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Dominican blazes trail in team roping at WC

Oscar Espaillat grew up in a nation that loves baseball, the Dominican Republic. However, instead of a hardball, he learned how to throw a rope.

oespaillat"I never considered myself to play baseball. It was not attractive to me growing up, I guess because I always had a rope in my hands," the third-year Weatherford College roper said.

Rodeo is not a popular sport in his homeland, but he does have a family history. His father and uncle were among the first team ropers in the Dominican Republic.

"Roping is more like a hobby because not everybody can afford it," Espaillat said.

Espaillat has been competing in rodeo himself since 2015 after taking a clinic at home from roping instructor Krece Harris. It was also through Harris that Espaillat came to Weatherford College as Harris and WC coach Johnny Emmons are friends.

"I am very impressed with Oscar, he came here (to the U.S.) three years ago from the Dominican Republic and could barely speak English. I was very skeptical of his success in the classroom because of the language barrier, but I have to say, he has done outstanding," Emmons said. "Coming into this spring he has completed 38 hours with a good GPA and is looking to graduate this summer. That just shows how dedicated and hard-working he is, working full time, taking a full load of classes, and college rodeoing. Very impressive young man."

In addition to succeeding in the classroom, Espaillat's roping has improved. After arriving with very little competition experience, he made the finals at the Texas Tech Rodeo and placed fifth.

"He is very competitive and on the cusp of becoming one of the best ropers in his age group," Emmons said. "I was kidding with him the other day. I said, 'You are going to go back to your homeland and be the roping star,' and I believe that to be true, with the knowledge and skills he has gained here in the U.S.

"I think he will go back home at some point and be a team roping clinician and do very well for himself financially. The sport of team roping has seen explosive growth here in the U.S. over the past 20 years, and is now catching on big time in the Dominican, Brazil, Mexico, and a few other countries."

Espaillat's hobbies include playing pool, fishing, hunting and playing ping pong. He has not participated in any other sports competitively, with the exception of trying to learn the game of golf.

His younger brother plays basketball and football. His twin sister is a chef.

As for himself, he would love to make a career out of rodeo if possible. However, he knows that is a tough road.

"I am just taking basics right now, but I would like to have a business career," he said. "I think because I like to work with strategies and deal with people.

"Wherever God has for me, I will go."

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by Rick Mauch