For anyone who is physically active and enjoys any sort of outdoor activity, a level of excitement is often times manifested at the onset of each new spring season.
For Jon Ragatz, 32, of Beetown, each spring brings with it a new rodeo season, which is accompanied by a familiar level of excitement and expectations that are always set at the highest level.
Ragatz is no stranger to the pro rodeo circuit. In fact, he enters the 2013 season as the defending steer-wrestling champion in the Great Lakes Circuit.
He has been “rodeoing” since his grade school days in Lancaster, and carried it right into his high school years.
Ragatz even attended college in Rapid City, S.D. on a rodeo scholarship, which was followed by a five-year professional rodeo career; and a very successful one at that.
From 2005 to 2009, Ragatz had finished among the top 25 steer wrestlers in the world each year, and in 2007 finished the year ranked 17th in the world.
That year he just missed out on competing at the national finals rodeo, where the top 15 cowboys go on to compete for big money in Las Vegas.
“When I was rodeoing full-time, I was living in Oklahoma,” said Ragatz. “I was probably on the road maybe 250 days out of the year.”
All that changed when the cowboy got married to his wife, Alison, and the two had their first child, Toay.
Ragatz quit competing professionally and took to the circuit competition, which he has been doing for the past three years now.
Like his professional rodeo career, Ragatz has put together a very successful career at the circuit level as well.
In 2010, he had finished atop the year-end standings in the steer wrestling competition, as well as having the highest average at the circuit finals.
The next year he finished second in the circuit standings, but again had the highest average at the circuit finals.
In 2012, Ragatz again finished at the top of the year-end standings, had the highest average at the circuit finals, and was tops among steer wrestlers, with earnings of $16,164.
As the circuit champion, Ragatz earned his fourth straight trip to the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo held recently in Oklahoma City this past April 4-6.
“For a guy like me that isn’t rodeoing for a living anymore, that’s kind of what we have to look forward to now,” explained Ragatz.
Though disappointed by his first-round time of :19.3 at the Ram Nationals earlier this month, Ragatz rebounded with an amazing time of :04.8 in the second round, to earn him $2,057.
Finishing 15th with an average of :24.1 Ragatz failed to earn one of eight spots in the semifinal round, but did finish among the top eight of 24 competitors in earnings won.
With his first rodeo of the 2013 season now under his belt, Ragatz will next be in competition this Friday night in Madison, before heading to St. Paul, MN on April 26-28.
As a full-time farmer and rancher in Beetown, the number of rodeos Ragatz will be competing in this year is still up in the air.
“That all kind of depends on how the summer goes with everything here on the farm,” Ragatz said. “I think last year we went to 30 rodeos, and maybe we’ll go to about the same this year. If a guy wants to though, he could go every weekend.”
This year will be a little different than those in the past, as Alison will be joining Jon on his trips to compete in barrel racing.
“We’re going to load the whole family up, and I’m real excited about that, because I get to spend more of the summer with her,” said Jon.
Jon will also have a couple new spectators watching him closely, as sons Toay, now three years old, and Teddy, soon to turn two, will be keeping an eye on their daddy.
As for his wife Alison, Jon knows that none of his recent rodeo success would be possible without her support and understanding.
“She’s a great woman, and is a big part of me being able to do what I’m doing, because she’s so supportive of me, and lets me go on the weekends.” said Jon.
Jon also has the support and camaraderie of his brother-in-law, Jacob Burks, who also competes in steer wrestling, and has done quite well for himself.
While Jon finished first in last year’s steer-wrestling circuit standings, Burks was a close third behind his brother-in-law, and finished second in the all-around standings.
“We rodeo together and we travel together,” said Ragatz of Burks. “I guess we compete against each other, but we are also kind of a team. We sure want each other to do well.”
As for the pressure of defending his circuit title from a year ago, Ragatz, like any competitor, wants to have an equally productive season in 2013.
“Well, a guy always wants to repeat,” he said. “When you’re competitive, you want to do well, especially with the rodeo when you’ve got a lot of money laid out on the line. You don’t want to just do it for nothing.”
To lighten some of his financial load, Ragatz is certainly open to the idea of welcoming in a local sponsor, or even two, for that matter.
“Yah, it would be great if a guy could pick up a local sponsor,” said Ragatz. “Any little sponsorship money that you can find just makes it so much easier.”
One thing is for sure. If you want your name or business associated with one of the best steer wrestlers in the circuit, not to mention one of the nicest and most respected cowboys around, you don’t have to look any further than Jon Ragatz.