Broc Cresta, who grew up in Santa Rosa and went on to become one of the nation's best steer ropers, was found dead this morning in a trailer at the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo in Wyoming. He was 25.
Cause of death is undetermined.
Cresta's roping partner and long-time friend, Spencer Mitchell, said the two had competed Friday in the Cheyenne event, then shared a beer at Cresta's trailer afterward. Cresta had then left to watch a concert with his girlfriend.
When Mitchell called on Cresta this morning, he and the girlfriend were asleep. She soon emerged from the trailer and chatted with Mitchell. About 11 a.m. (MST), she went in to wake Cresta.
"She started screaming," Mitchell said from Cheyenne. "And that's when I ran to get help."
Cresta, apparently in good health just hours earlier, was pronounced dead.
"The whole rodeo world is in shock," said Kendra Santos, director of communications for the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.
"My phone's been ringing off the wall all day with calls from Hall of Famers on down to little kids. Broc's a fourth-generation cowboy in California, and everybody loves him. It's hard enough to lose a good cowboy when he's 90, but losing such a talented and genuinely good person at 25 is just about impossible."
Cresta and Mitchell competed in an event known as team roping — Cresta as the heeler and Mitchell as the header. They had been close friends since childhood.
"Most of those who know us don't bother calling us friends," Mitchell said. "We might as well be brothers."
Cresta, a Petaluma resident, grew up riding ponies and roping on his family's ranch, seven miles out of Santa Rosa on Mark West Springs Road.
His parents, Dan and Kelline, owned Mexican Corriente cattle and organized roping jackpots all over California. Broc graduated from Santa Rosa High, primarily through an independent study program. Following in the footsteps of his father, he emerged as a talented roper from an early age.
Cresta was the 2007 PRCA Rookie Heeler of the Year, and he competed in the past two Wrangler National Finals Rodeos, with Turtle Powell in 2010 and with Mitchell last December in Las Vegas. At the time of his death, Cresta was ranked 14th among heelers in the world team roping standings, the highest-ranking Californian. He finished 12th overall in 2011.
Mitchell, still reeling from the news, said that Cresta always did things his own way. But he was a hard worker and a superb roper who dreamed of being a champion.
"If you were lucky enough get along with him and get to know him, he was one of the best friends you could ever have," Mitchell said.
(You can reach Staff Writer Phil Barber at 521-5263 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)