If you watched the Championship Shootout at RodeoHouston and have a beating pulse, you got excited for Matt Sherwood and Walt Woodard the moment they looked up at the jumbotron at and realized they had bested Cody Snow and Wesley Thorp’s fast time by .1 setting the new arena record with a 4.0. They got by the last team to rope, arguably one of the best teams in the world, Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira, and were crowned the 2018 RodeoHouston team roping champions.
At the cowboys’ favorite rodeo, March Madness takes on a meaning all its own at RodeoHouston. With a unique bracket-style format, to make it to Saturday’s Championship Shootout, ropers have at least roped five steers and potentially six through their Super Series, Semi-Finals, and the Wildcard round on the super stage of NRG stadium that has a staggering capacity of 72,220 people. Each round is a clean slate, and it is a battle until there is one team left standing. We are accustomed to hearing about the “Cinderella story” basketball teams and the underdogs taking the win in the tournament and team roping is shaping up to have their own Cinderella team in 2018 with the likes of Matt Sherwood and Walt Woodard.
Coming off a big win at the start of 2018 at the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo, Walt and Matt have resumes a mile long, and no, they aren’t the underdogs by any means. Nevertheless, this team is unique in a field of ropers and a sport where there are new young guns winning every day.
This veteran team is making a resurgence and breaking records.
In fact, Walt nearly has more NFR qualifications than years Cody Snow or Wesley Thorp have been alive. Known for being an expert roper, horseman, clinician, and motivational speaker, on any given day at his training center in Stephenville, TX he might be giving lessons to a beginning roper or practicing with an NFR qualifier. He’s played an instrumental role in a lot of the up and coming NFR qualifiers’ careers that he is now competing against. He’s just that guy, although he isn’t eager to take the credit for it.
“I don’t want to be looked at as their teacher or their mentor. I feed off of them. We’re all doing the same thing. We’re all watching Wesley Thorp, “the Brazilian”, and Corkill and seeing what they are doing. There are so many guys out there that can compete at this high of a level and I’m just working on what I can control to compete at my best and stay in that top 5% winning percentage.”
“Age is just a number” is truly Walt’s mentality, and it shows. We all remember his world championship in 2007, he won in his 50’s his first time out of retirement. Now competing in his 60’s; he’s more ready than ever and feels like he is fully competing and functioning at a high level.
“One thing I love about sports is there is no prejudice…and I despise prejudice. In sports, race, color, size, age…none of it matters. There is a line drawn in the sand here and there and whoever gets there first wins.”
This doesn’t mean Walt hasn’t had to change his game plan over the years. The team roping landscape looks a little different than in 1975 when he first bought his card. The steers today are smaller and the times are faster.
In his post-win interview with Boyd Polhamus, Boyd specifically asked him what changes he has made in his swing, with the general consensus being he had to adjust to a faster swing with a lighter rope to be as quick as you have to win money in today’s ropings. Walt has always been a GT4 guy. Previously he used a GTR full MH and now has transitioned to a GT4 Lite HM.
If you’ve watched Walt rope this year you would have to notice his beautiful blue roan gelding, “Blueberry”. If you ask Walt, this is the best horse he has ever ridden, and Walt has been around great horses and horsemen his entire life.
“He is perfect, he never makes a mistake. I got him when he was a yearling and we halter broke him at my place. No one has touched him except me and my son [Travis] and we trained him here. He is just amazing, he even cocks his head and watches the headers nod every time.”
Blueberry is a 10-year-old gelding with Sunfrost lineage and gets the utmost care at the Woodard ranch. Walt lopes and exercises him a mile and a half every day and uses him where he counts, you won’t see Blueberry at the weekly jackpots around Erath county. When he practices on him it’s in an extremely controlled environment, he ropes six steers and then drags the pen. There won’t even be a footprint in the arena when he is ready to rope again. He gives credit to this regimen and mindset to years of experience.
“When the ground isn’t good, barrel racers won’t run their horse. I’m a little that way with Blueberry. If it’s muddy at Cheyenne, ya-you have to ride him. But Pendleton…I won’t ever ride that horse there and it’s one of my favorite rodeos. I just won’t with him.”
What’s next for Sherwood and Woodard?
Well, they are hitting the road and making a run for Vegas for an NFR qualification and we wish nothing but the best of luck and hope to see them there.
Hannah Haugen, Public Relations Coordinator