SHAWNEE — When Wyatt Rogers steps into the bucking chute Thursday night at the International Finals Youth Rodeo, he will pause for a few seconds to say a prayer and ask his father to watch over him.
It’s something the Locust Grove High School senior does each time since his father’s sudden death in May. Wyatt now rides for his dad, Dusty.
“This year is all for my dad,” Wyatt said. “The IFYR (International Youth Finals Rodeo) and nationals is all for him.”
Warren “Dusty” Rogers of Rose was a steer wrestler and team roper who began teaching his son to be a cowboy almost as soon as Wyatt left the crib.
“My dad said I had a rope in my hand ever since I could walk,” Wyatt said.
Wyatt thinks his father really wanted him to be a professional roper “but he knew that wasn’t going to happen.” At the IFYR this week, Wyatt is competing in team roping and steer wrestling, but his real passion is riding bulls.
Wyatt has been the Oklahoma high school bull riding champion the past two years. On Monday, he scored an 81 on his first bull in the IFYR and gets his second ride Thursday night.
After the first go-round, Wyatt was third in bull riding behind Jake Gowdy of Bristow and Colorado’s Jessiah Jackson, who scored 85 and 82 on their first bulls. The top 15 in each event after two go-rounds advance to Friday night’s championship round.
Wyatt grew up around the rodeo game. For several years, his parents even produced youth rodeos in northeastern Oklahoma.
“People begged (Dusty) for a year to start putting them back on but he just couldn’t because he didn’t make any money as a producer,” Wyatt said.
Dusty worked two jobs, one as a bus driver, to help support the immediate family and Wyatt’s grandmother. Dusty suffered a serious shoulder injury in January while hazing for a cowboy when his bulldogging horse flipped over a steer, Wyatt said.
The injury required surgery and was so severe that Wyatt said his father didn’t know if he could continue to meet the physical demands of his job at the Gates Rubber Company in Siloam Springs, Ark.
His father worried about being able to provide for the family, Wyatt said.
“You could tell he was thinking about it and it was bothering him, but no one thought it was to that extent,” Wyatt said.
On May 18, Dusty Rogers took his own life. He was 55.
The last time Wyatt spoke to his father was when he left the house that night to attend his junior-senior prom.
“I told him that I loved him and he said he would see me in the morning,” Wyatt said.
Wyatt has a strong support system to lean on, including his teammates on the Locust Grove High School basketball team.
His rodeo family held a benefit team roping event last month for Wyatt, raising $15,000 that will help send him to college.
Wyatt has been talking to coaches at Southeastern Oklahoma State University about joining the college rodeo team in Durant when he graduates from high school.
His long-term goal is to ride bulls on the Professional Bull Riding tour. But first, there are championships to be won at the IFYR and in the National High School Finals Rodeo, which starts Sunday in Rock Springs, Wyo.
Wyatt wants to win for his father.
“He would be extremely proud,” Wyatt said.