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One tough hombre'

Towner’s Thorson qualifies for National High School Rodeo Finals in steer roping and bull riding

June 24, 2009
Matt Mullally

One word quickly comes to Tyler Thorson's mind when describing a successful rodeo competitor.


The 16-year-old from Towner knows all about that, competing on the high school rodeo circuit in some of the most rugged events.

At the high school finals in Bowman earlier this month, Thorson was the champion in steer wrestling; finished third in bull riding; and was eighth in calf roping and team roping.

For his efforts he will advance to next month's National High School Rodeo Finals in Farmington, New Mexico and compete in the steer wresting and bull riding events. The top four finishers in each event at the state finals qualify for nationals.

He was a quick study in steer wrestling, starting that event just last year. "You've got to be technically correct and be aggressive,'' Thorson explains. "You can't hesitate for a second."

He's been riding bulls since age 13. "You have to be willing to get hurt and be mentally tough."

Arguably, there is no event more daunting - and dangerous. However, Thorson enjoys it, noting the challenge of staying on the bull for the required eight seconds to post a score.

Tyler has been attending rodeos ever since he was five. He competed for two years in the junior high ranks and now is in his second season in the high school division. The season begins in the fall, breaks during the winter and resumes in the spring, ending with the finals in Bowman. All totaled, he competes in about 10 rodeos a year, mostly in western North Dakota.

His parents, Scott and Kirsty Thorson, participated when they were young, even competing in college. And he has an uncle and cousin in Montana who have enjoyed success. "I learned from them," Tyler said.

He is currently the only Towner student competing in high school rodeo competitions. It's not a sport that has much of a following outside of the rodeo community, Tyler admits, but that doesn't deter the dedication and effort the participants put in.

While it's a competition, it's a friendly one.

"You want to do good, but you're also cheering on your friends,'' he said. "You make a lot of new friends."

Thorson, who will be a junior at Towner School this coming August, is looking forward to his first trip to nationals, which will be July 19-25, noting he practices nearly every day.

He competed in the junior high national event a few years back,but knows this will be a quite different experience.

The competition will be strong, and performing on the big stage will test his nerves.

However, Tyler has a goal in mind, saying he wants to make it to the competition's short round.

That will mean recording scores good enough in the first two rounds to secure a top 24 finish.

Regardless of where he ends up, the chance to compete at a national competition will prove valuable.

"It's definitely going to be the highlight of my summer,'' he said.



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