Coming from a rural town, Wesley Thorp, a junior universal studies major from Throckmorton, followed in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps and started participating in rodeos at a young age. Now, Thorp is the current national champion in team roping along with his partner Cole Wheeler.
“There are ups and downs,” Thorp said. “You might have a week or two in which you don’t have any luck, but you just need to keep a positive attitude and do everything you can to give yourself the best shot.”
Outside the college arena, Thorp said he qualified for the National Finals Rodeo hosted in December in Las Vegas as well as for the Elite Rodeo Athletes World Championship to be hosted next month in Dallas.
Thorp will compete against the best athletes in the world in Dallas. It is going to be a life-changing experience for the money it pays and for the sponsorship opportunities, Thorp said.
“(Being a part of) the National Finals Rodeo is a dream come true,” Thorp said. “Ever since I was little, that was my goal, and I wanted to make it one day.”
The key to his success can be summed up as a good work ethic, a positive attitude, a good horse and a reliable partner, he said.
Wheeler, a junior university studies major from Tyler, said he is Thorp’s best friend and team roping partner.
Thorp and Wheeler met when they were 11-years-old during junior rodeo. They always competed against each other, but they started team roping together when they were 15-years-old, Wheeler said. Now, they live four hours away from each other, but they visit each other often during the summer.
“Wesley (Thorp) is the kind of person you would call at 3 in the morning when your car broke down,” Wheeler said. “He is very trustworthy and always has your back. “
The quality Wheeler admires most in his partner is his dedication. Thorp practices hard, Wheeler said, and when he shows up he is more prepared than anybody else.
“It’s amazing that Wesley (Thorp) qualified for the National Finals in Las Vegas at such a young age because this competition is like the Super Bowl of rodeo and the biggest accomplishment you can achieve in our discipline,” Wheeler said.
Brent Hodges, Tech’s Rodeo coach, said Thorp is an exceptional team roper who invests a tremendous amount of time and succeeds to balance it with schoolwork, Hodges said.
“Wesley (Thorp) is a very big deal, but he has a humble attitude about it. His great sportsmanship is reflected in how he ropes,” Hodges said.
This past weekend at the annual NIRA rodeo hosted by Tech, Wheeler and Thorp placed third overall. Wheeler did a great job at getting set up, Hodges said, while Thorp decided to take a bit more time before doing his move to make sure he was correct.
“Cole (Wheeler) and Wesley (Thorp) are currently the number one team in our region, and they are ranked 16 at the national level,” Hodges said. “Our part is known as the strongest competitive region in the nation, and I couldn’t be more proud. “