Braunson Sims was two years old when he started wrangling cattle on horseback. He could throw a rope before he could walk, and he has been competing in rodeos since he was seven.
Getting involved in the sport at an early age has done the 11-year-old from Evanston well.
Already with a number of accomplishments under his belt, Sims most recently became the world all-around champion at the Junior National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.
“This kid has been a cowboy since the day he was born,” Steve Sims, Braunson’s father, said. “When most kids get up in the morning and watch cartoons, he gets up and watches (professional bull riding) – reruns of it.”
Steve and his wife, Chrystal, are ranchers by trade, but neither have an in-depth background with rodeo. Braunson became fascinated with the sport as soon as he discovered what it was.
“It’s just fun,” he said.
Braunson had already wanted to ride steers in the rodeo series when he received a bull rope as one of his presents for his sixth Christmas. That only fueled his desire to participate.
While the age limit for competing was eight, Braunson was allowed to ride his first steer in the series when he was seven. He started riding ponies that same year, and won at Milford, Utah, his first time doing so.
“He was little. He was tiny,” Steve said. “I thought when it got to the point to call in the steer, he wouldn’t do it. I thought he would chicken out.”
That never happened.
And while he has been bucked off several times since his first competitive ride, Braunson has only become more enthralled with the rodeo scene.
“He’s got it figured out now, huh?” Chrystal asked Braunson. “Still not very big, but you’ve got it figured out.”
It appears so.
In October, Braunson was invited to an NFR-qualifying event in Rock Springs. He received invitations to compete in saddle broncs and bareback broncs, based on his success in both events throughout the year.
From there, he earned his ticket to Las Vegas in both events and was eventually crowned the all-around champion.
“He’s accomplished quite a bit,” Steve said.
That might be an understatement, but Braunson remains humble about it.
“He’s pretty shy,” Chrystal said.
Braunson is like that way when he’s around some of his biggest heros, too. During his time at the NFR over the past three years, Braunson has been in the company of professional riders such as Tim O’Connell, Shane Proctor ,and Cody and Jake Wright, among others.
“They’re superstars and millionaires, but they’re pretty humble people,” Steve said. “They’re very good to the kids. But (Braunson) doesn’t say too much… the Wright Brothers, he’ll talk with them.”
“They’re more down your alley?” Chrystal asks Braunson. “They’re from around these parts. They all grew up in Milford, Utah,” she added.
Braunson nods. He lets his accomplishments speak for themselves – like being ranked fourth in the world in saddle broncs and ninth in bareback broncs.
But his end goal is clear – to ride at the professional level.
Braunson keeps that dream locked away in the back of his mind, but his main focus is on his next event, the Sweetwater Winter Series on New Year’s Eve in Rock Springs.
He has come a long way since his first season.
“When he first started, I thought we were going to kill him,” Steve said. “He was so tiny and (the steers) were so big. He got bucked off steer after steer.”
“No, no, no, no,” Braunson chimed in. “Not my first time.”
After a brief pause Braunson added, “my first year was rough.”
“He holds his own,” Chrystal said.