MOUNTAIN VIEW COUNTY— A local youth who recently placed fifth in steer wrestling at the Canadian Finals High School Rodeo hopes to eventually compete among the best the sport has to offer at his hometown rodeo.
“In a couple years, I hope to go get my pro card and hit some of the bigger pro rodeos, is my plan,” Rees Wilson said earlier this month during an interview with The Albertan.
“That’d definitely be a really cool experience, if I was able to compete in my hometown pro rodeo,” the 16-year-old said in response to whether he intends to one day test his mettle in the Sundre Pro Rodeo.
The Grade 12 Sundre High School student, who lives south of town in the Bergen area, competed early last month in Swift Current, Saskatchewan, which hosted the Canadian Finals High School Rodeo on Aug. 5-7.
Wilson placed fifth overall in Canada in steer wrestling out of about 20 competitors.
“It was our first year holding it in Saskatchewan,” he said.
While there were some organizational hiccups that resulted in a late decision to proceed with a third go-round rather than just a short go-round, the circumstances seemed to have played out in his favour.
“It worked out good for me, because I was able to make it back and make a good run,” he said, adding that finishing third following the third go-round ended up placing him fifth overall.
The first go-round was on Thursday, Aug. 5, with final rounds wrapping up Saturday, Aug. 7. Contestants arrived the day prior to the start of the competition, and all headed out by the end of the weekend.
Heading into the event, Wilson anticipated an uphill battle.
“I knew it was going to be pretty tough competition knowing that kids from Alberta and B.C. and Saskatchewan and Manitoba — there’s some pretty stiff kids in the steer wrestling from there,” he said.
But he wasn’t intimidated and proceeded to perform best he could.
“I knew I had a pretty good chance of placing fairly well because Alberta is usually one of the stronger provinces when it comes to rodeo and more specifically steer wrestling. But I knew that there was still going to be some stiff competition from the other provinces, and that stayed true — there was.”
Asked what he considers to be the most challenging aspect of his chosen discipline, Wilson said, “Definitely some of the steers that we have sometimes. It depends on what stock contractors you have and who brings the stock and who brings the steers.”
A steer wrestler doesn’t necessarily know what he’ll be up against.
“Sometimes, you get these small ones that are really easy on you, they’re fairly easy to throw and get good times on ’em. But sometimes, you’ll have the heavier, stronger steers that’ll just push you,” he elaborated.
“It definitely becomes a little disheartening when you’re doing all that you can and you just keep getting piled over,” he said with a laugh.
“But it’s good practice when you got the stronger steers in the practice pens, or even at the rodeos. It just motivates you to get stronger and better at what you’re doing,” he said.
While he in the past had participated in wild pony races as well as roping for a number of years, Wilson has since shifted his focus exclusively on steer wrestling, which he considers to be his main event.
“I grew up around steer wrestling,” he said, adding his father Randy Wilson was once a steer wrestler.
“He kind of got me into it. I started two summers ago, and kind of got hooked. I’ve just been practising and getting better ever since.”
But as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, progress was rather hampered last year. So he was glad to finally be able to return to the rodeo arena.
“This was kind of my biggest summer I’ve had with going to provincial finals and Canadian finals,” he said.
“It was good to be back having a full year this last year. It kind of got me set to go for the summer. It’s been a lot of fun.”
And the season is not over yet.
At the time he spoke with The Albertan, Wilson said the fall high school rodeo season had just gotten underway in Stettler with another event lined up the following weekend in Athabasca.
“We’ve got six weekends straight of those coming up. So, looking forward to those as well,” he said.
And provided the fourth wave that’s been fuelled by the Delta variant doesn’t cause further complications, he expects to be travelling to the U.S. in December after qualifying at another finals event to compete in the Junior National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.