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(Chris Detrick | The Salt Lake Tribune) Dalton Rydalch after competing in tie-down roping during the Utah State High School Rodeo Association Finals at the Wasatch County Event Center in Heber City Thursday June 5, 2014.
Prep rodeo: Teen champ Rydalch has eyes only for rodeo
Prep sports » Rydalch gave up other sports to pursue passion, carry on family tradition.
First Published Jun 05 2014 09:43 pm • Last Updated Jun 06 2014 03:23 pm

Heber City • To Dalton Rydalch, a third-generation cowboy, rodeo is life. As a star athlete, he grew up excelling in basketball, football and baseball. Despite succeeding at other sports, he considers himself "an all-around cowboy."

"My family has just been rodeoing all their lives, so I’ve just picked up where they’ve left off," he said. "A high school rodeo is a good way to start and then you gain confidence throughout your career."

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His grandfather, Jay, started the family tradition. It then became a way of life for his father, Craig. His older brother, Dillon, went to high school nationals twice.

Dalton started rodeoing at the age of four or five and ever since then, big accomplishments have followed. By the time he was in eighth grade, he had qualified for the junior high national twice. He went to nationals last year for steer wrestling and he’s well on his way — currently ranking second in the all-around — this year.

At the start of his senior year, Rydalch decided to take his focus to another level.

"He had to make a commitment because you can’t do it all. I mean, you’ve got to be committed," said Craig Rydalch. "Rodeo takes a lot of time and a lot of commitment because you’re not only practicing for yourself, you’ve got horses that you’ve got to keep tuned up, educated and in shape. It’s a team sport really, so he had to give up his football, basketball and baseball."

For as much skill that goes into rodeo events, luck is a big part of it as well. Animals are unpredictable, and the draw really has a lot to do with results. There are 34 high school rodeos throughout the school year, and Rydalch has done his best to keep a level head as all of his scores have added on to him currently being second in the all-around — the top four go to nationals in Rock Springs, Wyoming.

"I find it easier when I don’t think about it," he said. "I just go out and do my best. I usually get better that way. When I start thinking about things, that’s when you focus on one area and there’s so many other things that you have to do. Then you forget about the other ones and you mess up, so I just let my muscle memory take over and do it the best I can."

Back in March, Rydalch accepted a near full-ride scholarship for Weber State’s rodeo team. This is only the start of what should be a long career. "I want to keep rodeoing my whole life, go to the pros, and see what I can do there," he said. "Do it as long as I can and then when I’m done, just help other people get involved in rodeo."

"It means a lot to our whole family. That’s what our tradition is, we rodeo. Our lives are surrounded by rodeo," said Craig Rydalch. "He’s sacrificed a lot of stuff that he was so talented at."

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