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Meet the Member Ray Carlson
story by Lindsay Whelchel
Emerging from the tough field of competitors to championship Sunday at Festival Western de St. Tite in Quebec this year, was a young Oklahoma cowboy by the name of Ray Carlson. At just 19 years old, Ray, better known as RayRay, is well on his way to notoriety in the sport of steer wrestling. A feat made even greater by his atypical stature. Unlike most bulldoggers, Carlson isn’t built as tall and solid as many of his fellow event contestants. But he is focused on strength, not just physical strength, with his studies in college to be a personal trainer and emphasis on taking care of your body in the sport of rodeo, but also on the mental strength it takes to be successful.
“I think the biggest thing it takes to succeed is just heart and having a bunch of try, not psyching yourself out and just keeping the right head. I’m not a very big guy so I have to have a lot of heart and get by with that,” Ray admitted.
Growing up focused on baseball in his childhood, Ray didn’t start rodeoing until the age of 15. His uncle Jason Stewart is a multiple-time International Finals Rodeo qualifier who gladly showed his nephew the ropes once he made the decision to take up the sport however.
And Ray credits many other people with also helping get him where he is today competing in professional rodeo. One such person is IPRA World Champion Steer Wrestler, Walt Sherry, who has made 10 trips to Oklahoma City for the IFR. Ray lives and works with Walt in Atwood, Oklahoma. Ray also credits IPRA member Tanner McElhaney for hauling him much of this year. “A lot of credit goes to him and his horses. He’s just a huge part of my success this year,” he said.
Ray competed in high school rodeo and joined the IPRA in 2015. This year, he’s well on his way to his own IFR qualification.
Initially, Ray also competed in roping but was drawn more to the adrenaline rush of steer wrestling so focuses solely on that sport now that he’s out of high school.
This year has taught him a lot by competing for the first time steadily in pro rodeo.
“It’s just really taught me that you have to have a good mindset. You’ve got to be in control of your own head and take care of everything. The most important thing I’ve learned this year is taking care of your body. I’ve kind of had some bumps and bruises along the way and they seem to be catching up with me these past few weeks,” he admitted before competing in Quebec in September, so he added, “the most important thing I think is just taking care if your body and making sure you stay in your right mindset.”
We’ll be watching for all of that focus and strength to pay off in Oklahoma City in January.