June 12, 2007

Strassman lives to ride

Skylar Strassman (left) ropes at the Sisters Rodeo last weekend. Photo by Gary Newman

While his classmates were practicing for graduation at Redmond High School last week, Skylar Strassman was roping steers with the pros at the Sisters Rodeo.

Graduation may be a big deal, but Strassman’s passion is rodeo.

“I told them I had to rope at Sisters,” said Strassman. “That’s pretty much my number one priority -- rodeo.”

A friend told him what he needed to know for the ceremony and he picked up his diploma with the rest of his classmates Thursday. The next day the teenager was on the road to Union.

“He just has a passion,” said John Strassman, his father. “The kid wants to be on the back of a horse all the time.”

The 18-year-old Redmond High graduate is in second place in the state steer wrestling standings going into the High School State Finals rodeo this week. He also qualified in 10th place in the team roping with his partner Jordan Crossley of Hermiston. Crossley leads the girls all-around standings.

Strassman got his start with horses when his family moved to a 20-acre spread between BendRedmond when he was in first grade. He started off participating in horse shows and learned to ride with English tack, a fact he prefers to keep quiet but his father sees as a good thing. and

“It really made him a good rider,” said John Strassman. “He has good balance and skill and I think that contributed to his success.”

Skylar started participating in peewee rodeo in 7th-grade roping and chute dogging, an event where the contestant comes out of the chute hanging on to the animal. He jumped his first steer as a freshman.

“Probably my junior year I was getting the hang of it,” he said. “It just takes run after run to get the hang of it.”

At 5-10, 174 pounds, Strassman isn’t big for a steer wrestler, so skill is paramount. The thrill of accomplishing the complex athletic feat of throwing a big animal keeps him coming back for more.

“It’s just how you can throw a 400-pound steer on its side so quick. There’s a lot to it,” he said. “Especially being small you get a good run on (and) it makes you feel pretty good.”

Strassman is quick to credit Terrebonne cowboy Sam Willis and Bend steer wrestler Alex Robinson for helping him with his event.

“I think he’s kind of a town kid, but he has a passion for it,” said Willis, who likes Strassman’s athletic ability and willingness to try. “I think he can go as far as he wants to go.”

John Strassman credits Willis with steering his son toward college. Willis went to college in Oklahoma and when he found out Strassman wanted to go to school in that state he made a few phone calls for him.

“I just cracked the door for him,” said Willis. “And he took care of it after that.”

Oklahoma will offer more opportunities to compete.

“There are a lot more places to go bulldog down there,” said Willis. “They just do it every day.”

Strassman trails his good friend Ryan Bothum of Hermiston by five points going into the state finals rodeo. They plan to attend Connors State College, a community college in Tulsa. Strassman plans to study business.

But first comes the state finals rodeo. Last year Strassman qualified for the National High School Finals Rodeo in the steer wrestling and he hopes to repeat with a trip to the NHSFR at the state fairgrounds in Springfield, Ill., in July.

With two goes and a short round, athletes can put up a lot of points at the state finals.

“There’s so many points, the whole year basically comes down to the state finals,” he said.

--story by Gary Newman

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