Stillwater News Press

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July 6, 2012

Stillwater's Nick Thompson riding for a championship

STILLWATER, Okla. — Like most kids his age Nick Thompson spends his summer days trying to save up some extra cash for college. But while his peers are busy flipping burgers, Thompson found a different calling — team roping.

“More than anything it’s a job,” Thompson said. “It’s a business — it’s work. That to me is what I do for a living. It’s not like everybody else. I rope and I ride, and I try to do it for a living. But it’s not that bad. It’s pretty great actually.”

The walls inside Thompson’s family home are a shrine to his rodeo career. Picture hang in nearly every room, along with a check from the United States Team Roping Championships National Finals, where he and teammate Justin Pruitt took first place in 2009.

Even with all his winnings there’s a couple of voids in Thompson’s rodeo career. He hopes to fill one of those when he travels to the International Finals Youth Rodeo starting Sunday in Shawnee. Thompson also will compete in the National High School Rodeo Finals in Gillette, Wyo., later this month.

“It’s exciting,” Thompson said. “I’ve actually competed there since my freshman year of high school, so this will be my fourth year competing at IFYR. I’ve never done any good there in the past, but I plan on winning it this year.”

Thompson said his experience at both the IFYR and NHSRF should help him, along with the 10 events he’s in which he’s already competed as a professional.

“Going there and being there and already having the experience really does help whenever you go back,” Thompson said. “I don’t get nervous anymore — I love it. Everybody whose made it there ropes and they compete. It’s some pretty tough competition. It’s really a good time and it’s something I have looked forward to throughout high school. I would recommend any kid to do it because it is the time of my life — I absolutely love it.”

While Thompson may be calm and collected in the arena, Thompson’s father Darren Thompson said it’s sometimes hard to watch his son compete.

“I’m more nervous than him most of the time,” Darren Thompson said. “He has a way of staying focused. When you compete like that at that level, you pretty much have to have that balance of a lot of energy without being nervous and Nick has that.”

Quick with the rope and even quicker with his wit, the team roper said a first-place finish at both the IFYR and NHSRF would be a dream come true for him.

“It would mean the world — it would be amazing,” Nick Thompson said. “It would really show that everything I’ve worked for has kind of paid off.”

Even if Thompson can’t capture the elusive titles, he said it won’t let it stop him. Thompson plans on attending Western Oklahoma State College shortly after he gets back from the NHSRF, participating as part of the Pioneer’s rodeo team.

“We’re really excited about the opportunities that rodeo has given Nick,” his father said. “It’s nice to continue his education because our family puts a real importance on getting a good education.

“You know, rodeo is a lot like golf, really. We’ve gone to some professional events where there are guys who are 80 years old still out there trying to do their best. I’m not sure if Nick wants to do it when he’s that old, but if he’s still interested in it and can still do it, I’m not going to stand in his way.”

Thompson said he still has a lot to learn, but he’s spending the hours trying to get better, saying that he hopes to one day become the guy younger kids will look to him to one day for tips.

“I plan on being one of the best in the country,” he said. “I go to all these professional events and I see all these guys on like ESPN all the time. Someday, I want to be that guy. I want to be the one kids look up to for autographs.”

Thompson does have his fair share of followers, but most of them are relatives. Still when a little kid does ask for his autograph, he doesn’t shy away from it. After all, it’s all part of the job.

“I don’t know how many fans I have yet, but I do enjoy talking to some of the other guys on tour and interacting with people,” Nick Thompson said. “If I can get some of them excited about roping and I’ve turned in a time I’m happy with, then I’ve done my job. That’s all I can do.”

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