Meet the Member Libby Berger
story by Lindsay King Third generation rodeo competitor 13-year-old Libby Berger from Udall, Kansas, has a need for speed. “Barrels or breakaway roping is my […]
story by Magie Downare-Nevius
CePRA steer wrestler, Jake Ritz, has made quite a hand when it comes to leaving the box. Having started back in with the association last season, after taking a couple of years off to focus on additional ambitions, Jake finished as the reserve champion steer wrestler and has already begun to climb the 2015 standings. While the bulldogger’s list of accomplishments include a 2007 year-end championship title within the CePRA, he expands his talents to occasionally entering the calf roping. “The CePRA offers rodeos closer to home, which enables me to keep my business going in the process of not having to travel too far,” he said.
Growing up in Michigan, Jake was introduced to steer wrestling by a family friend who showed him the original ropes. He then got involved throughout high school and carried on through a rodeo scholarship to Pratt Community College. His 15 year progression has led him to a membership with the Kansas Professional Rodeo Association (KPRA), where he took to his first year, last season, to capture the reserve champion steer wrestling title. “It was a very good year for me. I hope to have another good year and be able to go to as many rodeos as I did last year,” he said.
As things fell into place, Jake found himself staying in Kansas, where he and his wife (Hannah) have made a home with their two children (Lainey, 5, and Wyatt, 3). “Hannah and I met at college. She was at Pratt on a golf scholarship and is now a stay-at-home mom,” Jake explained. Working mostly in residential remodeling for approximately 10 years, Jake keeps ends met with his company, Ritz Construction. The couple have already introduced their kids to rodeo, where Lainey is a second-year member of the Heartland Youth Rodeo Association and competes in the barrel racing, pole bending, goat tying and dummy roping. Until Wyatt is old enough to take to the arena, Jake says that his interest in the sport is extensive. “He wants to do it all, even the rough stock,” he said. A tight-knit support system gives the Ritz family the opportunity to hit rodeos together. “There are times that we all load up and I take them all with me. It’s great family time to enjoy together, which is what rodeo is all about,” Jake says.
When his family can’t go, Jake often takes the road with his powerhouse steer wrestling traveling partners; Kyle Van Doren, Joe Ross, Grant Heller and Travis Thimesch. “We try to enter together to make traveling that much more easier,” Jake said. Adding together the company of old friends, Jake also credit’s the Van Doren family for much of his feats. “I wouldn’t have the success that I have had without the Van Doren’s. I ride their horse and practice at their house while using their steers. They are truly a great family and it has been great to be associated with them,” Jake said.
With the 2015 season coming on strong, Jake has set his mind and body in determination mode. “I had a very blessed year last year and I figure that I need to be in the right position for it to happen again. I hope to stay healthy and have been hitting the gym, riding more and doing my homework, so to speak, that goes along with steer wrestling,” he said.
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