Luke Simonin wanted to be the top steer wrestler in B.C., but kept it under his hat.
Going into his third season with a more serious approach, Simonin admits his goal seemed far-fetched.
The Naramata resident was in Quesnel Sept. 13 to 15 for the B.C. Rodeo Association finals and Simonin wrapped up a strong season by being the only cowboy to pin steer all three days. Helping Simonin with that was his horse, Yankee, owned by mentor, John Van Horlick. By winning the championship, Simonin earned $1,700 to finish the season with $5,061.
“It’s worked out pretty good,” said Simonin, who just snuck into the finals last year.
Throughout the season he battled with friend Cole Scott of Kamloops. Simonin managed to take the lead in Barriere.
“It basically came down to the last one,” he said. “Whoever was going to place well there was going to take the season leader. It was kind of neat. A fun way to finish it off.”
The BCRA has a leader board with the person who accumulates the most points in first. The finals is a separate rodeo in a tournament style that takes the top 10. Each person then gets three runs with the average calculated.
During the season, Simonin experienced a family loss when his father Chuck, died suddenly of a heart attack. The two had a close relationship and Luke said that he used his father in a spiritual way as motivation to win.
“It was a big shocker not to have him there,” said Simonin, whose father pushed him to do his best. “I wished he could have been there.”
Van Horlick said that Chuck was an amazing cowboy who competed in the Calgary Stampede 25 years in a row as a wild horse racer.
“A real competitive game and he won a gold medal in the Olympics when they had it as a trial event,” he said. “Rodeo is in Luke’s blood. His dad was a great example for him.”
Asked about Simonin’s season, Van Horlick said it was really good.
“Takes a while to get the little things figured out,” said Van Horlick. “He’s got the natural attributes. He’s big (6-foot-4, 245 pounds) and strong. He wants to do it. He craves it. He wants to go on and be a pro.”
Van Horlick said that he doesn’t really coach him, but throws a few pointers his way. Van Horlick said steer wrestling is about learning on your own. Simonin, however, said that Van Horlick has been instrumental. Simonin said he wouldn’t be where he is today without his mentor and loves Yankee.
Simonin said the worst part of the sport is getting over the learning curve, which took him a year-and-a-half. Midway through last season Simonin said to himself things have to come around.
“I can’t keep hitting the ground like this. Something has to change,” he told himself.
Making steer wrestling a challenging sport is that it’s timed.
“To be quick there is a lot of technique,” he said. “It all happens pretty quick. Make sure you do prep work before. Work with the horse. It’s exciting to go from a stand-still to 30 to 35 miles an hour in about three seconds and try to line it all up, drop in, catch the steer.
“It’s a pretty sweet deal,” said Simonin.