By TERRY LIDRAL For the Press-Tribune
Matt Siozawa - the 2011 Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association National World Finals Tie-Down Average Winner from Chubbuck takes pride in representing the state of Idaho in front of a crowd including a large number of family and friends.
Nampa is a special place for Shiozawa for another reason, too. It’s where he met his wife, Allyson, at the Snake River Stampede when she was Miss Teen Rodeo and he was still in college.
“It’s a thrill winning in front of the home state crowd,” Shiozawa said.
But this time, competing as a member of the Elite Rodeo Athletes League of Champions Premiere Tour, Shiozawa is more excited than ever.
The ERA was organized by the top rodeo athletes in the world and is owned and operated by cowboys and cowgirls who compete on the tour. The purpose of the organization is to provide more opportunity for people to participate in rodeo and to provide events where rodeo fans will be assured of seeing top rodeo talent in each and every event.
Shiozawa was chosen to join the greatest names on the rodeo circuit. The ERA tie-down roping roster includes the legendary Trevor Brazile, 23-time World Champion and 13-time PRCA All-Around Cowboy World Champion; Fred Whitfield, eight-time world champion; Cody Ohl, six-time world champion; and world champions Shane Hanchey, Caleb Smith, Monty Lewis, Stran Smith and Tuf Cooper.
“I was selected to join,” Shiozawa said. “The group felt like I should be a part of it. If there’s going to be an elite league in rodeo, you sure want to be in it. I’ve worked hard to get to this level, and I’m pleased to be included.”
Shiozawa’s hard work began at an early age when he made a decision to concentrate his efforts on becoming a professional tie-down roper.
“I grew up in Idaho,” Shiozawa said. “My dad competed in amateur rodeos and, like a lot of kids, I started helping with the horses and, when I got a little older, I started swinging a rope.”
By the time he was 10, Shiozawa had given up other sports to focus on tie-down roping.
“I started out traveling to youth rodeos in eastern Idaho. They were close, and I was able to get involved,” Shiozawa said. “It was breakaway roping for the most part.”
To achieve the goal of becoming a world-class tie-down roper, Shiozawa needed to compete in more events than eastern Idaho had to offer. And he was looking for the opportunity to compete in youth tie-down competition.
“South Texas and Oklahoma had a lot of youth events, and they had a 12-and-under tie-down competition,” Shiozawa said. “I was small and all the calves looked big. But I competed.”
Shiozawa quickly moved up through the ranks, winning titles along the way.
“I went through the normal progression of youth, high school, college rodeo. I went to the High School Nationals in my junior year. I was the 1998 High School National Tie-Down Champion and All Around Champion,” Shiozawa said. “The next year, my senior year, I was the 1999 High School National Team Roping Champion.”
Between high school and college, Shiozawa entered amateur and professional rodeos in the eastern Idaho area. Accepting a rodeo scholarship to attend Vernon College in Vernon, Texas, Shiozawa spent three semesters honing his tie-down skills.
“I went to Vernon because so many professional contestants have come from there,” he said. “It was a good decision. I made it three semesters, and then I decided to try myself at the pro level.”
Shiozawa’s first year on the PRCA tour was the 2001 season, and he missed the National Finals Rodeo by only a few hundred dollars in winnings. He’s gone on to have a lot of success on the pro rodeo circuit.
“In 2004, I won the Snake River Stampede, and I’ve won the Caldwell Night Rodeo a couple of times,” he said. “From 2001 to 2005, I had a lot of big wins. But I hadn’t had the breakthrough year I had in 2005.”
In 2005, Shiozawa made it to the National Finals Rodeo for the first time.
“I ended up in the top 10 in the world and I won three rounds at the finals,” Shiozawa said. “In 2011, I was the National Finals Rodeo Tie-Down Roping Average Winner.”
Now, Shiozawa is stepping up to a new level of rodeo competition.
“During the Snake River Stampede,” Shiozawa said, “there are at least seven major PRCA rodeos going on in the region at the same time. Guys go to slack in one place and drive all night to get to the next rodeo. People don’t know that some of the top guys show up for slack, qualify and then don’t show up for the regular rodeo. With the ERA, fans know who they are going to see and they are guaranteed to see the best cowboys and cowgirls in the world at every single event.”
Shiozawa is also looking forward to a shorter number of travel miles, fewer events and the potential for good money. A regular year on the PRCA tour includes sometimes 80,000 to 100,000 miles of travel and long, overnight drives.
“Being on the ERA tour means a lot less miles on me and my horses,” he said. “We’ll travel probably 20,000 to 40,000 miles. It’s hard for me and the horses to be at our top performance level with all the miles we were doing and all the rodeos we were entering. It will be nice at this point in my life not to be on the road so much.”
Shiozawa will have more time to spend in Chubbuck with his wife, Allyson, and their three young daughters, Stella, Lorelei (Lulu) and Ivory.
Shiozawa and his family are excited to be at the Nampa event, which is the second stop on the ERA’s inaugural tour. He spent most of the week in Nampa visiting with friends and promoting his sponsor, Pro Filters.
If You Go
What: Elite Rodeo Athletes League of Champions Premiere Tour.
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.
Where: Ford Idaho Center, 16200 N. Idaho Center Blvd. in Nampa.
Tickets: Cost $32-77 and can be purchased online at ICtickets.com, at the box office or by phone at 442-3232.