By: Kendra Santos
When it comes to helping your competitive rivals and being sincerely happy when the best man wins, there’s no beating bulldoggers. As for opening up the chance for rodeo contestants from all over the career-path spectrum—young, old, part time, full time, those with day jobs and all-in rodeo die-hards alike—to step onto big stages for major money, there’s no beating the World Champions Rodeo Alliance. Take Rodeo Corpus Christi steer wrestlers Tony Aska, Sterling Walton, Tory Johnson and Riley Duvall as examples.
Aska and Walton delivered a one-two punch in last night’s May 12 performance at American Bank Center, and with 4.31- and 4.40-second runs, respectively, advanced to Saturday night’s Showdown Round here at the $553,000 Rodeo Corpus Christi. Both drive truck for a living, but are living proof of the WCRA premise that some people who choose not to travel hard for whatever reason just need a shot.
“I’m a weekend warrior,” smiled 27-year-old Aska, who hails from Tulsa, Oklahoma. “I work during the week driving a soda truck and delivering 7 Up.”
Aska stands above the rest of the steer wrestling field here—literally—at 6’ 7”. During his college career, he played center and power forward on the basketball court at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia, and has only been bulldogging on any sort of regular basis in recent times.
“I grew up with Sterling and Tory,” Aska said. “But my mom wouldn’t let me rodeo much until I got done playing sports. In high school and college, I had to wait until after the Friday Night Lights football and basketball games before I could hit the highway. My mom took me to the rodeos, but only after my games.
“The WCRA is the perfect opportunity for a guy like me. It’s a learning experience, and a chance to win some money while I’m at it.”
Walton drives truck for his own Walton Transports out of Houston, Texas.
“I’m able to work all week, then come compete in the WCRA,” Sterling said. “As a working guy, one of the things I really like about the WCRA rodeos is that you know when they’re going to be, so you can plan ahead. That’s a big part of why the WCRA works for me.”
Four places are paid in each performance in the timed events here, and two advance to the Showdown Round, where the champ will win $15,000. Tony and Tory Johnson–who finished fourth last night with a 5.35-second run–are cousins.
The cowboy camaraderie in this one event alone last night was worth the watch. Tony won it riding his mare Chop Chop, who used to be his pony express horse when he really lived on the wild side in that high-speed, death-defying danger zone. Four-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo steer wrestler Riley Duvall lined things out for Aska over on the hazing side.
Duvall—who’ll bulldog in tonight’s Friday-night performance—actually hazed for five guys Thursday night, including Tony, Sterling, Tory, Bridger Anderson and Laramie Warren. NFR cowboy Anderson also let Walton ride his prized bulldogging horse, Whiskers. I’m telling you, helping each other is how rodeo’s big men roll.
“Riley’s a stand-up guy, and he’s been the same guy since I met him,” Tony said. “He’ll always help you however he can.”
That’s a character trait that comes naturally in the Duvall steer wrestling dynasty.
“I love to haze,” Riley said. “I came a day early strictly to haze for guys I rodeo with, and I enjoy it. I’m also here to bulldog. I only nominated one rodeo (the WCRA’s Cowtown Christmas event in Fort Worth last December) to be here. Somebody’s leaving here Saturday night with $15,000. If I can’t win it bulldogging, I hope to be the guy helping on the hazing side.”