Will Gordon, University of Saskatchewan
SASKATOON - Katie Dutchak was set to go to Missouri on a rodeo scholarship. With some last minute convincing, Dutchak gambled and stayed in Saskatoon to further her wrestling career. Now, she's about to finish her Business Management degree. She's a Canada West wrestling champion. She's revitalised the U of S Rodeo Club.'
"It's always kinda pulled me back and forth between the two," Dutchak said, talking about playing both wrestling and rodeo. She has a passion for the underdog sport, the ones that don't make the spotlight consistently.
Late Huskies wrestling coach Todd Hinds convinced her to stay. He told her she could do both rodeo and wrestling and that he would support her during the limited overlap between her sports.
Still, rodeo, it seemed, would be taking the backbench. In Saskatchewan, there were no varsity or collegiate rodeo teams. It was semi-pro or amateur or nothing. When the Rodeo Club's co-founder Shelby Clemens approached her about the club, she leapt at the chance. To her, it didn't make sense why there was no rodeo team.
"I knew a lot of the people I had graduated with across Saskatchewan when I was high school rodeoing that were all leaving for the States."
Dutchak was nearly one of them. To her opinion, too many strong athletes went away for a chance at a rodeo career. With the Rodeo Club, she could change that.
"I didn't like that I had to choose between education and rodeo career," Dutchak said.
Rather than pick between them, Dutchak didn't just choose a third option—she made a third option. This gave her an edge in her business degree.
"Nothing prepared me for business school like starting up this team."
The U of S Rodeo Club differed from other collegiate rodeo clubs. It was entirely student-funded and student-run. Everything was up to Dutchak and Clemens. With a healthy balance of being over their heads and receiving support from the rodeo community, the first event of the revitalised U of S Rodeo Club turned into one of the largest sanctioned rodeos on the collegiate level in recent years. What was business theory for others were things Dutchak was regularly dealing with in club affairs. Maclean's ended up interviewing her as a student entrepreneur.
She has wrestling accolades too. Two Canada West silvers. A CIS bronze. She was invited to New York for a tournament.
While her Huskie career started because she refused to choose between her two sports, Dutchak has recognised her time with wrestling is limited. The physicality of the sport guarantees it. The past two years, Dutchak focused down on wrestling. She's handed off most of her responsibilities with the Rodeo Club. Training has become her focus. It's bittersweet, the Rodeo Club was essentially her first business, but with focus comes award.
Last year, Dutchak became a Canada West champion. For her championship, she came back from a loss to win her remaining bouts. For that, she won the Outstanding Wrestler Award.
"You try and come in and make as much an impact and a difference for the better as you can, and then you hope you've left enough behind that people can pick it up and keep going."
Dutchak may be leaving soon, but she isn't stopping. There will be rodeo in her future again, and while she accepts one day she'll have to stop wrestling, she still wants to remain involved, especially in Saskatoon.
"With the Huskie team and my high school team at Holy Cross, I'd like to continue to give back to programs that essentially made me who I am today."
Dutchak will look to defender her Canada West title at the championship at home in Saskatoon at the PAC Friday and Saturday. The championship runs 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. each day.