Friday Wright has turned bull riding into a tandem sport.
The 21-year-old Mississippi rider says he's never alone when he mounts a bull these days. He credits the spiritual presence of his late brother, Todd, for helping him reach the top of the Championship Bull Riding point standings.
"I feel like I have to step it up a little more because of him. I kind of feel like he's with me. He's why I'm riding, but it's still hard everywhere I go," said Wright, who has won two CBR titles this season and will compete in the CBR's Tuff Hedeman Vegas Shootout on Friday and Saturday at the South Point Equestrian Center.
Todd Wright died in a single-vehicle crash Sept. 9.
"He was prouder of me than I was of myself," Wright said.
After missing three weeks of competition, Wright returned and honored his older brother's memory by winning a CBR event in Lubbock, Texas.
"I played sports when I was younger but never was interested in riding bulls. Todd got me on a bull when I was 15 years old and he kept encouraging me," said Wright, who missed two months in the heart of last season with an injured foot. "He pushed me toward it. After I rode my first bull, I figured out why he liked it so much.
"Todd was a real good bull rider but hurt his knee a few years ago. He was getting ready to start competing again when he had his accident. We even rode bulls the night before (the accident)."
Wright was headed for a bull-riding event in Window Rock, Ariz., when he got a call with the bad news about his brother.
"I stayed in the airport in Albuquerque all night to get the next plane home," he said.
When the rodeo begins at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Wright will compete against two-time reigning PRCA world champion J.W. Harris of May, Texas, and 2007 PRCA champ Wesley Silcox of Payson, Utah.
Wright also will compete Saturday in the Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association Laughlin River Stampede, where he hopes a solid performance will bring him closer to his ultimate rodeo goal.
"I want to make it to the National Finals Rodeo," he said. "I think of that every single day."
The Moss Point, Miss., cowboy won the Southeast region of the Dodge National Circuit Finals last year to qualify for the circuit championships in two weeks at Pocatello, Idaho, where he could win a new truck and about $30,000.
But money won in the Circuit Finals does not count toward PRCA world standings, where Wright ranks 27th and needs a top-15 finish to reach December's NFR at the Thomas & Mack Center. He plans to compete in as many PRCA rodeos as he can fit around the CBR schedule.
"It's hard to focus on two series," Wright said. "You have to pick one or the other a lot of times, so this year my priority is the CBR."
At least he always has his brother close by to help with those tough decisions.
Contact reporter Jeff Wolf at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0247.