High school rodeo: Wright brothers soaring to new heights at Utah high school rodeo finals
Hugh Carey, Deseret News
HEBER CITY — The Wright brothers, good ol' Orville and Wilbur, are credited with inventing the first successful airplane that would actually sustain human flight.
Well, now there's a modern-day duo of Wright brothers, Rusty and Ryder, who are soaring to some great new heights of their own on the Utah high school rodeo scene.
Rusty Wright, who's already a two-time national champion in saddle bronc riding, won the first go-round in that event at this year's Utah high school rodeo finals being staged at the Wasatch County Event Center.
And his younger brother Ryder has a solid shot at taking home the all-around cowboy title with his strong showing this year. He's had great success riding both bulls and saddle broncs.
With his opening win here this week, Rusty now holds a narrow one-point lead over Ryder in his quest for this year's state saddle bronc riding crown — which would be his first state title.
"That's what I want to do," Rusty said of his bid to three-peat at nationals, "but I've got him (Ryder) breathing down my neck, making me nervous.
"I don't know if I did (teach Ryder to ride too well), but my Dad did."
"Dad" would be two-time world champion saddle bronc rider Cody Wright, who — along with the help and encouragement of his wife, ShaRee Wright — have raised their children in a rodeo-friendly and focused environment since the kids were old enough to climb aboard a wooden rocking horse.
Or, maybe even sooner than that.
"I couldn't imagine myself doing anything other than this," said Rusty, 18, a recent graduate of Milford High who has earned himself a rodeo scholarship to the College of Southern Idaho. "I never wanted to do anything different, and I want to do it for as long as I can."
Rusty started out riding bulls before suffering a broken arm in the eighth grade and a collapsed lung in the ninth grade — "I decided I'd give that dream up," he said — so he turned his focus to saddle bronc riding instead as a high school sophomore.
Now, he's convinced there's nothing better.
"I think when you make a good ride on a bronc, that's even more pleasing than a ride on the bulls," Rusty said. "I feel like in bronc riding, there's a lot more to do — stay back, lift on your rein, set your feet, stay back all the time — there's a lot of stuff to do."
After winning the amateur rodeo association's saddle bronc title last year, he joined the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and is the leading rookie of the year in his specialty, moving up to 33rd place in the overall standings.
And to hear Rusty talk with admiration about his younger brother, 16-year-old Ryder, there certainly doesn't seem to be any sibling rivalry going on here.
"I've only got one focus, and that's bronc riding," Rusty said. "My little brother, he's got that I-don't-give-a-crap attitude, you know. He's just laid back. He's winning the state in bull riding, and we were tied before today in bronc riding. So coming in here, he was winning the bronc riding, bull riding and the all-around.
"If he wins state in bronc riding, if he beats me, I'm gonna be just as happy as if I won it myself because I've seen how hard he works. It doesn't make me jealous because I know that he ain't getting it handed to him. I've seen him work for it; he works just as hard as I do.
"It's awesome seeing him do good," Rusty said. "Last year as a freshman, he came in and won third in state here, won the short-round in bronc riding, and it was awesome. I love it when he does so well. It was pretty sweet."
These aren't the only Wright Brothers who are busy tearing up the rodeo arena these days.
Younger brother Stetson, 14, is a junior high state champion.
"He does everything — team ropes, calf ropes, rides bulls, broncs, barebacks," Rusty said of Stetson. "He's got a lot more of the natural ability than I do. Him and Ryder, the first horses they ever got on, spurred 'em. It took me like 10 or 15 horses, and I really had to work for it. Those guys kinda just jumped right at it."
Then there's another little brother Statler, who's "10 or 11" and is already riding steers, and 5-year-old little sister Lilly, age 5, who's already "practicing the poles at home."
And don't forget Rusty and Ryder's six uncles, who all compete in rodeo as well.
Yes, there are plenty of Wright Brothers who have the "Wright" stuff to keep the sport in mighty good hands for a long time.
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