As luck would have it, I get to sit with the Aguilera family every night at this, his first Finals. I sit right next to Lightning’s little sister, Caridad, and in front of his cousin Milton Aguilera, his wife, Joni, their adorable little Lightning fan, Emma, and Lightning and Caridad’s mom and dad, Sandra and Wenceslao Jr, which makes Lightning Wenceslao Aguilera III. Such a quiet, kind, humble family, which was predictable for a cowboy son of the same suit. It was great fun to be there with them last night when Lightning struck for the first NFR check of his career.
“It’s been nerve-racking (watching Lightning and Jonathan Torres struggle in Rounds 1-3),” Momma Sandra said. “This is a relief, and gives me so much joy. We’re just so happy for Lightning. He’s worked so hard to be here.”
“This is just so exciting,” Daddy Wenceslao—aka “Tico”—added. “It’s so cool to see Lightning’s dream come true. This is what he’s wanted since he was a kid. To see him roping here is amazing.”
Lightning comes from a long line of team ropers.
“My dad, Tico, and my grandpa, Lao, are both headers, too,” he said. “My grandpa rodeoed in Cuba, and worked all the events—steer wrestling, calf roping, bull riding, all of it—although team roping wasn’t that big when he was over there. Team roping is big in my family, though. I think they put me on a horse as soon as I came home from the hospital when I was born.”
For those of you who, like me, have marveled at how Clay Smith has rallied from breaking his leg this summer to be here, consider this: When Lightning was 3, one of his cousins was getting off of a tractor, and his foot slipped off of the clutch.
“The Bush Hog on the back of the tractor cut off my right foot,” Lightning said. “I have a prosthetic leg that goes up to my knee for support, but the only thing missing is from my ankle down. It doesn’t bother me. A lot of people have had a lot worse stuff happen to them.”