’s never a point where you just know that you’re going to win. You can kind of see the odds falling your way when someone has a tough run. You don’t necessarily have to win every night, but you can stay near the top if you continue to have good runs.
By the last couple of rounds, I and Clayton and Matt Reeves were the only ones to have a clear chance at the title. Matt had some tough luck in the ninth, which allowed me to have a pretty good gap. I knew if I won the average, no one could catch me. It helps you to be a little more relaxed when you know you just have to catch this one steer. But—the night before—that’s probably the hardest steer to think about catching!
When you caught that tenth-round steer, you must have been flying high.
It’s amazing to know that all of your hard work has finally paid off. It’s something I’ve worked for ever since I’ve been little. We run steers every day. I can’t find anybody who practices harder. If I do find him, I want to see if I can’t beat him! I’ll do whatever it takes to put in enough effort to do it.
So, in the ten rounds, how much did you win?
And then what did you win for the average?
The paycheck for winning first in the average was a little over $67,000.
Tell me about this fine Dodge pickup truck I’m looking at.
The RAM Top Gun Award Truck goes to the person at the finals that wins more money than anyone else, regardless of which event you’re in.
And you also won…
A Polaris Ranger, a saddle, a gold buckle, and, I guess, a lot of respect from a lot of people.