Matt Deskovick wrestled people in high school before wrestling steers in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA). The Ramona Rodeo will give Deskovick’s friends and family members a chance to see his current wrestling activities.
“The good part is that a lot of my friends and family that normally don’t get to see me, it’s an easy one for them to get to,” Deskovick said of the Ramona Rodeo.
Deskovick still lives in Ramona but now spends weekends traveling throughout California and even to nearby states in pursuit of rodeo payouts. Unlike many rodeo cowboys who began their career in youth rodeo associations, Deskovick didn’t begin rodeo competition until after completing high school. He didn’t even grow up following rodeo.
“I probably hadn’t gone until I was in high school,” he said.
Deskovick was in eighth grade when his family moved from New Jersey to Ramona. Wrestling is a bigger sport in the Midwest and East than it is in Southern California, and Deskovick began wrestling in third grade. When he was at Ramona High School, Deskovick wrestled in the 171-pound weight class before his 1991 graduation.
Short-track auto racing was also a major sport in the Northeast, and Deskovick’s father raced East Coast Modifieds, which are similar to the 410 sprint cars in terms of chassis but are full-sized automobiles.
“I grew up at the racetrack,” Deskovick said.
Deskovick’s father raced on dirt. The family moved to San Diego County after Speedway 117 closed in 1983 and before Barona Speedway opened in 1994, and the Cajon Speedway’s asphalt surface didn’t suit his father’s racing needs.
“Once we moved out here it was kind of over,” Deskovick said of watching auto races in person.
Deskovick’s brother would eventually become a racer and now has a shop in Indianapolis. Deskovick didn’t go into racing.
“Costs too much,” the Ramona businessman and family man said.
Deskovick noted that unless one races at the top level he would be spending a considerable amount of money to compete. Rodeo has entry fees and travel costs, as well as the cost to feed horses during the year.
“There’s no doubt I spend money,” Deskovick said.
Rodeos also have payouts, in some cases payouts for each go-round and for the average.
“At least I can pay for everything I spend to go,” Deskovick said.
Deskovick transitioned into rodeo after the steer wrestling event drew his attention.
“I just went to Ramona Rodeo one year and watched bulldogging and thought it would be fun,” he said.
What was then called the Ramona Round-Up Rodeo was Deskovick’s first as a spectator.
“It was just what you did when you were living there,” he said.
When Deskovick attended his first rodeo he had his arm in a sling from his first shoulder surgery. Deskovick had injured his shoulder while wrestling.
After recovering from his shoulder surgery, Deskovick met Ramona steer wrestler Fred Hight.
“He kind of took me under,” Deskovick said of his mentor.
Deskovick began bulldogging in 1994 but dislocated his shoulder.
After a year of recovery he resumed rodeo in 1995. When a cowboy begins his career in the PRCA, he does so as a permitholder. A cowboy fills his permit once he has earned $1,000 from PRCA-sanctioned rodeos, allowing him to obtain a PRCA card and have full PRCA membership. Deskovick filled his permit in 1996 at the Santa Barbara rodeo and obtained his PRCA card in 1997.
As a permitholder in 1996, Deskovick competed in the slack session of the Ramona Round-Up Rodeo. He competed in front of a larger crowd in 1997.
“My rookie year I was up Saturday night,” he said.
Larry Littlefield was the Ramona Sentinel sports editor in 1997, and the Sentinel carried an article noting Deskovick’s upcoming presence at the local rodeo. That meant that many people who knew him would be attending the performance to see him compete.
“It was a pretty big night,” he said. “I probably couldn’t quite handle the pressure like I do now.”
A draw determines the steer a bulldogger tries to bring down.
“I drew a really bad steer,” Deskovick said. “I was really worried about it.”
Deskovick still won money at the rodeo.
“Just made a really good run on a bad steer,” he said. “I was just kind of happy I got by him.”
The top 12 earners in each event at the end of the season qualify for the California Circuit finals, and Deskovick has reached the California Finals Rodeo several times. In 1996 he won the average at CFR, earning him entry into the Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo in Pocatello, Idaho.
Deskovick’s most recent rodeo win, a shared victory with Nevada cowboy Sterling Lambert, came at the Kern County Sheriff Reserve Stampede Days rodeo May 1-2 in Bakersfield.