Inducted in 2006
The year 1999 severely tested the grit of steer wrestling champion Rod Lyman. For fifteen years, Lyman had ranked in the top of his sport, garnering prize money, championship buckles, and an impressive record of twelve National Finals Rodeo (NFR) qualifications. Yet 1999 proved a frustrating year that found him sidelined during the National Finals. It was high time, Lyman remembered, to “shape up.” Finding himself breathless after a brisk hike in the mountains surrounding his Victor, Montana ranch, Rod saw “how out of shape I was.”
He and wife Stefani immediately began a regimen of jump roping, sit-ups, and a low carbohydrate diet. “I didn’t mind it,” he remembers. “I’ve always liked the physical side of things…plus I was too hardheaded to stop.” Thanks to this regimen Lyman went from 280 to 237 pounds, a “lean and mean” weight that brought him back once again into the winner’s circle. By the time of the 2000 NFR he led the World in steer wrestling winnings, and qualified for the NFR for the next four years. “I just rededicated myself,” he reflected. “I put the business side of it out of my mind and took care of the bulldogging part.”
Montanan Rod Lyman joined the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) as a steer wrestler in 1984 and never looked back. During a stellar career that continues to this day, Lyman has qualified for the PRCA National Finals Rodeo no less than 16 times. He has won scores of event and all-around buckles, including the Southwestern PRCA Circuit Finals steer wrestling and All-Around titles. Although a World Championship in Steer Wrestling has eluded him, at present Lyman’s career earnings exceed $1,500,000.00.
Born March 4, 1961 in Great Falls, Montana, young Rod Lyman excelled at both wrestling and football before turning to rodeo timed-event competitions. He became an accomplished team roper and, at 6’ 2” and 225 pounds, big Rod was a natural for steer wrestling, a sport he pursued while attending and graduating from Montana State University in Bozeman. One year after he turned professional, Lyman qualified for the National Finals Rodeo (1985). This was the first of an impressive string of NFR qualifying seasons—1985-87, 1989-96, 1998, and 2000-2003.
At the recent Prineville (OR) Rodeo, ERHOF Board member Ken MacRae asked champion steer wrestler Brad Gleason to comment on the career of his friend and fellow Montanan, Rod Lyman. Gleason ascribes Lyman’s greatness in large part to an unwavering attitude that steer wrestling was his profession, it would afford him a good living, and he would follow it as his only career. “He showed his seriousness,” states Gleason, “by staying a full year with the steer wrestling Duvall Family in Oklahoma, learning from them, training himself in the technical side of the sport and riding their horses for the first year he made the NFR.” “Since then,” Gleason notes, “he has always found and kept good horses, practiced hard and been a steady winner.”
Among Rod Lyman’s many championships are buckles from the Calgary Stampede, San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo, War Bonnet Roundup (Idaho Falls), Prescott (AZ) Frontier Days, Fiesta de los Vaqueros (Tucson) In his home state Montana Circuit Finals, Lyman has won the bulldogging multiple times (’89, ’91, ’95, ’98) and the all-around in ’95.
Lyman has always done well in the Pacific Northwest, regularly taking home day money, averages, event and all-around championships in Kennewick, Lewiston, Walla Walla, and Puyallup. In Ellensburg, Lyman won the bulldogging a near record four times (‘90, ‘94, ‘96, & 2000) and won the Ellensburg Rodeo All-Around Championship in 1990.
“The outstanding record of money won at Ellensburg,” notes Gleason, “has often made the difference between Rod making the NFR or not.”
A 1995 Ellensburg Rodeo competition that Rod Lyman did not win makes an interesting story. John Ludtka, Ellensburg Rodeo historian (and ERHOF Inductee) writes in The Tradition Lives On that in ’95, “Rod Lyman had a 5.1-second run to take the lead in the bulldogging. Then he hazed for his buddy Brad Gleason, who posted 4.7 seconds to [defeat Lyman and] win. Helping your cowboy competitor has been a way of life for rodeo hands, even if it means losing once in a while.”
Concurrent with his rodeo competitions, Lyman and Stefani have developed a highly respected timed-event horse breeding and training business. They divide their time between ranches in Llano, Texas and their Victor, Montana “Flying R” Ranch. From 1992-95 Rod served on the PRCA Board of Directors. In his spare time, Rod likes to hunt.