Did someone say déjà vu? The 54th annual International Finals Rodeo (IFR) breakaway roping standings look familiar. Just a year ago, a few thousand dollars was the difference between Maelee Wade and the 2022 International Professional Rodeo Association (IPRA) Champion, Kyla Matthews. While it was not without a fight, Matthews accomplished her goal and took home the 2023 IPRA Breakaway Roping World Championship home to Tennessee.
Matthews entered the 2024 IFR competition in the driver's seat, looking to re-claim her title as IPRA champion breakaway roper. At 9 IFR qualifications, the Athens, Tennessee native enters the 54th annual IFR as a veteran qualifier– quite the feat for the 23-year-old competitor.
Growing up as a third-generation cowgirl, the rodeo life called her name from an early age. With both her parents competing in rodeo, Matthews learned the ropes early and accredited them for her success.
“My dad was a calf roper and taught me so much about roping and rodeo. I wouldn't be where I am today without him,” said Matthews.
Matthews returned to the Lazy E Arena atop her reliable equine partner “Senorita.” Despite the mare’s spitfire personality, the duo have been inseparable for the past decade, growing together and accomplishing career milestones. The standout breakaway horse was purchased for a mere $2,200, and Matthews began riding her in junior high. At 20 years old, she is still Matthews's central mount and cherishes every opportunity to rope on her.
Matthews enters the IFR with the experience of a qualified veteran and the aggressiveness of a hungry competitor chasing her second title.
“I had some tough luck my first few IFRs, but I knew I could win it; now I want to do it again,” the recent esthetician school graduate expressed.
With goals of owning her own esthetician business, the young entrepreneur and roper also accredited her faith for her success in and out of the arena.
“I put my faith in God. It’s in His hands, and I look forward to seeing how it all plays out,” said Matthews.