MILAN, Minn. (WCCO) – The Old West is long gone. But near the western Minnesota town of Milan, a part of it is still very much alive.
Rodeo runs in J.D. Struxness’s blood. Both his aunts and his dad were in high school rodeo and qualified for nationals.
“I just love it. During the summer I just want to do it all the time, run around. Hitting rodeos,” Struxness said. “My uncle really taught me how to rope when I was two years old. I got into it then, and I never set the rope down since.”
But rodeo isn’t all J.D.’s good at. Also following in his father’s footsteps, he’s a stand-out football player for the Lac Qui Parle Valley Eagles.
And when he’s not wrestling 500-pound steers in the summer, he’s wrestling 220 pounders in the winter.
He placed second in the state in wrestling last year. His dad, Dan, finished third when he was in high school. And that creates competition.
“He’s probably not as quite as mentally tough yet,” Dan laughed.
And wrestling matches between father and son are not OK with mother.
“Mom banned that in the house after we went through the wall,” J.D. said.
So they take it outside, where there are no walls to worry about.
In a state where rodeo isn’t as popular as football or other sports, the Struxness family loads their horses and gear into their semi and drives across the country- seeking a thrill most Minnesotans have never tried.
“We can haul six horses and their food. And we can haul about 20 bales of hay,” said Dan during a tour of the rodeo truck.
They’ve made friends with other rodeo families along the way, but there’s a method to all of this. What allows J.D. to excel here is the same thing that allows him to excel in other sports.
“When he tosses a guy, when he gets him off balance, he can feel that. And I think steer wrestling and wrestling make you better at each one. Just being able to attack when you feel that animal or wrestler is off balance,” Dan said.
J.D has a goal of steer wrestling professionally one day. And his coach sees no reason why that can’t happen.
“When you throw a steer…there’s nothing better. If you like physical contact and you like competition, there’s nothing better than rodeo,” Dan said.
J.D. qualified for nationals again this year, and competed in August. His older sisters went to college on rodeo scholarships.
His more immediate high school goal is to win state in wrestling this winter.