Cowboy heart

After transplant, team roper back in saddle

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— Nine years ago, Ryan Rochlitz was diagnosed with Idiopathic Cardio Myopathy and told that he had three months to live. Receiving a heart through the Donor Alliance, a Colorado and Wyoming organ procurement organization, Rochlitz underwent heart transplant surgery on Oct. 5, 1997.

By New Year's Day, the Cheyenne resident was back on his horse, roping steers. Rochlitz has been competing in rodeos since.

"Trying to get my strength back was the main thing," Rochlitz said. "I don't notice it -- now it's just like anybody else."

Stout and healthy at 27, Rochlitz proved he was more than just another face in the crowd at Friday night's Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo.

In front of a large crowd at the Brent Romick Rodeo Arena, Rochlitz and Steamboat's Grant Scheer took second place in team roping with a time of 6.7 seconds, during a night where only half of the ten competing teams caught their steers. After the event Scheer and Rochlitz said they were satisfied catching theirs, considering it was their first rodeo together.

Rochlitz explained how Scheer, the team's 'header,' sets up the run by roping the steer's horns and turning it to one side for Rochlitz, the 'heeler,' to rope its hind legs.

"If he gives me a good shot when he turns him, I can get him," Rochlitz said.

"It's about chemistry with your partner, smoothness and speed," Scheer said.

Scheer said they will compete next in a Riverton, Wyo. rodeo followed by a rigorous schedule of seven events in five days. First, however, Scheer is heading to Cheyenne Frontier Days to watch his daughter Danni compete in the women's barrel race.

Fort Collins' Bob Grieve, who was penalized five seconds for only roping one leg on Friday, noted the fickle hit-or-miss nature of the classic rodeo event.

"I love to come up and I always have fun, but there's no guarantees," Grieve said.

Jim Nichols, 50, from Penrose, joked that he had his eyes shut during his 8.2 second, third-place finish. Paul Beckett and Chad Wahlert carry the lead into tonight's rodeo event, starting again at 7:30 p.m. at the Brent Romick Rodeo Arena at Howelsen Hill.

-- To reach Dave Shively, call 846-1129 or e-mail dshively@steamboatpilot.com

Tonight will be Guy Allen's last appearance at the Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo. Few fans may realize that Allen, who has spent three weekends working out of the spotlight as a pick-up man, is one of the most prolific and successful steer-roping competitors in the history of the sport, holding 18 world titles. Nicknamed, "the Legend," Allen won the first round of the Cheyenne Frontier Days steer roping event on July 21 and is competing today in the second round, before returning to Steamboat this evening. "(Steamboat) is kind of a nice place to go relax and it's a good rodeo, they really get a good crowd that gets into it," Allen said.

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