It’s a mental game.
That’s how Garrett Wickett describes bull riding. During the six years that he has ridden bulls competitively, the Norfolk cowboy has had his share of close calls and even serious injuries.
He has bounced back from all of them. It’s the mental aspect of the sport that has been his biggest challenge.
“I would say 90 percent of bull riding is about having your head in the right spot,” said Wickett. “That’s something I work on every day. It’s tough.”
A confidence struggle isn’t something most would expect from the number one bull rider in the Great Plains Region. However, Wickett has no problem addressing the fact that it takes more than just talent and practice to be successful in the rodeo arena.
Wickett started out strong this season – winning National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association competitions in Ames, Iowa and Fargo, N.D. and placing second at Fort Dodge, Iowa. The 461.5 points he earned put him at the top of the leaderboards in both the regional and national NIRA bull riding standings.
Then came the game changer.
“All through the spring I had a mental block,” said Wickett. “I didn’t ride a bull until the Hastings rodeo in April.”
He placed fifth at Hastings then scored 74 points for the win at Dickinson, N.D. the following weekend.
“When that happened, and I secured the lead in the region, all my stress disappeared because I had accomplished what I set out to do,” said Wickett. “My biggest goal after the fall rodeos was to keep pushing myself hard to win the region. Now my goal is to win the [College National Finals Rodeo].”
He’ll have his chance next week. The CNFR is June 11-17 in Casper, Wyo. Wickett will enter the competition with 611.5 points, which puts him ninth in the nation.
He spends hours on the drop barrel preparing for the event, and as a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association permit holder, climbs on as many bulls as he can at area PRCA rodeos.
“But more than anything, I’m just trying to get my mental strategy figured out,” said Wickett. “I got my first check at a PRCA rodeo in Cherokee, Iowa over the weekend, so that was a huge confidence booster. I also spend a lot of time daydreaming about riding bulls – just focusing on what I need to do programs the subconscious.”
He’s found tremendous support in his family, friends and MPCC Rodeo Team rough stock coach Dustin Elliott. Elliott is the reason Wickett has chosen to stay an extra year at MPCC to learn more about the business side of rodeo and about traveling and competing professionally.
“Dustin has been a huge encouragement,” said Wickett. “He’s helped me realize that if I buck off, there’s no point beating myself up about it. I can’t fix it. I just have to move on. So from that perspective, all that’s left to do is just enjoy nationals and competing against all those great contestants. I’m happy with where I’m at right now. It feels pretty awesome.”