SHERIDAN — Chris Navarro has an uncommon addiction — not for a substance, but rather for team roping.
Navarro sated his addiction for at least a day when he was one of nearly 600 competitors in the Bob King Memorial Team Roping Sunday at the Sheridan County Fairgrounds.
“Any time you mix joy and adrenaline, it’s just fun,” Navarro said. “A lot of my friends go, ‘Why would you take up a sport like team roping?’ If I could quit, I would … It’s like a drug.”
The 16th annual team roping event concluded the Sheridan WYO Rodeo. It is part of the National Team Roping tour, which features competitions in Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, Texas, Iowa and Arizona.
Navarro, who splits his time living between Casper and Sedona, Arizona, is a “header,” meaning he ropes the steer’s horns, head or neck and tries to slow the steer down and bring it in position for his partner, the “heeler,” to rope both of the steer’s rear legs.
Most competitors chose one of their roping partners and had the other one randomly drawn with the hopes of potentially evening the playing field. Tye Reed and Ronnie D. Ward won the three-steer Century competition with a total time of 32.03 seconds, splitting $3,280 in earnings. Joe Carl and Colten Fisher won a Megabucks four-steer competition with four successes in 36.21 seconds. They divided $3,620 in earnings.
Eric Oliver had a successful day as well. Oliver hails from Douglas and won a different Megabucks four-steer competition Sunday with his partner Scott Leach, who lives in Glendo. The victory resulted in earnings of about $2,000 for both Oliver and Leach.
Four-steer means the teams must successfully rope a steer in each round to advance and after four rounds, the team with the lowest total time wins. Oliver and Leach totaled 38.37 seconds in four rounds.
Oliver grew up around horses and has been team roping for around 35 years. He previously rode bulls but gave it up awhile ago and now focuses exclusively on team roping, which he competes in almost year-round.
Similarly, Navarro has roped for about 30 years and competes almost every weekend. Navarro owned his first horse at age 12 and competed on the Casper College rodeo team in the 1970s. Navarro’s first passion was bull riding, but after competing as a professional for less than a year, he couldn’t make an adequate living and was always injured. In his career, Navarro has broken 17 bones, had five concussions, dislocated both shoulders and had his front teeth knocked out.
He didn’t pick up team roping until about a decade after giving up bull riding. In the intervening years, Navarro mainly worked in the oil fields. He also began sculpting around that time and has a few works of art in Sheridan and at Tongue River schools. He has sculpted many rodeo-related works of art as well.
Team roping is different than most rodeo events in that people can compete for decades, unlike other events like bull riding and bareback riding that are dominated by people in their 20s. Currently 62 years old, Navarro plans to compete until his body won’t allow him. He was in a serious accident about four years ago — not during team roping — and broke his collarbone, shoulder blade, seven ribs and had a collapsed lung.
Despite the injuries, Navarro never considered quitting.
“I got on my horse three months later,” he said.
He has also broken fingers and hands in the past, which adversely affects his sculpting business, but team roping is too enjoyable to give up.
Navarro equated team roping to gambling because of the fairly high costs and less-than-ideal payoff. Navarro isn’t in it for the money, however. The pure adrenaline and excitement keep him coming back and wanting more.