Clayton Van Aken is a California transplant. Born and raised in Descanso, California, a little town 40 miles southeast of San Diego, he grew up […]
On The Trail with Stetson Wright
Written by: Siri Stevens< Back to Articles
Stetson’s first bucking horse was his brother. “We had a TV stand with swinging doors,” he explained. “Rusty would get in there, we’d open the door, and he’d ride out, with me or Ryder riding.”
Now, at the age of 20, he’s joining his two brothers at the WNFR. “I didn’t know how soon it was going to happen, but I’m glad it’s now,” said the Beaver, Utah, cowboy who is going to Vegas sitting second in the bull riding and leading the all around. “I felt like I was ready, but I didn’t think I would have this much success this soon – I’ve always expected it of myself. Me and my brothers have always dreamed of this since watching my dad.” And watch their dad, Cody, is what Stetson has done since he was little. He’s been to every performance of the WNFR since he was three years old, watching dad for 13 years, then Rusty, who made his first WNFR in 2015, then Ryder in 2016, and now he is going.
The Wright family has made NFR history twice now – in 2014 when four of them (Jesse, Jake, Cody and Spencer) all qualified for the WNFR in the same year and again in 2016 when Cody and his sons, Rusty and Ryder, became the first father and two sons to compete in the same event at the WNFR.
“In my opinion, my dad’s the greatest bronc rider that ever lived. He might not have 6 world titles to show for it, but he’s perfected the style – he stays back, sets his feet, and he’s fast. From a husband to a dad – everything – he’s great. He tells us to trust our stuff and keep gassing it and just perform like you’re in the practice pen. He keeps us all positive; he’s a very positive guy.”
Cody enters all three of his sons as well as two others. “He’s one of the best – he enters five guys and all five of us made it to the Finals this year. If we didn’t have him, we’d lose a lot of sleep. He wakes up every morning, looks at the books and enters us.” Along with entering the boys, Cody enjoys training dogs – border collies and kelpies. “Training dogs and entering us makes his living.” Along with his two older brothers, Rusty and Ryder, Stetson has a younger brother, Statler, 16; and a younger sister, Lily, 10. “Stetson’s my middle man,” said his mom, ShaRee. All of her kids rodeo and say collectively that if Lily could ride rough stock she’d be better than all the boys.
Stetson started riding broncs the summer before his freshman year in high school. He started riding bulls in the 5th and under state program and then did junior high and miniature bulls before getting on bulls in high school. “I honestly wasn’t good at riding bulls, Rusty and Ryder were better and it bugged me that I wasn’t good at it. It finally clicked my junior year and it’s been good going ever since.” He also played football and wrestled.
His senior year, 2017, he won the National High School Finals All Around along with All Around at the IFYR the same year. After high school, he rode on his permit in 2018.
He had a setback last year in Kansas. “I had won about $70,000 on my permit. The bull stepped down on my hips. I tore my knee and it put me out for the rest of the year.” When he went to enter San Angelo, he had $100 left. “That made me really smart about my money. It was an awful feeling.” He won the first round and that put $5,000 back in his pocket. He won two rounds in San Antonio, so left there with over $20,000. That made rodeoing a little easier on my stomach.”
He had another setback when he broke his jaw this July in Kansas. “Honestly, it didn’t give me a concussion; it was such a perfect hit under my jaw. He hit me in the head first time, and that slid my helmet up; now I’ve got plates and screws and I lost four front bottom teeth.”
He kept riding horses, but didn’t do as well as he had hoped. He got on his first bull in St George, September 21, but had slipped behind Sage Kimzey in the standings. “I passed him and broke my jaw. There’s plenty of money to be won. If I didn’t think I could win, I wouldn’t have bought my card.”
Stetson will join his two brothers as the recipient of the Resistol Rookie of the Year in the saddle bronc riding. He is also a contender for the All Around and Bull Riding saddles. “It’s not surprising,” said ShaRee of her son’s accomplishments. “He has always been a determined kid. Once he sets his mind to stuff, he works to get it. It’s super neat to see him work towards these goals. It was a setback when he broke his jaw July 31 in Dodge City, the day after his birthday.” That rodeo was one he went to by himself. “He usually travels with Ryder, and he was by himself. “I think they are each other’s biggest support team,” she said. “It’s hard as a mom when you have one that wins and one that doesn’t.”
Now that Stetson is about to get on 10 bulls, he is working on keeping in shape. “I’m hopefully going to be healthy and fast so I can outlast everyone there.” He’s doing it with speed and agility drills, to get his feet fast. He likes to ride his bike too. “I jump up on crates, sprint through ladders, and run across the field. Mostly running and jumping.” His goal for the WNFR is to be the fourth guy to ride all ten bulls at the NFR; Jim Sharp, 1988; Adriano Moraes, 1994; Norman Curry, 1990. “I figure if I did that the world champion would come easy.”
After the WNFR, Stetson and his fiancé, Callie, will welcome their first daughter in January. The couple plan to marry shortly after the WNFR. Stetson will start the 2020 season in Denver. “I’m going to get on for as long as I can,” he concluded. “I’m excited to see what’s in store for us.”