Ever since he could swing a rope, Wyatt Althoff has been competing in rodeos. Now, at 21, the former Gilbert resident is the nation's All-Around Cowboy, a title he won at the 60th annual College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyo., in June.
It's the most prestigious rodeo college athletes can compete in, he said.
Althoff won fifth place in the team roping event, where he works with a partner to rope a steer. And he took third place in the tie-down roping event, where he chases down and ropes a smaller calf, tieing three of its legs together.
The two events gave him the highest points to receive the All-Around Cowboy title. He won $2,500 in scholarships, $2,300 in cash, a trophy saddle and a 5 karat gold belt buckle.
"Just like any other sport I'm just trying to get better," Althoff said. "There's always someone that's better than you. You're just trying to get to their level. You can see your times getting better and your trophy cases filling up more."
Althoff also usually competes in steer wrestling, where he jumps off a horse onto a steer and wrestles the animal to the ground and onto its side.
He's received numerous rodeo awards, including winning the regional rodeo twice in steer wrestling and team roping.
Althoff competed in seven rodeos during the Fourth of July weekend.
"It's something I can do my whole life," said Althoff, who wants to compete in professional rodeos. He competes on his own four quarter horses: Captain, Ace, Sunny and Lacy. He rides different horses for each event.
Althoff is majoring in agriculture business at New Mexico State University. He wants to manage farms.
His mom, Linda Smith, still lives in Gilbert.
Smith, who used to take her only child to compete in junior and high school rodeos, also saw him compete in the College National Finals Rodeo.
"He roped excellent," said Smith, who ropes herself. "He had a good rodeo going. He couldn't have asked for better. It was just a wonderful experience."
Althoff's rodeo coach, Jim Brown, said he's "very competitive," "really determined" and driven.
"He's got quite a few years' experience, so that helps," said Brown, a rodeo coach at New Mexico State University who coaches 92 student athletes. "It's really exciting. It's what we work for every year. He took care of business and he did what he had to do."