Rodeo community speaks on dangers of sport after UT Martin athlete’s death

The death of a University of Tennessee at Martin rodeo athlete isn’t just a loss for his family, but the entire rodeo community. Coy Lutz was killed while competing over the weekend in New Jersey.

Former Murray State University rodeo athlete Candice Hill has been riding horses since she learned how to walk. It didn’t take her long to fall in love with rodeo. 

"It’s more of a lifestyle choice than a sport," Hill said.

Part of her love is a competitive drive many other rodeo athletes share.

"When you’re competing at college rodeos and professional rodeos in high school, you’re competing against the best, so you want to be the best," Hill said.
She has broken her ankle while riding before, but injuries can be much worse —even deadly. Lutz was competing in a professional bareback bronc event when he fell off his horse and was trampled.

"Coy was, every time I was around him, he was always very professional and prepared," Murray State University rodeo coach JD VanHooser said.

VanHooser’s team is part of the same region as Coy’s.

"We try to take all the precautions we can in preparing young folks and even professional athletes," VanHooser said.

VanHooser said no matter how much training you do, there’s always a risk when you’re working with animals.

"It can happen to anybody, and you know, unfortunately, that’s part of it," VanHooser said.

 "It is scary and definitely makes you think twice," Hill said.

For many athletes like Hill, the reward is worth the risk. 

Services for Lutz are next week his home state of Pennsylvania. A viewing will take place from 4 8 p.m. on Monday, June 6, at Beech Creek Wesleyan Church on 217 Main St. in Beech Creek, Pennsylvania. The funeral will be held at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, June 7, at Beech Creek Wesleyan Church, followed by the burial at Schencks Cemetery in Howard, Pennsylvania. A luncheon at the Howard Fire Hall will follow.

The family welcomes everyone who wishes to attend. 

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