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Big Island teen grabs steer wrestling world championship at youth rodeo

Published: Jul. 16, 2021 at 5:07 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Every time Big Island cowboy Trisyn Kalawaia explodes from a chute atop a horse to wrestle a steer to the ground, he takes another step toward his dream of being a professional rodeo rider.

“After watching it on TV, I just dreamed about it. I said, ‘One day I’m going to be there with everybody else and be in the top 15 in the world,’” he said.

Two weeks ago, the 18-year-old from Hilo locked up a share of the 2021 Steer Wrestling world championship at the Junior National Finals Rodeo, one of youth rodeo’s biggest contests.

It validated his place in the sport at a national level.

“To be with the best of the best, it’s just a great experience to come here and represent Hawaii at all these rodeos. To win is a great feeling,” he said.

Kalawaia grew up rodeo riding. He entered his first rodeo when he was just 7 years old, after his uncle talked him into it.

“He brought horses to my house and said, ‘Get on!’ We ended up riding around in a round pen. A week later I was in my first keiki rodeo in Waimea,” he said.

He’s competed in just about every event in rodeo. He rode bulls and broncs before settling on steer wrestling. He can take down an animal by its horns in under four seconds.

“Just being big I feel like it helps me out,” he said. “It gives me an advantage in steer wrestling. I like the rush, the adrenaline.”

Rodeo riding is a rough sport. Kalawaia has suffered broken bones, concussions, and a slew of other injuries.

“I got my knees crushed in a bucking shoot,” he said.

But the breaks and bruises can’t sideline his steady rise. The world title earned him a spot in the semifinals at next year’s American Rodeo event.

“They take the top to the ATT Stadium in Texas. You actually have a chance at winning a million,” he said.

Kalawaia is spending the summer entering as many prize money events as he can. In the fall he’ll start his second season riding collegiate rodeo for Central Arizona College.

He said the more time he spends in the saddle, the closer he gets to his goal.

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