The big show at the Reno Rodeo 2008, brought a huge surprise to the spectators when Troy Lerwill and Jason Goodman, the driver of the Priefert Hitch, decided to reinvent their acts. They decided it might be fun for Lerwill to jump over the six huge Percheron horses while pulling the Priefert Hitch. Driver Goodman’s experience made it possible to convince his team of Percherons to stand quiet while Lerwill flew over their heads and landed (without landing ramp) in front of them. The two combined to do it again in 2009. A video of the jump and others is on Lerwill’s Web site: www.thewildchild.net. Courtesy photo
By LAUREN VINCENT
Beware, wild man at large.
Expected to be heading for Beaver, Okla.
Last seen wearing face paint and riding a dirt bike.
Wanted for taunting 2,000-pound bulls.
Known alias: “The Wild Child”
At the age of 4, Troy Lerwill was given his first horse – a gift from father, Lynn, a team roper, and mother, Penny, a former rodeo queen.
A few years later, he became interested in a more mechanical means of transportation and began riding motorcycles. He entered his first race when he was 12 and by 18, Lerwill was No. 1 in the state of Utah in professional motorcross.
Troy Lerwill, now known as “The Wild Child,” again switched gears and began bullfighting in 1994, incorporating his motocross skills in the show. He jumped pickup trucks with trailers attached and worked up funny motorcycle acts as something unique for the rodeo crowd.
In 1997, he joined the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) and since then has entertained more than 1 million spectators, has been on international television, and was in the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.
“The clowns and bullfighters always fascinated me going to rodeos as a little kid,” Lerwill said. “It wasn’t something that I knew I was going to grow up and want to be; I was actually quite a bit older before I actually started my bullfighting career. But I think deep down inside, it was something that was attached to me due to my childhood.”
Lerwill admits there was more to the idea of becoming a bullfighter than just childhood memories.
“I also wanted the adrenaline rush of it,” he said. “I raced motorcycles and liked extreme sports, and this was something else that gives you a rush.
“It’s always exciting for me – you really have to pay attention, you always have to be on your toes, especially around animals, because you never know what they’re going to do.”
The thrill of the rodeo is not without its fair share of danger though.
“It’s just like anything else, it has its risks. This, of course, has more risk, with jumping the motorcycle and wrestling bulls, but once you get used to it and know what’s to be expected, it’s almost like another day at the office.
“I’ve had a few broken bones and stuff, but other than that, I’ve been very lucky,” he said. “So it’s definitely got its bumps and bruises and aches and pains but it’s still better than going to work and punching a time clock.”
One important part of preparing for a bout in the ring is keeping in pristine physical condition. The bullfighter is an athlete, and Lerwill rates flexibility high on the list of desirable qualities.
“I try and keep myself in good shape and stay on my toes,” he said. “It’s definitely something that you have to be in physical condition to do. It makes it a lot safer the more elastic you are. When you do get thrown around or knocked around, it’s not quite as bad if you’re flexible.”
Along with the obvious need for physical fitness, it is also necessary to keep a sharp mind.
“Both motocross and bullfighting are very physically demanding but bullfighting is a mental game because you have to hold your own and be there against the bull,” Lerwill said. “Your feet want to run but you have to be strong in the mind and stand your ground to wait until the bull gets right there. motocross is very physical and you’re competing against someone else that has pretty much the same ability as you do. But confront a 2,000 pound bull that wants to mow you over and that’s mentally challenging.”
Besides the enjoyment of an adrenaline rush in the spotlight Lerwill also enjoys his life behind the scenes.
“Another thing that’s in it for me is traveling with my girlfriend and going to different states,” he said. “I love to travel, meet people, and see how they live. It’s one of the best things about it for me. I like driving and there’s a lot of that that goes on so it’s a lot of fun.
“I work pretty much year–round. Sometimes I have a week off, sometimes I may have three weeks off, it just depends how I schedule it,” headded. “I try and stay pretty busy. I usually try to schedule out a year or two in advance so I know where I’m going ahead of time and can plan stuff around that.”
With all his traveling, it is seldom that Lerwill will work with the same people from week to week. He said the varying personalities in bullfighters does not affect his performance. The real difficulty comes in changing announcers.
“The announcer is the biggest thing for me,” he said. “When you work with one announcer a lot, you two can get going and working good together. For the most part, I’ve worked with all these guys once or twice throughout the year. I’ve never worked with this one in Beaver, though, at all. So Beaver will be a whole different program.”
The two main jobs of a bullfighter is to distract the bull while simultaneously entertaining the spectator.
“I do all the comedy,” he said. “That’s the majority of what I do now, entertain the crowd. I’m still out there with the bulls, but I’m in the barrel as an island of safety for the rider and the fighters, as well as entertaining the crowd.”
Entertaining the crowd is something Troy Lerwill is certainly good at. He has been awarded the title PRCA Comedy Act of the Year six times. Along with that, he has been voted the NFR Barrelman three times and Coors Man In the Can twice.
“The Wild Child” will be performing in Beaver, Okla., June 11 and 12 as a part of the Top 9 Rodeo series.