Wyatt Wawro is gunning for a national championship at just 14 years old.
Wawro, a Delevan native and a 10th grader at Pioneer High School, is competing this week in the Rocky Mountain ATV/MC AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship, the largest amateur motocross race in the world. He made an impressive cut, as 1,446 racers qualified out of the 22,000 that tried.
The former Western New York Motocross Association Champion is participating in two events at Loretta Lynn Ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tenn. — the 250 C Limited (which kicks off at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday) and the 250 C Jr. Limited (7:30 a.m. Wednesday). Racers compete in three races per class over the course of the week.
"I'm calm," Wawro said. "I'm not really worried about it."
Wawro's biking career started about six years ago when his two older brothers, who had motorcycles, moved out. Wawro kept asking for a bike of his own, so his father, Paul, bought him a trail bike, designed for both on-road and off-road recreational riding.
One day, the pair passed a local dirt bike track and Wyatt was enthralled. He found his new passion in motocross, an off-road style of motorcycle racing that takes place on enclosed courses.
"I went and got a legit motocross bike, and we’ve been doing it ever since,” Paul Wawro said.
By his second year, Paul started to realize his son had some real talent.
"He started kind of late compared to the other kids, and next thing he’s beating them," said Paul, a mechanic who does most of the work on Wyatt's bike. "He started showing that he was very competitive about it. He had a little bit of an attitude and really was trying to work out stuff, even at a young age trying to beat these guys. His natural talent alone was just crazy.”
The victories started adding up. Wyatt has won 107 events in the last five years, traveling as far as Las Vegas.
"I just like the competition and how far you can go with it if you're good," Wyatt said.
Wawro spent a few weeks in North Carolina training at former professional motocross racer Jimmy Weinert's facility and has worked with local pro Jesse Kirchmeyer, but most of the onus has been on him to improve. He doesn't have a coach or a fancy training center to use on a day-to-day basis and does most of his work on his five-acre home.
He also has to balance going to public school and racing, limiting his available time to get on his bike for a majority of the year. Paul said most of the other racers at this level are home-schooled, allowing added flexibility to travel for competitions. Wyatt would like to be home-schooled but has to deal with the hand he was dealt.
"I think that would be easier on me, but we just really don't have the time or the money," Wyatt said. "It's pretty difficult just to take the time away from school to do it."
Even at the amateur level, motocross requires serious mental and physical training, as jumps, sharp turns and other obstacles test riders' endurance for 15 to 20 minutes at a time. Wyatt works out his whole body, usually at least three days a week to stay in peak shape, and puts in practice time on his bike.
"You've got to do everything over and over again to get good at it," Wyatt said. "Most people think you're just on a bike riding it, sitting down the whole time."
"It's a lot of heart," Paul said. "We don't get any support or anything. We get some discounts at some parks, but we don't get any financial support. So we do the best that we can. It's just surprising how much better he actually is than most other kids out there."
Wyatt attempted to qualify for nationals the past four years, but the Wawros couldn't afford the trip to regionals for the first three. When they finally had the money last year, Wyatt's bike suffered from suspension problems and he left disappointed.
He finally punched his ticket to Loretta Lynn Ranch in Unadilla in June. He won two out of three races before pulling himself from the fourth, allowing another racer to achieve the dream of racing at nationals.
Wyatt, who is camping with his dad on-site for five days, is competing against about 50 other racers in each event this week.
"I'm just going to go there, try my hardest and hopefully win or at least place top five," Wyatt said.
Story topics: Wyatt Wawro