Trenton, NJ — For the time being, Tyler Angus plans on majoring in engineering while wrestling in college, and hopefully become a part-time Standardbred driver if he can squeeze it in.
There is, however, a disclaimer to that thought process.
“If I become the next David Miller or something, I’ll make a career out of it,” the 18-year-old Ohio resident said with a laugh. “But I’ve got a very long road ahead of me before I’m there.”
His road was well paved at the start, as Angus drove his first official race Aug. 24 and guided Ruffy’s Desire to victory at the Canfield Fair. After driving four qualifiers at Northfield Park, where his dad Ryan trains, Tyler got his chance thanks to trainer Billy Rhoades.
“Him and my dad are pretty good friends,” Angus said. “Billy just saw my dad one day and said, ‘Hey ask your kid if he wants to go up to the fair and drive Ruffy’s Desire; he’s two fingers, he’s safe.’ Dad asked me, Billy and I talked and went to the fair and did what we did.”
He did it well, thanks to receiving the sagest advice a trainer can give to a first-time driver.
“One thing that really helped is Billy told me there’s no pressure,” Angus said. “He said ‘If you get beat, you get beat, just take it like a man.’ It was actually a lot of pressure off my back.”
But a driver wouldn’t be human if they didn’t feel some type of anxiety in their maiden voyage.
“I was a little bit nervous,” he said. “You want to look good, show people you’re safe and you can handle a horse.”
Angus displayed all of that by getting out quick from post two and never yielding the lead.
“The horse didn’t have that much gate speed; so Billy told me to put him right on the front and enjoy the ride and that’s what I did and got the dub (W),” Angus said.
As his victory became apparent, Angus began to happily check an item off his bucket list.
“I just couldn’t believe it,” he said. “Coming around the last turn, I kept looking back and I opened up and it was just a dream come true, something I’ve been wanting to do my whole life. I got the opportunity and got the job done.”
Since then, Angus has driven in some qualifiers and one other race in which he said of himself and the horse, “We both had a rough day.”
Since beginning his senior year at Nordonia High School, Angus has been focusing on his studies and playing linebacker for the football team. He will concentrate on his main sport in the winter when they roll out the wrestling mats.
Apparently, colliding with other bodies on the gridiron is his way to relax.
“Honestly, I just use football to get a break from wrestling,” he said. “I love football; I enjoy it, but I don’t take it as serious as wrestling. It’s just a break for me.”
Angus wrestles year-round except for football season; and has been a state and national place-winner in club wrestling. At the prestigious Virginia Beach Dual Meet Tournament, he went 5-1 and beat several state champions.
“It was a good experience for me,” said Angus, who will look to wrestle at 152 pounds this year. “I’m hoping to wrestle in college. I’ve got a bunch of Division Two offers and a couple of small D-One schools, but I’m not going to decide until the end of wrestling season.”
While sports make it tough for Angus to drive, it doesn’t keep him away from the horses. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, he only attends classes at school two days a week, giving him five days to help his dad.
“Working with animals is something I enjoy,” he said. “Just helping them; getting them better, watching them win a race.”
Angus caught the bug when he started helping his dad as a pre-teen. When he turned 10, Ryan let him jog his first horse.
“I liked it and started jogging more,” Angus said. “He got me into training, I didn’t do so hot training at first. Then I started doing it more; got the hang of it, started cutting miles and babies and all that.”
Soon, the undeniable urge to climb in the sulky surfaced.
“I asked him, ‘Hey what are the chances you would let me drive?’” Angus said. “He wasn’t all for it at first. He just didn’t want to see me take a chance and get hurt. I understood. I was only 15 at the time.
“We started getting more babies, training more miles, training off the gate. I asked him again when I was 16 or 17. He said, ‘If that’s what you want to do, I’m going to support you.’ I got my fair license, passed the test and that’s pretty much it.”
Angus hopes to resume driving next spring, after high school wrestling concludes. He has managed to use some grappling experiences to help with driving.
“When you’re in the race bike, you just lay back, it feels comfortable to you,” Angus said. “It kind of feels like a position in wrestling, when a kid is on your leg or something. And wrestling helped with my nerves and confidence level in driving.”
Whether he is on the mat or in the bike, Angus gets the same rush.
“I love competing, that’s just me,” he said. “I think racing and competing in wrestling or football are two of the same things. It’s fun going fast, it’s fun going against another guy in wrestling.”
And if he ever gets as good as David Miller, that would be fun too.