The 2021 U.S. Junior Steer Wrestling Champion Clay Clayman in action during last year's event in Wimberley. This year's championship and Leon Bauerle Cowboy Reunion is Oct. 9 in Marble Falls at the Charley Taylor Arena. Courtesy photo
Gates open at 1 p.m., festivities start at 2 p.m., and steer wrestling begins at 3 p.m. Admission is a $10 donation per car. All proceeds go to the foundation.
The championship’s steering committee includes foundation board member John Thames, Eddie Odell, Macy Fox, 2003 Texas Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame inductee Todd Fox, and Bryon Walker, a member of the ProRodeo Hall of Fame and the Texas Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame. Walker and Todd Fox, who is a Marble Falls High School graduate, are both retired professional steer wrestlers.
The championship event draws the top young steer wrestlers in the country who’ve won the toughest rodeos in different states.
The Highland Lakes is being represented by Colton Wilson of Bertram, who is ranked in the top 15 in the Cowboys Professional Rodeo Association.
He will go up against:
Traden Anderson of Hanna, Oklahoma — 2021 National High School Champion Steer Wrestler, 2021-22 Oklahoma High School State Champion Steer Wrestler, and 2021 Oklahoma State All-Around Champion
Tyler Bauerle of Jourdanton, Texas — Junior American Champion
Drew Clukey of Robertsdale, Alabama — Alabama High School Rodeo Association State Champion Steer Wrestler
Tommy Cook of McAlester, Oklahoma — Clarence LeBlanc Steer Wrestling Champion
Trevor Crainer of Carrizo Springs, Texas — ranked No. 1 in the United Professional Rodeo Association
Colin Fox of Manvel, Texas — 2021 Texas High School Steer Wrestling Champion and 2021 Texas High School All-Around Champion
Clay Tom Hurt of Dilley, Texas — 2022 Texas High School Champion
Coy Johnston of Stapleton, Nebraska — 2022 World Champion High School Steer Wrestler
Garrett Keeling of Lexington, Texas — 2022-23 Quanta Services Rodeo Team Member
Cole Walker of Springtown, Texas — two-time Texas High School Rodeo Association Region 3 Steer Wrestling Champion
Jaedyn Winters of Tupelo, Oklahoma — Reserve Oklahoma State Champion
“They’re great kids,” Todd Fox said. “It’s going to be a high-quality event. We’re giving out $12,500 in prize money.”
To be champion, a steer wrestler must demonstrate, strength, talent, and consistency.
Entrants compete in a three-round qualifier and a four-man match tournament. The qualifier has $3,000 added money with a $1,000 bonus going to the average winner. The four contestants with the most money won in the three-round qualifier advance to the match play tournament. The top money winner faces the fourth-place money winner, while the second- and third-place money winners compete against each other in the semifinals. The winners of the semifinals then meet in the final to determine the champion.
The champion wins $5,000 and the Reagon Walker Buckle, created to honor the late Reagon Walker, who is one of the most decorated Texas High School rodeo athletes in history. He died in a vehicle accident in 2011. One year later, Reagon was inducted into the Texas Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame. His parents, Mary and Bryon Walker, are donating the buckle.
The Reserve Champion wins $2,500. The contestant with the fastest time of the day in the qualifying rounds or matches receives a $1,000 bonus.
Contestants also earn points for the Ote Berry Junior Steer Wrestling Championship Tour.
Fox, who was a professional rodeo athlete for 12 years, founded the event to honor his mentor, Robert “Leon” Bauerle, and to support the Gunner Thames Memorial Foundation.
Bauerle was a two-time Texas golden gloves winner during a rodeo career that spanned five decades and a trainer of winning steer wrestling horse teams. He died on May 24, 2021.
“Leon left instructions not to give him a funeral,” Fox said. “So we’ll have a steer wrestling competition. I always wanted to do this. This gets around Leon’s request about a service, and we’ll have a cowboy reunion.”
The Gunner Thames Memorial Foundation was created by John Thames to honor his 15-year-old son, who died Sept. 9, 2011, in a steer wrestling accident. The foundation helps families, cowboys, and organizations devoted to agriculture and the cowboy way of life.
“I’ve known John for more than 40 years,” Fox said. “They pay out more than $100,000 a year to scholarships, Future Farmers of America, and 4-H. They do so many great things in Hays County.”
The U.S. Junior Steer Wrestling Championship and reunion also let Fox, Walker, and others involved give back to the sport.
This is the event’s second year. It was held in Wimberley in 2021 and won by Clay Clayman.
“I want to move this to a different location every year,” Fox said. “I want to give different people an opportunity to see this and witness this. These young men are far better than we were when we were their age. When we were growing up, we got to go to Marble Falls, Burnet, and Llano rodeos and many in San Antonio, but that was all the rodeos. We learned by trial and error.”
He said the event’s atmosphere is welcoming to both contestants and spectators.
“This is a backyard barbecue gathering,” he said. “It’s a reason for everybody to come together and see one another. These kids are amazing. Their skills are incredible.”