Dakota Eldridge is a 23-year-old professional steer wrestler who is taking the rodeo event by the horns.
The Elko, Nev., cowboy was the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s top rookie in the event in 2012. He has earned coveted Wrangler National Finals Rodeo back numbers the past two years.
While competing at the Fort Worth Stock Show Rodeo, Eldridge turned in a speedy first-round time of 4.5 seconds, the fastest of Saturday morning’s performance at Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum.
During last month’s NFR in Las Vegas, Eldridge rose from ninth to fifth in the final PRCA world standings. He grabbed the spotlight by winning Round 9 with a 3.3-second time. He also shared first place in Round 7 and earned a check in one additional round en route to finishing third in the average race.
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Eldridge earned $73,711 at the NFR at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center. He finished the year with $136,726.
“A key to my success is a good horse and being around good guys,” Eldridge said. “Great horse power is the first thing, and then good positive attitude is important because you’ve got to be able to take the hits because you’re not going to be able to win every time.
“It’s not like amateur and high school rodeo where you win quite a bit. You might go a couple of weeks without winning, so you have to be pretty mentally tough.”
Luke Branquinho, who clinched a fifth world steer wrestling title at last year’s NFR and travels with Eldridge, said Eldridge has the potential to become very successful in years to come.
“He’s strong as an ox and he rides a great horse, Rusty, whom I also rode at the  National Finals,” Branquinho said. “A big attribute to your success is a great horse. Dakota is big, strong and athletic and he can make steers hit that a lot of guys have trouble with. He’s got a lot of potential and a long career ahead.”
As Eldridge competes on the PRCA circuit, both he and Branquinho compete on Rusty, Eldridge’s 16-year-old gelding. Eldridge has been competing on Rusty since he was in high school.
Eldridge said Rusty consistently puts him in position to turn in a fast time.
“He’s just honest and he lets you win every time,” Eldridge said.