SD man wins 4th INFR All-Around title

Carrie Stadheim
Assistant Editor
Tri-State Livestock News
Rollie Wilson, Buffalo, SD, bareback and saddle bronc rider took home his fourth All-Around title from the 2012 Indian National Finals Rodeo. Courtesy photo

Rollie Wilson, Buffalo, SD, arrived home on Nov. 12, 2012, from the Indian National Finals Rodeo with his fourth INFR All-Around title, his second new horse trailer, $8,700 in cash, a champion belt buckle valued at $1,000, a jacket and his 44th saddle.

He was named the runner-up in the saddle bronc event and seventh in the barebacks at the Las Vegas, NV, rodeo held Nov. 6-10. He also competed in steer wrestling, getting off “Hemi,” a horse he owns with his brother-in-law.

The top ten point-earners throughout the year qualify for the finals, as do the year-end and average winners from each of 12 regions throughout the U.S. and Canada, said Wilson. “I qualified through points I earned, I haven’t gone to the regional rodeo finals for several years now. But I was still representing the Great Plains region,” which includes South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota and Nebraska, he said. The INFR is a ‘sudden death’ rodeo meaning that all contestants start with a clean slate, and the event placings and all-around placings are based solely on performance throughout the five-day finals.

In addition to the saddles and buckles he has brought home with him, Wilson has also won a pickup and trailer in past years. “I remember when they gave me the pickup for the all-around prize. I wasn’t really sure if it was something I would drive for a year, or how that would work. In the morning, they handed me the title to the pickup, which meant I could keep it for good. That was pretty exciting.”

Wilson, who grew up near Kyle, SD, qualified for the finals by earning points throughout the year at INFR tour rodeos. “I didn’t go to near as many rodeos this year as I have sometimes in the past,” he said. “I went to the one on the Rocky Boy, (MT) reservation – that is one of the biggest ones. Then I went to Fort McDowell, (AZ) Crow Agency (MT) and Polson (MT).” Wilson said that INFR tour rodeos must be held on a reservation and also must have $2,500 added in each event. He also said that in order for a cowboy or cowgirl to enter one of the INFR tour or region rodeos, he or she must be an enrolled member of a tribe. Wilson is an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

Wilson has never known life without the sport of rodeo, growing up in a family who raises bucking horses and bulls and provides stock for the INFR as well as local SDRA and NRCA rodeos. “My parents and my oldest brother Chancy operate Wilson Rodeo near Kyle, SD. Chancy has cost me a lot of money at the INFR throughout the years,” he laughed. “Two years ago he bucked me off one, and three years ago he bucked me off one to win the bronc riding. But then last year I won the saddle bronc in the short round on Truckdriving Hazard, one of Chancy’s horses.”

In the bareback event at this year’s finals, Rollie competed against his younger brother Joe, who ended up in fifth place. He usually has a “couple of cousins and a brother” join him at the finals. First cousin Jeremy Meeks has taken home the INFR saddle bronc championship twice.

Wilson competed in a few NRCA and PRCA rodeos this year, making the finals in both. He says his favorite trophy saddles are the first ones he won, like his Little Britches All-Around and the SDHSRA All-Around. He has also brought home all-around saddles from the SDRA and the NRCA plus numerous college championship saddles and all-around titles.

He learned from some of the best. “Where we grew up, our next door neighbors were Ken Lensegrav, Merle Temple, they were making the finals (in the bareback event) then, and they were always helping us out. People think it’s different when you talk to Red Lemmel and Bud Longbrake like they are your friends – sure they are NFR guys but they were close to my family and always willing to help. When we were learning to ride, my uncle Pat Heathershaw would bring in a bunch of bucking horses and he would coach us and he and my uncle Mike Heathershaw who both rode broncs and barebacks would get together with the kids in the Wall (SD), and Philip (SD), area, Jeff and Jamie Willert and anyone else that wanted to learn. Those bronc riders are kind of your idols and they are always giving you words of advice. When they showed up to watch, you dang sure listened when they talked. Practicing with all of those talented guys around makes a person twice as good.”

Wilson said he did a lot of bulldogging in high school and learned the art from his dad Ronnie, who is a “pretty big guy.”

Wilson traveled with his wife C.J. (Floyd), daughters Saylor (8), Sattyn (3) and son Swayde (5 mo.) most of the year. “We usually had to get a hotel with swimming pool,” he laughs. “The INFR has started a junior program so Saylor competed in some of those junior rodeos this summer, and she would often have slack on a Wednesday, and if I would make it to the short go on Sunday, we’d have several days to stay.” Saylor is already following in dad’s (and mom’s) footsteps, winning herself five buckles this summer, riding her mom’s old rodeo horse Croppy, who her mom and grandma trained years ago. C.J. herself won state 4-H titles on Croppy in goat tying and breakaway, plus she and her brothers won numerous buckles and money, as well as a horse trailer competing on the talented horse.

Wilson said that he would encourage a young rodeo competitor to make an effort to be around people who are feeling good about themselves. “Surround yourself with people who have a positive attitude, if you see someone winning, jump in with them, it’s good to surround yourself with people like that.”

When he isn’t on the rodeo trail, Wilson builds pole barns and does oilfield work near Buffalo, SD.