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Tyler Waltz named World Champion Bareback Rider

LAURA JAMESON/THE EXPRESS Tyler stands with the saddle he was given with “World Champion Bareback Rider 2018” engraved on the side. He’s also wearing the belt buckle he was awarded.

By LAURA JAMESON

ljameson@lockhaven.com

AVIS — “I don’t know any other way of life.”

Tyler Waltz has lived and breathed rodeo since he could walk. From playing pretend with his Dad, Dave — Tyler as the cowboy and his Dad as a raging bull trying to buck him off — to watching his sisters, Lauren and Courtney, participate in rodeos.

The rodeo has always called to him, and he was more than eager to answer.

Tyler and his mom Cindy hold up three of the belt buckles he won during the 2018 International Professional Rodeo Association finals. The fourth is attached to his belt.

On Jan. 20, Tyler’s hard work and dedication paid off.

He was named the World Champion Bareback Rider at the International Professional Rodeo Association (IPRA) finals.

Bareback riding is a rough event, where a rider must ride a bucking horse without the benefit of a saddle, trying to stay on the horse while the animal attempts to buck him off. It’s a very tough and physically demanding sport.

To make it harder, the rider doesn’t know what horse he or she will ride until the event.

Riders draw a horse from a group, Tyler said. Typically a rider never sees the same horse twice.

Tyler’s newest belt buckle and saddle that was named after the 2018 World Champion Bareback Rider at the International Professional Rodeo Association Finals. From left, Tyler’s parents, Dave and Cindy, his sister Courtney, Tyler, his girlfriend Bri Dubar and his sister Lauren.

Tyler said the fact that he won the world champion title didn’t really sink in until his family threw him a party the weekend of Feb. 9.

“It hadn’t sunk in until then,” he said, “It feels pretty good.”

Tyler has participated in rodeos since he was 5 or 6 years old. Back then, he didn’t just focus on bareback riding.

“I did everything as a kid,” he said.

A typical rodeo involves steer wrestling, bull riding, barrel racing, team roping, bronc riding, calf roping and steer roping, he said.

Over time bareback riding became his main focus, although he’s branched out just a bit lately.

Recently, he’s taken up steer wrestling again. The goal in steer wrestling is to use strength and technique to wrestle a steer to the ground as quickly as possible.

Tyler stopped participating in the sport when he blew out his knee a few years ago.

He decided to give it a go again, but just not participate as rigorously as he did in the past to avoid injury, he said.

Injuries are nothing new to the 28-year-old.

“The first part of my career was basically injuries,” he said. From broken arms, to dislocating his collar bone from his sternum, he’s experienced it all.

His biggest injury came his junior year of high school when he broke his right femur at the National High School Finals (NHSF) in Farmington, N. M.

The nearly career ending injury didn’t stop him though. After recovering Tyler got right back in the saddle so to speak, determined to continue living his dream.

Luck didn’t seem to be on his side, however. During a pro-rodeo event before the NHSF Tyler was hooked by a bull, causing him to break his right femur again. This time it not only broke the bone, it bent the metal rod meant to keep his femur in place.

It took trips to four different hospitals to find a doctor who could remove the rod without having to amputate his leg, he said.

“It was starting to feel like it wasn’t going to end,” Tyler said. It was around this time he seriously considered walking away from a career in the rodeo.

But the rodeo world is all Tyler had known and it was something he always wanted to be a part of.

After graduating from Jersey Shore High School in 2008 he attended the University of Tennessee in Martin, Tenn. on a rodeo scholarship and earned a degree in Agriculture. He was benched for a time during his freshman year while he waited for his injured leg to heal.

Once cleared to participate, Tyler made the College National Rodeo Finals his freshman year.

In 2014, during his senior year, his team was awarded the National Team Title during the finals. It was the first time a team “east of the Mississippi” won the competition, Dave said.

As a kid Tyler would spend all day everyday practicing but as his experience grew the hours needed lessened.

“It’s like every other sport, you workout and practice about a half hour to an hour everyday,” he said. “It pretty much becomes a way of life.”

Even though the finals were only a little over a month ago, Tyler is already back on the road and participating in the 2019 competitions.

He travels all across the country to participate in rodeos that will lead him back to the finals to defend his title.

A camper attached to the back of his truck is his home away from home while he travels, he said. He doesn’t like to fly and prefers the long drives over a short flight.

When he’s not participating in rodeos, Tyler helps his Dad at their farm just outside of Avis. He’s also involved in the family’s business TLC Fuels Inc.

His family and girlfriend, fellow rodeo participant Bri Dubar, are very proud of Tyler’s accomplishments over the years. He’s won approximately 30 belt buckles, his Mom, Cindy said.

“I’m very proud, he’s worked hard (and) he’s a very determined young man,” she said.

In the future, after he’s retired from participating in rodeos himself, Tyler plans to coach others.

Currently he and his dad teach a program, Roughstock U, at their farm. Every Wednesday night, weather permitting, they teach about three to five kids about rodeo.

They’re hoping to grow the sport here in the eastern part of the country, Cindy said.

“I hope someday he can coach at a college level,” she said. “He’s very talented.”

His dedication and passion show that with hard work you can truly make your dreams come true, even if there are a few bumps in the road along the way.

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