Kyle Whitaker has spent his career proving he's one of the most versatile cowboys on the planet. Now, though, Whitaker is pondering whether it's more financially prudent to focus on fewer events.
The 28-year-old cowboy from Chambers, Neb., often competes in steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding and tie-down roping. He's been good enough at them to win three Linderman Awards, given to the cowboy who wins the most money in three events, with at least one of the events being a roughstock event and at least one being a timed event. Only Whitaker's father, Chip, has won more (four).
Whitaker's latest triumph occurred at the Southwestern Exposition and Livestock Show in Fort Worth, Texas (Jan. 14-Feb. 6), where he excelled in steer wrestling.
Whitaker tied for fourth in Round 1, finished second in Round 2 and finished fourth in the final round en route to capturing the three-head aggregate with a time of 12.7 seconds. He picked up checks totaling $15,623, making it one of the biggest wins of his career.
The victory on Feb. 6 was the culmination of a hectic day for Whitaker, who shuttled between rodeos.
"It's been kind of a busy day," Whitaker said. "I made the short go at Rapid City (S.D.) earlier today. Then I caught a flight down here (Fort Worth). That's the first time I've ever been on that horse (Jack Pot, usually ridden by 2004 World Steer Wrestling Champion Luke Branquinho). I didn't know how that was going to work out, but things went pretty good."
Jack Pot was the AQHA Steer Wrestling Horse of the Year two years ago. Riding a top-rated horse was one factor playing in Whitaker's favor. Another was drawing a good steer in the final round.
"My steer was a good one," Whitaker said. "They had been 4.4 (seconds) on him twice and I was maybe off the barrier just a little bit trying to make sure I didn't break out.
"I had my own horse the first two rounds here and he's been working really good for me. I was hoping I could have him here for the finals, but when I made the short go at Rapid, I just left him up there."
In addition to his victory in Forth Worth, Whitaker also placed third in the steer wrestling aggregate in Rapid City.
"It's been a pretty good day," Whitaker said.
In fact, Whitaker's season is going well.
"I've been to seven or eight rodeos and placed at all but one in the bulldogging," Whitaker said.
Despite the success, Whitaker is pondering changing his game plan this year. He often competes in all three of his specialties, but that can be costly if he's not winning checks.
"Usually in the winter I start out trying to work two or three events and that can soak up $1,000 out of you real quick. I can't afford to do that," Whitaker said. "Hopefully, entering only one or maybe two events I can go for the rest of the winter on other people's money."
So, what does that portend for Whitaker's future?
"I like bronc riding, and I think I'm competitive, so I'll still enter it some times. But I've got to go with what's hot now," Whitaker said.
At the moment, Whitaker is one of the hottest steer wrestlers going.
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