On The Trail with Jayco Roper
When your grandma is Betty Roper, the winningest barrel racer in the International Professional Rodeo Association, the announcer often mentions her when introducing you to […]
Wyatt Casper can breathe a little easier after winning $600,000 at the AMERICAN. “When I’m home, I like to be home – and that’s what this money will help with,” said the Pampa, Texas, cowboy. “It’s tough, when I’m gone in the summer and my family can’t go with me. I go with buddies – we bust our butts for three months putting 45,000 miles on our rigs. Thank God for cell phones.” Last year, Wyatt supplemented his income by working for his dad, trucking.
The Casper family (John, Amy and Ty, Clay, and Wyatt) moved from Minnesota to the Panhandle of Oklahoma when Wyatt was 5. “I transferred my trucking company (Casper Express) down there and never looked back or regretted it,” said John, who tried a little bit of everything in rodeo, but when he started raising a family, he settled on team roping when he can. “It was a great move for us – we wanted our boys to grow up rodeoing and cowboying and have more opportunities.” All three boys found success in rodeo from the junior high level to the national level. Clay has gone on to success at the USTRC Finals and Ty has won many Top Hand awards at ranch rodeos. Wyatt qualified for the National High School Finals Rodeo in team roping in 2010 and for saddle bronc riding in 2014.
Wyatt didn’t get on a saddle bronc until his senior year in high school. “When Oklahoma high school only had two guys entered the first semester and neither one stayed on a horse, the money piled up,” he said. “There were six of us trying for that money by spring. If it weren’t for that, I don’t think I would have set foot on a bronc horse. I went out to OPSU in Goodwell that spring and Robert Etbauer and some of the other college kids helped me out.”
“He’s a great bronc rider and it’s been fun watching him,” said Robert Etbauer, coach at OPSU. Robert qualified for the NFR 12 times; 1988-1992 and 1994-2000 and won the gold buckle in 1990 and 1991. “We’ve got a great facility and we can get those kids started by helping them take care of themselves before they get on – Wyatt had a lot determination.”
After graduating from a class of 15 from Balko (Okla.) High School in 2014, he went on to Clarendon (Texas) College under the coaching of former PRCA bronc rider Bret Frank. He earned an associates in welding. He got his PRCA card in 2015 and last year was the toughest year he’s had. “I only won $3,500 between June 1 and August 31,” he said. “I went through that time just trying to forget about the week and look forward to the next week. It was really tough – I was digging a hole and all I could think about was digging harder to get out of it. I thought I’d been riding good but hadn’t been getting paid.” By the end of August, he started winning money and finished last year in 33rd place.
The other thing that helped Wyatt is changing his riding style. “I shortened the seat of my saddle – 16 ¼, pulled my stirrups up and my binds up and that’s allowed me to expose myself in the back and show off those horses a lot better. I just tried it and ended up loving it.”
“He’s waited a long time for this,” said his mom, Amy, a Special Ed teacher at Balko. “His dad and I have supported him from the beginning and told him to never give up. Financially we were there for him if he ever needed it to keep going down the road and doing what he loves. He’s a great kid and has a beautiful family. He has a huge following up here in Balko, in Minnesota and Pampa – always cheering him on.” Amy has already taken the ten days off for the 2020 NFR.
Wyatt has never been to the NFR. “I said I wasn’t going until I make it.” Since a few rodeos cancelled, Wyatt headed home after the AMERICAN, which he says is now his favorite rodeo. “Hands down that’s my favorite – it’s such a cool place to ride.” Wyatt rode there in 2016, and was 78 points. He’s happy to be heading home to spend time with his family.
He met Lesley at college. “I saw her and asked some friends about her. We were entered at the same rodeo, it rained pretty hard and she messaged me on Facebook about the ground. I stayed consistent after that and met her at another rodeo.” They were engaged on March 24, 2016 and married the following May 13. They have two children; Cooper, born November 4, 2018 and Cheyenne, born December 6, 2019.
He is going to seek counsel on the best way to invest his current earnings. “My brother in law bought 12,000 acres in Miama Texas, and wants us to help them so we might go that route. I’m going to talk to some people who have gone through this – I’ve got some people in mind to pick their brains to figure out what is going to be best for me and my family.”
Wyatt’s goal is to earn enough and invest enough that rodeo will carry him into his next venture. “I want stuff in place for me to already be making money when I’m done rodeoing.” His goal for riding is to ride at least 80% of his horses and use them. “I want to go at each horse the same and use them to my ability.” Last year, he rode 78% of his horses and so far this year he until Houston he was 35 for 35, with 30 of those rides being over 80 points. Houston didn’t go so well. “I landed straight on top of my head. I’m good – they say I have a compressed fracture on T1, but stable. I need to take a month off.”
Wyatt started out in the roping pen, team roping and calf roping. He still ropes when he has time. “My wife barrel races and I’m training some of her young horses; hopefully by the time I’m done riding broncs we’ll have some horses going and some colts coming along.”
“I am so proud of Wyatt,” said Lesley. “I have been with Wyatt basically from the start of his bronc riding career and to see him grow so much and come this far is truly amazing. Whatever Wyatt wants, he sets his mind to it and he always reaches that goal. He is a fantastic father and husband.”
For now his priorities remain the same – God first, family second, rodeo third. “We all wouldn’t be here without our Lord and Savior.”
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