By: Kendra Santos

GUTHRIE, Oklahoma—-From a college rodeo coach to constant world championship contenders, the World Champions Rodeo Alliance (WCRA) provides the perfect platform for talented contestants from all walks of life.

The WCRA was custom made for a guy with a day job—in Craig Wisehart’s case, assistant college rodeo coach at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas. Wisehart racked up 90 points in tonight’s bareback riding progressive round to advance to today’s championship round. Wisehart originally comes from bareback rider country in Kersey, Colorado, which is also home to five-time World Champion and ProRodeo Hall of Fame Bareback Rider Bruce Ford.

“I grew up 10 miles across the river from Bruce,” said Wisehart, who wore purple to honor Tarleton’s school color. “I’ve looked up to him all my life—he’s an idol. Bruce’s brother Glenn and Glenn’s son Heath helped me a lot along the way. A guy by the name of Stuart Sheldon, who rodeoed with Bruce and Glenn, actually gave me my start. Stuart gave me my first bareback riggin’, my first glove, and my first bucking-machine experience. Glenn and Heath helped me with things like gloves and perfect practice on the spur board.”

LUKE BROWN - JAKE LONG - Print.jpgTeam ropers Luke Brown and Jake Long will rope in todays championship round at the $500,000 WCRA Semi-Finals.

Ironically, Wisehart grew up competing in every event but bulldogging before going all-in in the bareback riding.

“I didn’t start bareback riding until I was 18, back in 2007,” said Wisehart, now 31. “Now I’m just doing what I love. And I love what the WCRA has started. Rodeo is a part of me. I keep waking up thinking I’m going to retire. Then God says, ‘No. Not yet.’ So here I am.”

Constant world team roping race contenders Luke Brown and Jake Long are in the house here, too. They were 4.77 last tonight, and will rope again today.

“When you have a chance to rope at this much money, you need to be a part of it any way you can,” said Brown, 44, who’ll compete at his 11th straight Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas next month, and fittingly rode his horse Fast Time here tonight. “When you’re talking about a big-money event, you need to get yourself here, whether it’s the NFR, the BFI (Bob Feist Invitational Team Roping Classic), or a $500,000 rodeo, like this one. With all the money up, the next two months could be life-changing.”

Brown is a native of Rock Hill, South Carolina, and noted that there are other team ropers here from far, far away in his part of the country roping here. Sure enough, Jacob Dagenhart of Statesville, North Carolina, and Adam Plyler of Pageland, South Carolina, also advanced to today’s championship round, as did tonight’s fast-time team—brothers Josh and Jonathan Torres from Florida, who made a snappy, 4.68-second run. Tonight’s world traveler award has to go to team ropers Heath Nichols of Willow Tree, New South Wales, Australia, and Benjamin Smith of Moonbi, which is also in New South Wales.

Kansas native Long, 34, came to the Lazy E from quite a lot closer in his current home of Morgan Mill, Texas. He’s riding American Quarter Horse Association/PRCA Heel Horse of the Year Colonel here this week.

“It’s fun to get to compete and have a warm-up like this before the NFR,” said Long, who next month will rope behind Brown at his seventh NFR. “It’s good to get to rope with the music going and the adrenaline running. There’s no substitute for performing under pressure.”