When Dakota Eldridge left Las Vegas last December, he was the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (NFR) champion and the reserve world champion. Not bad for his third consecutive trip to Las Vegas to compete at rodeo’s Super Bowl.
The Nevada native was born and raised in Elko and is also a talented roper. He won the all-around and steer wrestling rookie of the year awards in 2012. The very next year he qualified for the NFR in 15th place. In 2014, he rose from ninth to fifth in the world standings.
Last year, his race for the world title started in 13th place and rose to second place by winning $144,115 in Las Vegas. He was less than $30,000 away from the world title. This year has been a great year for the four-year member of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. He will enter the NFR in the highest place of his career and has his eyes set on the gold buckle.
Much of Dakota’s success has come aboard a 17- year-old sorrel gelding that he calls Rusty. Rusty was raised by Dakota’s grandfather, trained by his dad in the heading then Dakota turned him into a steer wrestling horse in high school.
As this cowboy is always working to better himself and has consistently climbed his way up the steer wrestling ladder, he is expected to win a gold buckle and would be the first born-and-raised Nevadan to do so. The last Nevada resident to win a steer wrestling world title was Dave Campbell from Las Vegas who won it in 1946.
Dakota does everything he can to be outdoors. He loves to hunt and whenever he gets a chance will go snowmobiling, skiing or snowboarding. His competitive nature and talent saw him winning the slalom race at the Cowboy Downhill at Steamboat Springs, Colo., in 2012.
Favorite movie: The snowboarder in me loves Out Cold and the cowboy is a fan of Lonesome Dove.
Favorite current TV show: Either Breaking Bad or Longmire.
Dogs or cats: Dogs. His name is Ace – I found him while I was elk hunting about eight years ago. I don’t know what he is, but he definitely has some cow dog in him.
Favorite dessert: It would have to be my grandma’s Peach Cobbler.
Favorite card or board game: I like Cribbage. It seems like with phones and video games we don’t interact with each other as much and play those kind of games.
Favorite sport, other than rodeo: Football – I’m a fan of the Broncos and the Seahawks.
If you weren’t in rodeo, what would you be doing: I would probably guide hunts in the fall and winter and train horses.
Best childhood memory: Going out to my buddies (the Burn family) cabin snowmobiling. We had a blast.
Best gift you ever received:I’ve gotten some pretty cool things for Christmas, but the support of my family and friends truly has been a gift. I couldn’t achieve my goals without them.
Favorite thing you like about Las Vegas: The Thomas & Mack Center and the Stack restaurant at the Mirage. Thomas & Mack because of the NFR. The electricity in that building for 10 nights and the money there is unbelievable. And I can’t leave town without having a Tomahawk Ribeye at Stacks.
Historical figure you’d most like to meet: John Wayne would definitely be on the top of the list. But I’d like to meet Theodore Roosevelt. He was a patron of our National Parks. When I was at Estes Park this year, I got to spend some time in Rocky Mountain National Park and it was awesome.
What do you like to do in your spare time: Hunt, snowmobile, train horses and snowboard. Pretty much anything fun you could do outside.
My role model is: I’ve always looked up to Trevor Brazile because he is such a winner. It’s unbelievable how much he has won and yet he still has a drive to keep winning. My dad, Mark, and my uncle, Marlow Eldridge, have been a big influence in my life.
What would people be surprised to learn about you: That I like cooking – especially on the grill. I barbecue a lot of different things.
Best travel partner: Blake Knowles and Clayton Morrison helped me the first year I made the Finals. They were always positive and helped me enter. Sterling Lambert is my current traveling partner. We get a long really good and that’s great because he puts up with me.
Music: I have a wide variety of music. Anything from Marty Robbins to Kid Rock to Eminem.
Favorite Horse: That would have to be Rusty. He means so much to me. When he is in the trailer, I constantly worry about him. The only time I can really relax is when he is at home and my dad is taking care of him. Two years ago he had a bone chip in his front right leg and had surgery. I watched the surgery and that was unreal. I did lots of worrying. I was so happy when he came back. It was kind of like my best friend was going into surgery. It was hard to watch.
How did you get your middle name William: It’s from my great grandfather on my dad’s side.
If you could live anywhere where would it be: Probably Montana. They have mountains and snow. What else could you ask for? On the other hand, I really like San Luis Obispo, California. It’s the complete opposite of Montana, but I like it there too.
Best thing about being from Nevada: We have four full seasons, I can hunt, fish and snowmobile. Nevada has more mountain ranges than any other state. I think that’s cool. We have a lot of big ranches around Elko so I get to do a lot of fun ranch work. Having the NFR seven hours from my house and in my home state might be the best thing of all.
Facebook or Twitter – Actually I use Instagram the most. I like taking pictures so I really like Instagram. There is a new app called pandahausrodeo that combines platforms. It is specific to rodeo and I like that.