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Written by: Lily Landreth< Back to Articles
Sterling Gehrke does not believe in doing anything by halves, especially rodeo. “I’m a really competitive person, and I don’t like to lose,” explained the 18-year-old. “I like to do well at everything I do. When I start something, I try to do the best I can at it.” Sterling first started competing in rodeo when he was 10. After watching a friend rodeo, he wanted to give the sport a try. His parents, Lyle and Dawn Gehrke, have never competed in rodeo, but they wholeheartedly support Sterling’s pursuits and try to be at every one of his rodeos.
This is Sterling’s final year competing in the SDHSRA, having competed with the association since he was a freshman. His events are tie-down roping and team roping as a header, and he finds equal enjoyment in both. Sterling looks to his dad as his role model, not only for rodeo but for many other things in life. “He helps me when I’m practicing and he always helps me with what I did wrong,” said Sterling.
The Gehrke family lives about six miles outside of Castlewood, S.D. They enjoy horseback riding together, and the Gehrke’s have eight horses, two of which are Sterling’s rodeo horses. He heads off of his gelding, Ray, and does his tie-down roping on his mare, Josie. Sterling and his dad finished training Ray for rodeo, but bought Josie when she was new to tie-down roping and trained her themselves. It was a long process, but she has proven to be a steady roping horse. In the summer, the Gehrke’s keep roping calves and steers and Sterling is able to practice in his family’s arena.
While Sterling may take the winter off of riding, he stays busy with plenty of other activities. He is a senior at Watertown High School where he wrestles on his school’s team, the Watertown Arrows. He has been wrestling varsity since eighth grade, and last summer he wrestled for Team South Dakota at the Disney Duals in Orlando, Fla. In addition to wrestling, Sterling also enjoys his welding class. He finished his required classes for high school when he was a junior, leaving him more time to spend on wrestling and welding this year. Sterling has made a sign to hang above his family’s driveway, as well as benches for their shop, and he takes care of any projects around his house that need a welder’s know-how.
During the school year, Sterling has wrestling practice every weeknight, with up to two competitions a week, but he still finds time to rope the dummy, or go hunting or fishing with his dog Remy. Sterling also competes in 4-H rodeo which helps fill in the gaps between SDHSRA rodeos. In 2013, he won second in tie-down roping at the South Dakota 4-H Finals Rodeo.
After passing the milestone of high school graduation this spring, Sterling plans to attend South Dakota State University. He will be rodeoing with the college, as well as studying for his major in Ag. Business with a minor in Agronomy. As for his goals in rodeo, in addition to college rodeo, Sterling hopes to conclude his high school rodeoing by competing at the NHSFR this summer. He has competed in the South Dakota state finals rodeo for the past four years, but he is working extra hard to qualify for nationals. His pursuits wouldn’t be possible without the support of his parents, and Sterling concluded, “I’d like to thank my parents for keeping me with good horses and getting me up and down the road.”