(Editor's note: PRCA media release)
COLORADO SPRINGS - ProRodeo Hall of Famer Leo Camarillo passed away Dec. 30 at the age of 74 in Chandler, Ariz.
Camarillo, a five-time world champion – team roping in 1972-73, 1975 and 1983, and all-around in 1975 – was inducted with the inaugural 1979 ProRodeo Hall of Fame class in Colorado Springs.
Camarillo and his younger brother Jerold, also a ProRodeo Hall of Famer, learned to rope from their father, Ralph, a champion roper in California rodeos before he turned to raising stock. They grew up in California's scenic Santa Ynez Valley.
"I've never seen a man who loved that sport so much," said Jerold, 73, in a phone interview with ProRodeo Sports News. "He dedicated himself to go to rodeos and learn new things. Then, we would come home and try it here, and he loved the whole sport, and he loved all the cowboys."
When the boys were youngsters, their father required that the pair spend an hour each day practicing with their ropes.
One of the first targets was a pop bottle, brought into the living room when the weather was cold. From the bottle, they graduated to roping chickens and finally calves.
"We were raised on a ranch and found a way to win money (roping) without having a job," Jerold said. "We were raised roping. We roped all day long and we loved it, and it was a way out for us."
Leo and Jerold revolutionized team roping as heelers. Leo qualified for the National Finals Rodeo 20 times (1968-86 and 1988), while Jerold qualified for the NFR 17 times (1968-83, 1985-86) and won a world title in 1969.
Leo won the NFR team roping average a PRCA-record six times – 1968-71, 1980 and 1982.
He also was a star in the PRCA circuit system. He won the all-around title in the California Circuit in 1976-77, 1980-82, team roping in 1976-77, 1982 and tie-down roping in 1976. In 1983, he was the Texas Circuit team roping champ.
An intense competitor, Leo created and perfected a polished style of heeling steers. An excellent horseman, Camarillo, born Jan. 25, 1946, in Santa Ana, Calif., roped off his horse named Super Stick, which many pros thought unsuitable for professional competition. Camarillo was also an excellent tie-down roper and steer wrestler.
"We both dedicated ourselves to be the greatest ever," Jerold said. "We were so fortunate to learn from our dad, and from then on we changed the style of roping and changed the style of heeling the steers in the air. We worked at it really hard, and when we went out on the road people were amazed with the way we were roping."
Leo is survived by his wife, Sue; sons Wade and Trey; and daughter, Cassie.