HEBER CITY — Milford’s Rusty and Ryder Wright are intertwined in a long lineage of rodeo legends. At the Utah High School Rodeo finals Thursday night, the brothers stood together — reminiscent of Wyatt and Virgil Earp — one donning a white cowboy hat and the other in black.
Separated by two years of age, the two Wright brothers are quickly filling in the footprints left by their father Cody, a two-time world champion saddle bronc rider, and their uncles Jake, Jesse, Alex and Spencer, who are all currently professional bronc riders.
“My dad rides bucking horses and all my uncles, so I decided I wanted to give it a try. It started clicking for me and working out,” said Rusty, who started riding only two years ago. “They encourage me to get better. They don’t ever rush me into anything. They encourage me to get better at my own pace.”
Ryder, only a freshman, emulates his brother’s success. Although his first state finals haven't particularly gone according to plan this week, Ryder knows he’s in good hands if he follows his family’s advice.
“Well I just try to compete with him and try and be as good as he is,” said Ryder, who was the junior high national champion bull rider last year, of Rusty.
Rusty started his high school career off with a bang and ultimately finished as the national high school saddle bronc champion.
“What I want most is to win national all three years," Rusty said.
After the first round of state competition this year, Rusty is tied with Beaver’s Colton Bradshaw for first place and is also tied in the year-end standings.
For the brothers, who are joined by their aunt and uncle to compose the entire Milford rodeo team, being submerged in the life of the rodeo was difficult at first. Overcoming the mental aspect of inevitable injuries requires time.
“My dad telling me things, 'Get better and you won’t have as many wrecks and you can’t give up,'” Rusty explained. “It’s kind of a mental deal. You’ve got to be positive and know it’s going to get better.”
But, make no mistake, both have suffered through injuries.
“Well my worst in bull riding — I got stepped on (and) collapsed my lung,” Rusty said. “In bronc riding I bronc’d off a horse — just a normal, graceful buck off — and landed on my feet and then my knees and then my elbow. I ended up shattering my humerus above my elbow.”
Although Ryder has only experienced one concussion and avoided any injuries that have required surgery, watching his younger brother embark into potential danger is nerve-racking for Rusty.
“I get more nervous watching him than when I get on,” Rusty said. “I can’t handle it. I get all worked up. I’m usually calm but on him I’m freaking out.”
In the end, remembering their father’s advice is the key to survival and success.
“You can’t think about getting hurt because that’s when you start riding — if you ride scared you’re not going to do very good,” Rusty said. “You got to know you’re going to ride good and when you make a good ride it’s all worth it, even if you know you’re going to get hurt.
“When I first started I always thought about getting hurt and I always got hurt. Now I don’t think about it and I don’t get hurt as much.”
Action in the Utah High School Rodeo finals continues Friday at 10 a.m. and again at 7 p.m. at the Wasatch County Rodeo grounds.