Eastern New Mexico University senior Chance Pettigrew took to steer wrestling naturally, which is not surprising considering his lineage.
His great uncle, Homer Pettigrew, was a six-time world champion steer wrestler in the 1940s. The Grady native is also one of the original inductees of the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame. His grandfather was also a steer wrestler.
That’s one of the reasons he took up steer wrestling, Chance Pettigrew said.
He’s been a quick learner.
Pettigrew is in second place in steer wrestling in the Southwest Region, a pool of 14 colleges in New Mexico and Texas. Professionally, he’s sixth in his second year on the Turquoise Circuit of the Pro Rodeo Cowboy Association. The Turquoise Circuit comprises rodeos in New Mexico and Arizona.
He’s also in line to fulfill his goal of qualifying for the College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyo. The top two in the region in each event at the end of the 10-rodeo season earn a spot to the college finals in June.
“I think he’s got a good shot at that,” ENMU coach David Browder said.
Pettigrew concentrated on other sports until the summer before his senior year at Melrose.
“It gave me something to compete in other than football and basketball,” he said. “I’ve always been a natural, picked it up quick, but I still have a lot to learn.”
In his first year of competition as a senior at Melrose High School, he qualified for the National High School Finals Rodeo.
Browder said it takes size, strength and athleticism to jump from the back of a galloping horse, grab a 500-steer by the horns, and throw him to the ground.
And if to take more than six seconds, forget about going home with a prize buckle or money.
“It doesn’t always work, but that’s the plan,” said the 6-foot-1, 215-pound Pettigrew. “It’s not as bad as people think.”
Browder said Pettigrew’s improvement has been consistent since his first year on the team.
“I don’t know if he made second go at all his first year,” Browder said.
Chance said one day he’d like to follow in his great uncle’s footsteps. When school or college rodeo isn’t getting in the way, he travels throughout the western United States to partake in rodeos. He will compete in Tucson, Ariz., over the weekend.
“It’s not really the best way to make a living, but a nice hobby, something to be good at,” Pettigrew said.