Defending WPRA World Champion Sawyer Gilbert is making another run back to the National Finals Rodeo in 2022. Determined to stay in the top-15 by December to qualify, the 20-year-old from Buffalo, South Dakota is used to her dreams coming true.
“You set your goals and you achieve them,” says Gilbert, who is now ranked No. 14 in the world heading into September. “That’s what builds your confidence, and you just get better.”
Sawyer has her own rig, and at 20, she has no fear about going on the road. Her resolve to take care of her own business would not surprise anyone from Buffalo. It’s in her DNA.
For six generations, the Gilbert family has ranched in Buffalo. Originally a sheep outfit, the home ranch was established through “desert claim” by Sawyer’s great-great grandmother, Louise, where Gilbert Angus Ranch sits today.
From the time she could get on a horse, she helped with the family business. She learned how to drive tractors and pickups before she was 10.
“Growing up, we were always expected to take care of our own business and do our own thing,” Sawyer says of life on the ranch. "That’s always the way it’s been.”
Sawyer and her brother, Grey, who is two years younger, started moving cattle by themselves on horseback. For the Gilberts, there was nothing especially unique about the youngsters working alongside the adults. The kids wanted to be there, and the adults needed the extra hands.
Gilbert was sitting at 100th in the world a year ago, a 19-year-old who knew that if she stuck to her plan, good things would happen. If she could string together some wins, she knew she was still in the race to qualify for the NFR in December in Vegas. Failure? Well, it wasn’t really an option.
The success that Gilbert has attained at such a young age may surprise some people, but not her. She expected it. Her singular focus on being the best leads her to expect the best.
“You’ve got to have confidence in what you’re doing,” she says. “If you’re surprised every time you win, you won’t win very much.”