Eric Manos prepares to wrestle a steer during rodeo action in Livingston, Ala., earlier this year.

Eric Manos gets an adrenaline rush from wrestling 600 pounds of angry steer to the ground.

Most thrill-seekers might consider safer ways to get their kicks, but Manos insists he’s never been injured, at least not seriously. “I’ve been banged up and bruised a little, but I’ve never been hurt bad,” he says. “I just love the action.” 

Manos will get plenty of action in the next few days as he represents the University of Arkansas at Monticello at the College National Finals Rodeo which begins Sunday at the Casper Events Center in Casper, Wyoming.

A senior agriculture major from Trenton, Fla., Manos will compete in steer wrestling at an event that bills itself as the “Rose Bowl of college rodeo.” Manos qualified for the national rodeo by being named reserve champion for the Ozark region.

The College National Finals Rodeo is where the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association crowns individual event champions in saddle bronc riding, bare back riding, bull riding, tie-down roping, steer wrestling, team roping, barrel racing, breakaway roping, and goat tying. National team championships are also awarded to both men’s and women’s teams. More than 400 cowboys and cowgirls representing over 100 universities compete each year.

Contestants compete all year in one of the NIRA’s 11 regions for a chance to rope or ride at the CNFR.  The top three students in each event, and top two men’s and women’s teams from each of the NIRA’s regions qualify for the CNFR.

Manos and the other steer wrestlers will compete three times over the next week, with the top 12 competitors advancing to the final round. Much of each contestant’s success depends on the luck of the draw. “The bull you get is a big factor,” said Manos. “Some bulls you just know you’re not going win with. They may decide to sit or keep running, or you may get one with a head shake that’s tough to handle.”

The 23-year-old Manos will graduate from UAM in December with a degree in agriculture but plans to put his eventual career on hold while he tries hishand at professional rodeo. “I’m going to give pro rodeo a try for a year or two and see if I can make it,” he said. “After that I guess I’ll have to get a real job.”

That real job probably won’t carry the same adrenaline rush, but it will more than likely be safer.

Jim Brewer
Director, UAM Media Services