New Yorkers have been hot in the cowboy headlines department here lately. Empire State bull rider Daylon Swearingen last week won both the Professional Bull Riders World Finals and the 2022 PBR World Championship. New York team roper Jake Edwards has been busy climbing the team roping standings, and with West Coast wins behind Pennsylvania cowboy Zach Kilgus last weekend at both the Redding Rodeo and Rowell Ranch Rodeo in Hayward, California, Edwards is now entering the cowboy conversation he’s always dreamed of at 16th in the world—and climbing. I had no idea until now that Jake’s dedication to that dream has included such a major physical transformation as losing the weight of a whole human.
“It hasn’t been this good since I won Fort Worth (Stock Show & Rodeo with Canadian Clay Ullery) in 2020,” smiled Edwards, 23, who’s from rural Fort Ann, New York. “It was a long ways to go—especially a month after the spring rodeos in California and a month before Reno, and with the cost of fuel out there being insane—but going back to California dang sure helped us get a good start before Reno. Our motto all year has been that we’re going to have to go the extra mile if we want to reach our goals.”
This year’s goal is a first National Finals Rodeo back number for the both of them. With Kilgus on his palomino horse Mufasa, and Edwards aboard his bay Simon, each earned $6,469—$4,711 at Redding, and $1,758 at Hayward.
“I went to Red Bluff and Clovis (California with Ullery) in 2021, and told myself when I left that I would never miss those rodeos again,” Jake said. “They’re a different style of rodeos, with longer scores and four head, and four clean runs always wins. You don’t get a chance when you’re out here rodeoing every day to just make your run and not have to go 4 flat.”
Kilgus is currently 24th in the world among headers with $19,821, and Edwards is 16th on the heeling side with $25,700. Why the difference in their money won?
THROWBACK: What’s Your Number? With Zach Kilgus
“I went home to New York last year and declared the First Frontier Circuit as my circuit,” Jake explained. “I made the circuit finals, which were in January 2022 and counted for this year. I roped with Darren Morgan, and won about $5,800.”
When gathering photos from Jake’s mom, Theresa, for a story coming up in our July print issue, I saw the sweetest little chubby cowboy. Having just met Jake, I had no idea about his big win on his weight-loss journey.
“I was a chubby little short kid for a long time,” grinned Edwards. “When I got to be about 18, I was a tall fat kid (he’s 6’ 1” now). There was no hiding it. By 19, I weighed 340 pounds. I was roping at the rodeo in Sikeston, Missouri in the summertime, I was sweating my butt off and missed my dallies. I called my girlfriend (Margret), and told her, ‘I’m either going to quit roping or I’m going to quit eating.’
“I knew I had it in me to rope good, but you’re not going to make the NFR weighing 300 pounds. It’s just not going to happen, and I can only imagine how my horses felt. So it was like, ‘Do you want to rope for a living, or do you want to be average all your life?’”
He saw how Kilgus was eating, and followed suit.
“Zach’s never been a big guy, but he was counting 2,000 calories a day with no candy, soda, bread or pasta,” Jake said. “Whether you drink it or eat it, count the calories. I started doing the same thing, and the first 40 or 50 pounds ran off of me pretty fast. It took me about a year to lose 140 pounds, and I’m two years into keeping it off.”
He now weighs in between 190-200.
“I’ve lost about three (50-pound) feed sacks, and feel so much better now,” Jake said. “I feel like I ride better now, and I’m not just a one-shot heeler anymore.”