FORT HALL — Even in retirement, local bull rider Wiley Petersen is breaking new ground in his professional rodeo event.
Petersen, a 39-year-old Shoshone-Bannock tribal member, has assembled the first all-Native American team to compete in the Professional Bull Riders Global Cup USA.
He’ll coach a team of eight bull riders — all from different tribes in Montana, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Utah. Athletes will be vying for a record $750,000 purse, as well as the title of “Toughest Nation on Dirt.”
Prize money will be awarded to top individual athletes and all six teams, with the first-place team receiving $315,000. Petersen’s Native American team will compete against a general American team and teams from Canada, Brazil, Australia and Mexico.
“I feel like we have a really good, solid chance of winning this event,” Petersen said.
Competitions are scheduled to begin at 5:45 p.m. Feb. 9 and 12:45 p.m. Feb. 10 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Petersen watched several professional bull-riding events to identify the athletes to recruit to his team. He explained the PBR Global Cup debuted in Canada in November 2017, where Team USA won. Brazil won the second competition hosted in Australia. The host nation is typically allowed to have a larger team to give them an advantage. This year, however, the U.S. will instead field two teams.
Teams include seven riders and an alternate. Each night, the seven riders will ride a bull, and the coach will select two riders to also compete in a bonus round. The top 12 scores from the two nights combined will count. The coach will also assign a bull to each athlete. Petersen said he has a young but talented team.
“We may not have a lot of experienced riders, but we have guys who have a lot of talent and are hungry to win,” he said.
Petersen hopes to be a motivational coach and a good role model for his rodeo athletes. He recently graduated from a physician assistant program and will start a job during the next few weeks as a physician assistant with the Fort Hall Clinic.
Both of his parents excelled in rodeo. His dad road bucking horses, and his mother competed in barrel racing. Petersen decided to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather, who was an accomplished bull rider. He started in Junior Rodeo when he was 10. He competed in the national rodeo finals in high school and went on to rodeo for Idaho State University.
He enjoyed his greatest success, however, after going pro. Petersen joined the PBR televised tour in 2000. He placed third in the world in 2003 and fourth in the world in 2007, when he also won the PBR finals. During his career, Petersen won 13 televised events. He retired in 2012 and has hosted bull-riding clinics for young athletes.
Petersen said most bull riders are typically between 5-foot-6 and 5-foot-9 and weigh between 145 pounds and 175 pounds. Bull riders need to be athletic and capable of overcoming fear, he said.
“It’s exciting. It’s like jumping out of an airplane, I suppose,” Petersen said of bull riding. “The appeal of it is you’re kind of dancing with death, I guess — or serious injury anyway. It’s one of those adrenaline sports.”
Facing his fears in rodeo has given Petersen the courage to live outside of his comfort zone and tackle the most daunting of challenges.
“I like the fact that you overcome fear,” Petersen said. “It’s really helped me in everything in my life, and the perspective of dealing with danger and the unknown.”