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COLUMBUS, Miss. (AP) — Will Lummus, 26, doesn’t second guess jumping off a running horse to wrestle a 600 pound steer to the ground.

If he did, he wouldn’t be the third placed steer wrestler in the world.

“Cattle are creatures of habit,” Lummus said. “Every time they walk, they walk the same trail. A lot of times, you can bank on a steer doing the same thing. Sometimes, they change and do something different, but usually he does the same thing.”

That predictability helps him make the jump, he said.

“It never gets old,” he added. “It’s the same feeling every time I do it. It’s a lot of fun. That’s why a lot of people do it, it’s that rush.”

Lummus, who heralds from West Point, has been competing in steer wrestling at rodeos since his sophomore year at Oak Hill Academy. By his senior year, he had garnered two state championship titles and continued wrestling steers as the rodeo captain at University of Tennessee-Martin.

This past year, Lummus competed in nearly 90 rodeos, traveling all over the country and winning nearly $90,000 which qualified him for the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. The top 15 rodeo money-earners throughout the year compete for 10 days, Dec. 6-16, at the NFR in the Thomas and Mack Center.

“I’d like to say I just did what I always do, but I was a little nervous,” Lummus said. “Every steer I wrestled and every competition I’ve ever been in was for that moment. I had prepared myself for it and it wasn’t as bad as everybody told me I would be.”

Through 10 rounds, he raced on his horse after a steer. When the timing was right, Lummus jumped off his horse, grabbed the steer by the horns and wrestled it to the ground — all in less than five seconds.

At just over six feet and 250 pounds, Lummus said he has no trouble bearing down a steer more than twice his size. During the competition, he successfully wrestled nine out of 10 steers. That one miss, Lummus said, sent him down to third place.

“I had a chance at being world champion and that one steer kind of cost me two spots,” he said. “So I ended up third. It’s exciting to finish that high, but a little disappointing because I had the chance to be best.”

Still, Lummus won $100,000. With that prize money, he said he’ll pay off his truck and take care of his horses, but largely he’s going to put it away for his savings.

He said placing third worldwide makes up for the hundreds of hours he’s spent away from home, driving to various rodeos throughout the year.

“Usually when you make the national finals, you’ve made some money,” Lummus said. “You’ve made a living. But then you get to go to the national finals and you get to win that much more, it makes being gone so much nicer. … It makes it all worth it.”

Lummus grew up hearing stories of his father, Clay County Supervisor Luke Lummus, bull riding and watched his uncle Bob Lummus steer wrestle. Though he never saw his father ride bulls, he has seen dozens of pictures and enjoyed his father’s stories.

Likewise, Luke has loved watching Will’s career, traveling to Las Vegas to watch his son in each of the 10 rounds.

“I wouldn’t have missed none of it for nothing in the world,” Luke said. “There’s no way I can describe it other than awesome. We’re so proud of him and proud for him.”

Susan Lummus, Will’s mother, said she has been behind him 100 percent and watching him compete at this level was a dream come true.

“It’s fantastic,” Susan said. “Any time that you can help your children achieve their dreams and then you get to live that dream with them, it’s just pretty amazing. He’s always wanted to do this. It was his goal to go to the National Finals Rodeo and he did a good job while he was there. He exceeded a lot of people’s expectations, I think. He had a phenomenal finals.”

After coming back home to Byhalia from the competition, Will said he slept for two days straight.

Now, he added, it’s time to prepare for next year’s event. The rodeo season started for the 2019 championship on Oct. 1. So far, he has traveled to Waco, Texas and Davie, Florida, winning fourth and third respectively.

When he’s not on the road, Will stays busy helping his friend’s heating and cooling business or training.

“I have to practice here at home,” he said. “I have an arena set up and everything. I have my steers and my horses and I practice just like I compete.”

He’s not looking to compete professionally for more than two years. Tackling 600 pound steers and traveling throughout an entire year is fine for now, but he enjoys being home with his wife Jenna much more.

“There’s guys that do this for 15 or 20 years and I’m not one of those guys,” Will said. “I love going and I love competing, that’s where I get most of my drive to do it. As far as being away from home, I don’t really enjoy that very much. But it’s only for a few years … so I’m going to do it and enjoy it while I’m doing it because I do get to see beautiful places that some people don’t get to.”

When Will does decide to retire from the rodeo, he won’t have to “figure out” what he will do next.

“I’m a physical therapist,” Will said. “That’s what I went to school for. I graduated August of 2016 and then started rodeoing. It’s awesome. I finally had everything that I needed to follow my dreams.

“It’s kind of like going to the super bowl and winning second,” he added. “That’s what it is, that’s our super bowl.”

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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