Born:Sept. 17, 1980 (Santa Maria, Calif.)
Residence:Los Alamos, Calif.
World Titles: 1 (2004)
Wrangler NFR Qualifications:5 (2001-04, 06)
Pace Picante Series Titles:1
Education:West Hills Community College (Coalinga, Calif.)
2006 World Standings Place: 2nd
2006 Wrangler NFR Place:6th
2006 Wrangler NFR Earnings:$95,613
Professional 2006 Highlights
• Won the first, sixth and seventh performances at the Wrangler NFR
• Placed in six rounds at the Wrangler NFR
• Won the Kitsap County Fair & Stampede (Bremerton, Wash.).
• Was the third highest money winner during Cowboy Christmas with $20,722.
• Won the St. Paul (Ore.) Rodeo.
• Won the Greeley (Colo.) Independence Stampede.
• Won the Showdown Rodeo (Palmdale, Calif.).
• Finished second at the Pace Picante ProRodeo Chute-out (Tulsa, Okla.).
• Won the Klamath Falls Great Northwest ProRodeo (Klamath Falls, Ore.).
• Won the Kern County Sheriff Reserve Stampede Days Rodeo (Bakersfield, Calif.).
• Won the Wrangler ProRodeo Tour Round at the Laughlin (Nev.) River Stampede.
• Won the Wrangler ProRodeo Tour Round and average title at the San Angelo (Texas) Stock Show and Rodeo.
Steer Wrestling Titles
• The Showdown Rodeo (Palmdale, Calif.).
• Woodlake (Calif.) Lions Club PRCA Rodeo.
Tie-Down Roping Titles
• Rowell Ranch Rodeo (Hayward, Calif.).
• Tore his pectoral muscle the end of June that required surgery and was sidelined the rest of the year.
• Won his first world title with $193,614 in earnings. Won Rd. 2 with a time of 3.1 seconds, Rd. 4 in 3.7 seconds, Rd. 5 in 3.3 seconds, and placed in Rds. 7, 8 and 9. Had the world title locked up after Rd. 9. Set the regular season earnings record (prior to the Wrangler NFR) in steer wrestling with $125,625 and the single-season earnings record (after the Wrangler NFR) with $193,614.
• Won Southwestern Livestock Show and Exposition (Fort Worth, Texas).
• Won Red Bluff (Calif.) Round-up.
• Won Pace Picante ProRodeo Chute-out title.
• Claimed title at Ogden (Utah) Pioneer Days.
• Won aggregate title at the Snake River Stampede (Nampa, Idaho).
• Semifinalist at Pace Picante ProRodeo Challlenge (Omaha, Neb.).
• Won aggregate title at the American Royal (Kansas City, Mo.).
• Finished second at the Pace Picante ProRodeo Classic (Dallas).
• Won the year-end steer wrestling title in the California Circuit.
PRCA Overall and Steer wrestling Resistol Rookie of the Year (2000).
California High School all-around, steer wrestling and team roping champion (1998); California High School steer wrestling champion (1996).
Spin:Luke, I don't know if you realize this, but the first article I ever had printed was the story I wrote on you winning the 2000 Resistol Rookie of the Year for the ProRodeo Sports News. You've come a long way since then.
Luke: Yeah, you know, I'm sure you have too. It's been an amazing career for me to be able to go through the ups and downs of rodeo with making the National Finals Rodeo, winning a world championship and then getting injured the next year and then coming back and having another great year. I hope a lot of guys who rodeo can enjoy my success and not have to worry about the injuries. Just have success of their own and be well. It's just been an amazing career so far.
Spin:You touched on this, but I'd like to talk about it more. If the PRCA gave an award for comeback player of the year, you'd be the leading candidate. How would you characterize the 2006 season after such a tough injury in 2005?
Luke: You know, after I got hurt a lot of people told me I wouldn't come back as strong and I probably wouldn't make the Finals. I tried to use that as a driver for me, I told myself that if I'm going to do anything this year, I'm going to go out and prove people wrong and try to win another gold buckle. I came close, but I did do a lot of what I wanted to do. I went out and had a great year and I made the Finals. I fell short of the gold buckle, but that was nobody's fault. Dean (Gorsuch) did a great job all year and capped it off at the Finals.
The comeback showed people that no matter how bad an injury is in this sport, a guy always has a chance to come back and I was just happy that I was able to.
Spin:Back to the Finals. That was one of the most nail-biting races in Las Vegas. Round 5, when you missed your steer, had to be tough, but other than that you had a great Finals and it was back and forth the whole time between you and Dean. Take us through those ups and downs.
