Steer Wrestler Does it all for the Rush
“It’s a thrill, a rush. I don’t know how to put it,” says 23-year-old steer wrestler Royce Johnson in the coliseum Wednesday afternoon during the slack performances. “You enjoy doing it and you get an adrenaline rush from it.”
Johnson is from Nemaha, NE and has been bulldoggin’ since he was a teen, he says. Now, he visits up to 50 rodeos a year, collecting champion dollars to count toward the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, NV.
“My folks, they rodeod and my dad steer wrestled,” Johnson explained. His father, Gary Johnson, taught him how to wrestle steers when he was growing up, first on a dummy called a Steer Saber that is pulled behind a tractor or truck, then eventually on a real steer, he says.
“Steer wrestling, I compare it to, say, water skiing or something like that, your technique,” Johnson says. “You use your legs, and that’s how you control the cattle when you’re bringing him around. Basically, you’re skiing on dirt.”
Johnson says he prefers dirt to grass because it’s easier to control his feet and the cattle on the dirt. It’s also less painful when you slide on it, he says. “Us steer wrestlers, a common injury that we would have is blown out knees. It’s a hard sport. We’re doing something we love and enjoy doing it.”
Johnson steer wrestled in the junior ranks, then in high school and college, and now tours the United States attending 50 plus rodeos a year. He says the touring isn’t too lonesome as he’s gotten to know several cowboys over the years and sees them at different rodeos.
“The sound man…he’s from Sydney, Iowa,” Johnson says. “I know him, he bulldogged a bit when he was younger, my dad taught him to bulldog, and the guy down there opening the chutes is his brother and my dad taught him some too.”
Having attended several repeatedly for the past few years, Johnson says he’s got his favorites. “My favorite rodeo is either Fort Worth, Texas or Salinas, California, but for me, Sydney Iowa is real close for me back home and I’ve been on there since I was a little kid, watching my dad compete, he said.
“[The SASSR] is a real good rodeo that has real good money,” he continues. “The people here, they always seem to treat us real good. I’ve been here—this will be my third year—and my first year I came here I ended up like 4th, 5th in the average, made it back to short-go. Last year I won a round here then placed 3rd or 4th. It’s one of my favorite rodeos to go to.”
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