It has been just over a month and half since the lights went out at the Thomas and Mack in Las Vegas for one of the most exciting Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, in recent history! One of the big stories was for Canadian Bronc Rider, Zeke Thurston, in just his 2nd trip to the WNFR and he leaves with not only the WNFR Bronc Riding Average buckle, but also bests a very tough field of cowboys and horses, to win his first Saddle Bronc World Championship.
Thurston’s family is no stranger to the excitement of the National Finals Rodeo, Thurston’s dad, Skeeter, made the big show 6 times, but never did come out with the World Championship. The Big Valley, Alberta cowboy knows that what he did in Las Vegas was something special. Thurston said that his dad (Skeeter) said after the big wins “I never on a World Championship, But I sure raised a World Champion.”
Thurston was gearing up for another busy 2017 rodeo season, when I had a chance to set down and talk with him a bit more about his exciting 2016 finish. Thurston was in Denver at the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo, along with traveling partners Taos Muncy, Tyrel Larson and Isaac Diaz, and was looking forward to keeping the momentum going for the new season.
The new World Champion said that it still has not sunk in that he won the average and World Championship Gold Buckles, but he said that when he got back home, the town’s people made sure he knew they were proud of their hometown cowboy. There was a sign, pictures in the local restaurant and had parties, all congratulating him on the win. “It’s pretty cool seeing the whole town come together and all their support for him. He said the other great part was knowing his fellow Canadians, Jeremy Buhler and Levi Simpson, were receiving the same treatment after winning the Team Roping World Championship, “It was a fun time in Canada for sure!” Canada really showed up this year at the WNFR, with Jake Vold, Orin Larson, Jake Watson and Clay Elliot, all were major competitors at this year’s WNFR!!
What most people don’t know is that as soon as the photos, hand shaking and ceremonies are done on Saturday night in Las Vegas, the World Championship buckles are taken back so they can be completed with the winner’s names on them. Thurston said that was pretty tough “ I was so busy with everything that I did not really get to look at the buckles, so when I get them back and my name is on both of them, then I will be really happy!”
Now that Zeke Thurston is a World Champion Bronc Rider, he knows that will carry some additional responsibility and he said he is read for the challenge. I asked him what he will tell an up and coming rodeo athlete, when they ask him “What do I need to do to get to the same level you are?” Thurston is just 22 years old and know being young should not slow you down for being a winner “I just tell them get on as many horses as they can, throw your name in the hat at big and small rodeos. You will figure out where you stack up against the other guys riding and then you just work on it from there.” For such a young age, Thurston seems to have a good idea on how to be a winner, “When you’re young in rodeo, you are kind of a little fish in a big sea, so you just have to not let it get to you. Have fun and just ride broncs and it will all come together.”
When Zeke said “you are kind of a little fish in a big sea…” With all that has happened to Zeke Thurston in his short pro career, he has proven that his name with be one that talks about for years. So, he is becoming a bigger fish in that sea, and will be getting bigger for a long time!!