STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
LLANO — Recent Llano High School graduate Ben Walling began learning to rope when he was only 4 years old under the tutelage of his father. Now, his roping skills will help Walling learn a whole lot more.
Walling recently signed a National Letter of Intent for a scholarship to Cisco College, a two-year school in West Texas, to join the college’s rodeo team.
The Llano senior credits his parents, Linda and Wade Walling, for helping him achieve this goal.
“Dad has always pushed me to be the best in whatever I’ve done,” Walling said. “To do something I’ve done, it’s meant a lot to me. (My dad) has never let me give up on anything, and he wants me to do the best of my abilities.”
The process of getting a rodeo scholarship offer is similar to that of other sports: sending emails and videos, attending camps, meeting coaches, and demonstrating skills.
Walling showed off his roping skills for Cisco College rodeo director Don Eddleman, even partnering with the director’s son, Will, for team roping.
Walling said he reached out to a handful of programs then visited their campuses and roped for the coaches.
“Cisco was the best fit,” he said.
The college season has 10 rodeos culminating with the College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyoming, where the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association crowns individual event champions in June. Athletes advance to the College National Finals Rodeo based on their rankings in the NIRA’s 11 regions. Cisco College competes in the Southwest Region along with 16 other schools.
Walling began learning to rope from his dad, who worked for champion team roper Tyler Magnus, a nine-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier, and Llano resident Tee Woolman, who was inducted into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame in 2004 as a steer roper.
“I’ve always rodeoed my whole life,” the younger Walling said. “My dad was big in rodeo. Dad roped locally. (We) learned together.”
Walling said once he is finished with his two years at Cisco, he hopes to transfer to a four-year university and compete on that school’s rodeo team with his two remaining years of eligibility.
He plans to major in agriculture business.
“I love it. It’s fun,” Walling said about roping. “You can have fun and be serious. You have to have the mindset of what you have to do to be successful.”