“I’ve always roped conservatively. That’s how I was taught.”
However, the now three time world champion steer roper has changed his philosophy.
“It took me a long time to learn to let go and be fast when I needed to. I guess I’ve been around long enough now,” contended Rocky Patterson of Pratt.
It was his 18th year to qualify for the two-night, 20-round National Finals Steer Roping, this year in Guthrie, Oklahoma, going there at second place.
The world champion in 2009 and 2010, Patterson was second a year ago, increasing his adrenalin to move back up. But, the championship went right down to his final steer.
Leadership in the world standings changed frequently at the finals, with Patterson moving to head of the heap after winning the third round in 12.2 seconds.
No check in the fourth go, but after splitting second and third in the fifth and final round of the first night, with a 10.9, Patterson went behind the chute, cut the tape off his sprained left ankle, and slept well with his lead for the world championship.
Winning the sixth round in 10.2, ranking second in the seventh with an 11.6, and third in the eighth with a 13.4, Patterson split fifth in the ninth with a 12 flat.
But, three ropers still had a chance to take the championship. And, as the evening progressed, Patterson was forced to win the final round to be that titlist.
The same scenario had occurred when Patterson collected his first title three years earlier. Patterson repeated the task, tying his steer to claim the round in 10.3 seconds, and his third world championship.
Crediting his competition, Patterson said. “We’re used to Trevor (Brazile, the runner-up) roping flawlessly. It’s an honor to rope against him, and to come out on top, that’s just icing.”
However, winning three rounds and placing in four others was just enough to slip into fifth place in the average and edge Brazile for the championship by $419.
His yearend total winnings of $91,932 brought Patterson’s lifetime professional rodeo earnings to $928,606, since starting in 1992 when, he won the steer roping rookie of the year title.
Having qualified for the finals every year except one since 1994, Patterson even made it in 2002, when he suffered a broken leg in July and missed most of the summer.
En route to this year’s finals, Patterson won the steer roping at eight professional rodeos, including the National Circuit Finals Steer Roping in Torrington, Wyoming.
What does it take to win a world championship and repeat that three times? “I’ve been competing in rodeos since 1975, and it still requires lots of practice,” Patterson contended. “Getting ready for the finals, I’ll often rope 60-70 steers a day, with three or four horses used in rotation.”
Rodeo and roping have been a part of his entire life. “We had an arena at our place between Anthony and Kiowa when I was growing up,” Patterson recalled. “My dad, Phil, roped when I was young, and I roped a lot with my brothers, Randy and Ronnie.”
After collecting Kansas High School Rodeo Association awards in calf roping, team roping and steer wrestling, Patterson competed in the National High School Rodeo Association Finals.
While attending Allen County Junior College, Patterson qualified individually for the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association Finals.
That earned him a place on the Panhandle State University Rodeo Team in Goodwell, Oklahoma. “We won several regional championships and did well at the finals,” recalled Patterson, who met his wife, Shelly, while competing at a Texas rodeo.
Following college, Patterson became an agriculture instructor at Pratt Community College. “That was about the time I started roping steers. I’d always wanted to,” he stated.
Now, Patterson has a cow herd and manages cattle grazing pastures. “That and roping is mostly what I do,” he commented.
Horses are the key element to being successful in the arena, Patterson emphasized. “I will occasionally fly to a rodeo, but not very often, because I like to ride my own horses.
“I’ve sold a few top horses, but it takes a lot of horses to practice, and to have a good one available, if another horse gets hurt,” remarked Patterson, who also keeps a couple dozen cattle ready for use at practice time.
Steer roping occupies most of his time, but Patterson does team rope with his sons, Cole, 17, and Caden, 13.
Strong family affection for high school rodeo action is apparent as Patterson’s mom, Marcella, is well known in state and national circles, having served as point keeper for the state group many years.
Longevity of steer ropers was compared to golfers, which Patterson is too. “I think I have several years of competitiveness left in me,” Patterson evaluated. “It’ll be hard to ever quit roping.”
Cody Scheck, Ellinwood, placed 11th for the year in steer roping with $40,301, in earnings.