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It doesn't matter if it's a calf or a steer.
Neither animal has been able to escape the loop of Tyler Viles' rope this season.
Combining his vast roping skills with a new attitude, Viles has emerged as one of the top rodeo contestants in the Central Rocky Mountain Region (CRMR) this fall and has helped lead the University of Wyoming men's team into title contention.
"Every time I step in the box, I'm just trying to make as good a run as I can and not beat myself," says Viles, a finance senior from Cody. "I'm not necessarily trying to win first every time, I just want to catch every time. I've learned now that it's more about consistency than it is about being fast."
In Viles' case, he's been consistently fast. Although he's won first place just once, Viles tops the CRMR standings in both of his events, tie-down roping and team roping, heading into the penultimate stop of the fall schedule this weekend at Chadron State College in Nebraska. The final rodeo of the fall season is the following weekend at Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne.
Through the first three fall competitions, Viles has scored points in five of six attempts, with first-, third- and fifth-place finishes in team roping and second- and third-place efforts in tie-down roping. In all, Viles has accounted for 41 percent of the second-place Cowboys' 1,290 points.
Central Wyoming College fronts the regional men's standings with 1,335 points. The UW men are sitting 15th nationally in total team points.
"He's just settled down," UW Coach George Howard says of Viles. "He's just doing his job now. He's not trying to win, he's just trying to stop the clock. And that's what happens when you just focus on doing your job, you start to win."
In his first three seasons at UW, Viles admits he placed to much focus on winning and, in the process, hurt his chances to accomplish his goal of qualifying for the College National Finals Rodeo, the sport's Super Bowl held annually at the Casper Events Center.
When he'd get in the box, Viles says he would worry about besting another contestant's time, calculate the time he needed to beat to earn victory or overanalyze his draw. By blocking out those types of thoughts and instead focusing only on himself, Viles says he's found his key to success.
It helps, too, Viles says, that his new partner in team roping, Eastern Wyoming College's Jared Bilby, shares the same philosophy. Although they had never run a steer together prior to this fall, Viles, the header, and Bilby, the heeler, have built a 150-point lead atop the CRMR standings.
"My goal every year is to make the college finals," Viles says. "I still want to go to the college finals, of course, but my goal this year is to make the short round in both of my events at every rodeo. I figure if I do that, by the end of the year, the standings will take care of themselves."
Viles is also motivated by his poor performance at this summer's CNFR, his first. Although he and his brother, Justin, tied for fourth place in the second go, Tyler missed his loop in the first and third rounds to cost them a chance to qualify for the championship go.
"It was very disappointing," he says. "I want to get back there and do a whole lot better."