Professional Roughstock Series riders profiles

Farm Forum

The American Rodeo is one of the biggest paying rodeo’s in the world. Last year’s American Champion, Richmond Champion, won $1 million.

Many of the riders participating, some of the best in the world, have triumphed through injuries, inexperience and long hours on the road away from their families to make it to this point in their career.

Black Hills to Go was able to talk with three world-ranked riders about their journey to the highest point in the Professional Roughstock Series. Here are there stories.

Living with cowboy genes

Rodeo and bareback riding are somewhat of a legacy for Josi Young.

The 32-year-old south Idaho native grew up watching his father, Mickey Young, become an 11-time National Finals Rodeo bareback champion while dominating the competition.

“Rodeo seemed to just fit in my life ever since I was born,” he said.

But following in a legend’s footsteps poses its own unique challenges, Young said.

“When I was younger I put up with learning and getting better while getting criticism from other people,” Young said. “They just thought I should jump out and be good just because of who my dad was.”

But the lifestyle fit him like a good pair of blue jeans and he pushed through the criticism by working harder.

To stay fit for the demanding sport, Young boxes daily and leads an active lifestyle to stay at the top of his game physically and mentally, he said.

“Everything you do outside of the arena reflects inside of the arena,” Young said. “This is as extreme as a sport you can get. There is no whistle to stop you or time outs. This is man against beast literally and you have to be prepared for that.”

When confronted with doubts or setbacks, Young said he looks to his father for inspiration and encouragement.

“It’s hard to match or live up to something like him,” Young said. “You just have to let the chips fall where they may sometimes.”

Unexpected rodeo career

Growing up in central Arkansas, Jared Keylon didn’t have much exposure to the rodeo scene. He did, however, know about chuck-wagon racing.

The now 30-year-old got his start as a professional bareback rider after gaining exposure from amateur rodeo contractors who saw him ride horses for a family friend, who helped manage the National Finals Chuckwagon Races.

“I took a lot of trial and determination and heart,” Keylon, who now lives in Uniontown, Kansas, said. “I’m not from a rodeo family; we were from a family of loggers.”

The encounter with the rodeo contractors changed his life. Until then, he had spent much of his life catching chickens for Tyson Foods and working as a garbage man.

“I had a different life riding bucking horses, a life I enjoyed. So, I pursued it,” Keylon said.

Pursuing it meant giving it 110 percent from the start, he said. In his first rodeo in Pendleton, Ore., he went in as a novice but ended up winning, he said.

“I couldn’t believe it when they told me, ‘that’s your saddle Jared,’” he said.

From there, Keylon said he wasn’t sure what to do other than moving forward with his new-found profession.

“I told myself, ‘I’m going to do it not just for myself but my wife and kid,’” he said.

Keylon suffered numerous setbacks early in his career, including a career-threatening broken leg and collarbone, and coming up one spot short of qualifying for the National Finals Rodeo in his first try.

That episode only added fuel to his competitive fire.

“I didn’t think I was good enough, but I didn’t want to back up. I wanted to push forward and be the best I could be.”

Serious pain, serious gain

A severe brain injury, a dislocated shoulder and two weeks spent in a coma couldn’t stop McKennon Wimberly from making his dream of becoming a world champion bull rider a reality.

The 26-year-old man from Cool, Texas, has always felt that persistence is one of his most defining characteristics and that quality definitely played a part in overcoming that 2011 injury, he said.

“That was something they didn’t expect me to come back from, but I don’t take no for an answer very well,” Wimberly said. “I never slowed down and never saw it as a reason to hinder me. I just pushed through it by riding horse and being around livestock.”

The reigning World Rough Stock series bull riding champion always knew he wanted to be a bull rider, just like his dad, he said. He grew up surrounded by some of the greatest role models of the sport, he said.

“I’ve had some great times and moments, just along with the bad ones,” he said.

As a professional bull rider, Wimberly said he’s come to realize that this career is a none-stop ride to reach the top.

“You are the world champion for a day, and then it starts over and the race is back on and you’re chasing it again,” Wimberly said.

Maybe that is why the boxing legend Muhammad Ali is his idol, he said.

“He always said he was the greatest before he even knew he was and that’s how I feel,” Wimberly said. “It’s not cockiness. its confidence and believing in yourself.”

Wimberly also makes time for his wife and son and likes to take a day to surf at the beach, which he’s learned to do while on the California and Florida rodeo circuits.