Taylor Davidson never expected to have the type of year that he had.
He battled through a knee injury in the fall and a shoulder injury during the early part of his sophomore season as a member of the Central Wyoming College rodeo team. But it didn’t hinder him from qualifying for the College National Finals Rodeo last week in Casper, a feat he views as his greatest rodeo accomplishment to date.
“It was surreal,” Davidson said about competing on a national stage. “I wish I could find a word to describe the experience.”
Davidson was crowned Regional Champion Steer Wrestler in April during the final rodeo of the Rustlers’ regular season. The win earned him a spot at CNFR, along with teammate Thomas Davis, who qualified in steer wrestling and bareback riding.
Before his first steer wrestling draw during the morning slack June 11, Davidson had the opportunity to haze for Davis. It helped temper his nerves and gave him the chance to take in the scene at Casper Events Center.
During the first of three rides, the draw got away from him a bit and was unable to record a score.
“I really played with my steer and he just ended up slipping away,” Davidson said. “That’s just how it goes sometimes.”
The second ride on Tuesday, June 12, saw an improved draw for Davidson. Although it wasn’t the result he was hoping for, he recorded a score of 9.4. In his final ride on Thursday during the night performance, he improved upon Tuesday’s run.
A score of 7.8 tied him for 14th in round three.
“The cards just didn’t fall in my favor,” he said as he reflected on his performance.
The level of competition at CNFR far exceeded Davidson’s expectations. And although the results of the week didn’t mirror his ultimate goal, he plans to use that as motivation this summer and in future rodeos for the Rustlers.
“It’s going to drive me to get back in the practice pen, weight room and push me to get better,” Davidson said. “While I’m proud that I was able to make it to nationals this year, that’s not where it stops. I want to prove that I can compete with those guys up there.”
The father of his late teammate, Teigan Finnerty, expressed a different sentiment to Davidson following the rodeo. His words were a helpful reminder of just how much he accomplished this season.
“You’re 20 years old and made it this far,” he said to Davidson. “You should be very proud of yourself.”
Davidson will continue riding this summer with the hopes of building on his trip to CNFR. He hopes to compete in a number of pro rodeos throughout the region -- from Montana to Colorado to Nebraska and home in Wyoming.
“Anywhere I can ride . . . I hope to get out there, compete and get better,” Davidson said.
It’s been an arduous season for the 20-year-old. He’s battled through injuries, dealt with the sorrows of losing a close friend and competed on a national stage with some of the best riders in the country.
Through it all, he’s extremely thankful for the support from his teammates, coaches and friends and family.
“I couldn’t have done it without them,” he said. “They’ve all helped me get to where I am.”
In front of a full crowd on the final night of the rodeo, June 16, Davidson got to feel the experience one final time as he hazed for Davis, who finished third in the nation in steer wrestling.
And as he reflected on the year with his hazer and friend, Jace Berger, it all came into focus.
“It’s been one hell of a journey,” Berger said to Davidson.