Luke: There really weren't any downs at the Finals, even though I missed that steer in the fifth round. The way I see it is I'm not much in the average and I never have been. I'd get lucky and win some averages throughout the year, but I just try to go win first on every steer. When a guy does that, there's always the chance of breaking a barrier or missing a steer. That just happens. There were no downs. I was pretty pumped for Dean. He came back in that 10th round knowing he had to win something. He said, hey, Luke's not going to roll over and he's going to make me work for it. So Dean came back and did good and that made me feel good. I had a great year-the best Finals I've ever had-especially considering I came back off an injury.
Spin:You rode Jesse Peterson's Gunner at the Finals. What are you riding at the rodeos this season?
Luke: My sorrel horse that I rode last year got crippled, so I'm just trying to ease him around. My friend Billy Bugenig has a horse, Smarty, that won third for horse of the year last year. I'm also hauling a grey horse that a team roper, Rance Thrall, owns and he's been working good. I rode him at the California Circuit Finals and at Fort Worth. If he's the type that I think he is, I'll be able to win quite a bit on him.
Spin:You've been invited to the Wrangler Timed Event Championships, I guess now you've got a horse you can use in a couple different situations there. What is that event like for a guy who specializes in steer wrestling?
Luke: Last year was my third year going, and I had won pretty good the first two years. Last year, I pulled my groin in the third round and figured I wouldn't take a chance getting injured and jeopardizing my bull dogging, so I withdrew. But it's exciting. If I didn't bulldog, I'd buy a tripping horse and start steer roping. I think that's a trip. But it's fun just to be able to swing a rope with some of those guys that are the best in the world: Trevor Brazile, Jimmie Cooper, Dan Green, guys that I've watched growing up. I got invited again this year and I plan on going unless something comes up and I get conflicted at some rodeos. One thing about it for me is my main deal is steer wrestling, so I want to rodeo and make the Finals and earn money that way.
Spin:Trevor has always dominated the Timed-Event. The one event he doesn't work regularly that is included there is the steer wrestling. So from a world champion's point of view, how do Trevor's steer wrestling skills rank?
Luke: Trevor does a great job. The type of steers they take there probably benefit a guy like Trevor or guys that don't bulldog a lot. I can be 3.9 on a steer there and they can come back and be 5 or 6 on them so I can't make much ground on them. In the tripping and stuff, if a steer is pretty fresh, they'll tie him in 12 and it'll take me 18 or 20, there's a big difference there.
Trevor does good. He's a cowboy for sure and I think no matter what kind of steers they brought, he'd get past them. He doesn't pressure up and he knows what he's doing.
Spin:Speaking of knowing your business. I'm curious how you approach the beginning of a season, how you choose which rodeos to enter and your overall goals.
Luke: The way they changed the Tour system, a guy for sure has to do good at the Tour rodeos. It's based on money won, so I'm going to definitely go to the Tour rodeos I think I can win at. I've never been to Dodge City, so I'll probably cross that one off my list. I've been to Guymon off and on, but this year I didn't enter Rapid City, so I'll probably go to Guymon. A guy has a chance to win more money the more steers he runs. In Guymon, you get two for sure in the progressive round, where Rapid is just two and a short. A person just has to look at the rodeos and see how many steers he can run at that rodeo and how much money he can win. The other thing is, everybody does well at different rodeos. I've never done well in Rapid, so I didn't enter that one.
Spin:Plus you can't count all the Tour rodeos anyway, can you?
Luke: Right, a guy can only count 15 out of 21, so there are six of those to cross off. I just went to the list and picked six I hadn't done well at and figured out when I wanted to be home and looked at it that way.
Spin:Where did you get your nickname, Baby?
Luke: Bob Lummus called me Baby Branquinho and it just kind of stuck.
Spin:How about the booty-shake dance you do after a good run. Where did that come from?
Luke: It's kind of a little embarrassing. The announcers Bob (Tallman) and Boyd (Polhamus) in Dallas in 2004 wanted me to do a dance. I told them there was no way. I don't have any moves or anything to offer. They kept pushing and pushing and that booty dance was the only thing I could come up with without totally embarrassing myself.
Spin:Now they call for it every time you run a steer.
Luke: Yeah, but it's kind of surprising, a lot of people seem to enjoy it-or maybe they just like to see me make a fool out of myself-but they talk about it, so it's kind of a neat feeling.
Spin:Sure. Well, hopefully you'll get a chance to do that dance a lot this season. Thanks for taking the time to visit.
Luke: You bet, if you need anything else, just give me a call.