Meet the Member Tony McDowell
story by Michele Toberer There’s luck, then there’s beginners’ luck, and Tony McDowell may just have both. Although the argument that luck is just preparation […]
story by Michele Toberer
Jake Morinec’s story doesn’t begin with a dad and grandpa that rodeoed, passing the love of the sport down to him. But he does have parents that support the dreams of their 16-year-old son, who found a passion for rodeo on a family vacation. Mike, a mechanic, and Cheryl Morinec, an accountant, would take Jake and his younger siblings, Cami, 14, and Danny, 12 to camp at the Double J Ranch in Michigan, and he was always drawn to the rodeos held there. “I started riding sheep there until I got too big, but I was always watching the bullriders. Dalton Mursch was the youngest bullrider there and saw how interested I was. He let me borrow his gear when I was 12, and I got on my first bull. The bull took two jumps out, I did two flips in the air and hit the ground, but immediately fell in love with the sport.”
That first ride led to a search for jackpots and rodeos so that Jake could learn as much as he could about becoming a bull rider. Jake is grateful that his journey led him to meeting Mike Latting who has been instrumental in helping him get on bulls and giving him advice on riding. Jake attended two bull riding schools instructed by Gary Leffew and his parents continued to haul him to multiple junior high rodeos and bull ridings across several states. “I was at a Big Hat rodeo and I had started a good ride, but I lost my foot right before the buzzer and got hit in the face and almost knocked out. I ended up with a concussion. Matt Wright from the Rugged Cross Cattle Company in Grand Ridge, Illinois saw me and decided to start a program to help kids that had potential but could use help with skills to unlock the potential they had.” Jake now goes at least once a week to see Matt, where he offers weekly practices for kids, making sure to have correct stock for all levels of riders. “Matt really wants to help grow the sport in Illinois, and he’s even started to crack back out riding bulls again trying to make the regional finals. I really look up to Matt, he can ride; I’ve watched him ride some really rank bulls and I’ve never seen him get bucked off.”
The Lincoln Way Central sophomore finished as the 2018 Illinois High School Rodeo Association third-place bull rider and made his first trip to national finals last year. “I made a couple great starts on rides at finals but didn’t cover either bull. But it was great meeting kids and hearing stories from kids all over the country and Canada.” Last year while at one of Mike Latting’s rodeos, he told Jake about the IMRA finals, and Jake was excited to compete during the IFR49 at the International Miniature Rodeo Association Finals in Oklahoma in January. “It was a cool experience to get to ride in that arena and see all the little kids make such rank rides. I made it to the short-go, my second bull turned back but I rode super square, it was a fun bull ride. I ended up third-place overall.”
Knowing how hard it is to jump into a sport you know nothing about, Jake was inspired to start Stickem’s Rodeo Company, where he is determined to help beginning riders get good-quality, safe equipment to get started with. “So many people starting out just don’t know what equipment to even get, so I try to find proper equipment for riders starting out so they can ride safe.” Jake has also started an apparel line and will be offering hats and shirts to help with getting down the road and has sponsored his first two riders, Wade Abel and his sister Andy Abel.
Jake plans to ride bulls through college and thinks Iowa Central College may be a good fit for him, “They have a good welding program and I’d like to be on the college’s rodeo team.” However, his goal is to ride bulls at the professional level, either at the PBR like his favorite rider, Eric Lee, or under the big lights of the NFR one day.
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