A hush settles over the crowd. The dust falls. All eyes point to the south side of the rodeo arena. Backed into the roping box is a tensed-up bay horse ridden by 36-inseam Cinch Jeans and an attention-getting shirt patched with some of the biggest brand names in the rodeo industry. With all the confidence in the world, the 7-inch brim of Resistol cowboy hat nods forward.
With a bang, the chute gates release; 1,200 pounds of built-up intensity from the bay horse releases after the calf. Shouts of, “You’re out!” echo in the background to give the cowboy an extra dose of confidence.
Seven and a half seconds later, the flag drops on the short round run. The cowboy adds ‘Texas Tech Collegiate Rodeo Tie-Down Champion’ to the extensive list of accomplishments this freshman phenom has already built for himself.
“He has a gold buckle mindset and the skills to match.”
Leaving Las Vegas with a high chin, a trophy saddle in the back seat, and a victory lap around the Thomas and Mack is merely a fantasy for almost anyone who’s ever sat in the saddle. For 19-year-old Texas Tech University student and rodeo athlete, Chet Weitz, his first taste of Vegas came at the ripe age of three. With surprised pre-teens watching, he walked away with a trophy saddle for winning the dummy roping; he was barely strong enough to carry it himself.
“I have been rodeoing for 16 years,” Weitz said. “Ever since I can remember I have been on the back of a horse.”
Weitz’s childhood was spent traveling back and forth from his home in Mason, Texas, to rodeos around the country. After claiming the Texas high school state team roping championship, Weitz attracted offers from universities just like any NCAA division one athlete prospect would expect.
“I have wanted to go to Tech since I was little,” Weitz said. “After I toured campus for the first time, I knew it was where I was supposed to be.”
Texas is a petri dish for producing champions, heading to Lubbock was always the plan for the second-generation Tech rodeo team member.
Texas Tech Rodeo Coach Jerrad Hofstetter said having Weitz join the team was a win in itself.
“Finding a kid who wants to take rodeo seriously and go to a major university is harder to find than people realize,” Hofstetter said. “Chet is that kind of person. We worked hard to get him and his family here and we are thankful they chose our program.”
The former National Finals Rodeo qualifier and rookie of the year said because the rodeo team is 100% self-funded, he focuses on recruiting students who are self-motivated and driven both inside and out of the arena.
The average day for Weitz starts off with a cup of coffee and a Bible to take in the calm before the storm of work. From his dorm, he heads to the Texas Tech Equestrian Center to feed his horses and makes it back to campus before his morning classes. After class, he knocks out his homework and then drives his white Ford dually back to his stalls where he practices until the sun goes down.
“There isn’t a ton of down time with being a full-time student and being on the rodeo team,” Weitz said. “But it has all been beyond worth it to me.”
In just one year, the true freshman’s motivation to work secured him a spot in both the team roping and tie-down events at the College National Finals Rodeo held in Casper, Wyoming, in June 2020. This is no easy feat, according to Hofstetter, considering Texas Tech’s home region is the most difficult in terms of numbers and land mass covered.
Looking forward, both Hofstetter and Weitz have big aspirations for his rodeo career.
“Chet has the potential to go some places with his rope and there is no doubt that he will get there,” Hofstetter said. “He has a gold buckle mindset and the skills to match. All he has to do is continue to work like he already does.”