- Special Sections
1. Wade Sundell on Burch Rodeoâ€™s Lunatic Fringe, 87.5 points, $18,630; 2. (tie) Jake Wright and Cody Wright, 85.5, $12,291 each; 4. Heith DeMoss, 84.5, $7,813; 5. (tie) Tyler Corrington and Bradley Harter, 83, $3,906 each.
1. (tie) Bobby Mote on Andrews Rodeoâ€™s PTSD Power Play and Casey Colletti on Pickett Pro Rodeoâ€™s Top Flight, 87.5, $16,677 each; 3. Wes Stevenson, 86.5, $11,118; 4. Caleb Bennett, 86, $7,813; 5. Will Lowe, 85, $4,808; 6. (tie) Kaycee Field and Steven Peebles, 84.5, $1,503 each.
1. Charly Crawford/Ryan Motes, 5.8 seconds, $18,630; 2. Clay Tryan/Jade Corkill, 6.1, $14,724; 3. Luke Brown/Kollin VonAhn, 7.3, $11,118; 4. Kaleb Driggers/Travis Graves, 9.7, $7,813; 5. Turtle Powell/Dugan Kelly, 10.0, $4,808; 6. Drew Horner/Buddy Hawkins II, 11.0, $3,005.
1. Hunter Cure, 4.1 seconds, $18,630; 2. (tie) Luke Branquinho and Jule Hazen, 4.2, $12,921 each; 4. (tie) Jason Miller and Dean Gorsuch, 4.8, $6,310 each; 6. Wade Sumpter, 4.9, $3,005.
LAS VEGAS â€“ Jule Hazen is a man on a mission, and that is to make good money during his 10-night business venture to the City of Lights.
On Sunday night at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, the Ashland, Kan., steer wrestler padded his pocketbook a little bit more with a 4.0-second run to finish fifth in the fourth go-round, earning $4,808 in the process. He pushed his NFR earnings to nearly $14,500 and sits seventh in the world standings.
Sundayâ€™s run marked the second straight payday for Hazen, who pointed to his sponsorship agreement with Boot Hill Casino in Dodge City, Kan., as a key reason why he is competing at ProRodeoâ€™s grand championship. The Kansas cowboy has moved his 2013 earnings to $83,689. But Las Vegas is where big money can be made, and he hopes to cash in his fair share of the chips.
Hazen rides Bam Bam, a 12-year-old black gelding that has been one of the driving forces behind a solid season. Still, heâ€™s well within striking distance to his ultimate goal, claiming the gold buckle that is awarded to the seasonâ€™s world champion.
With go-rounds paying $18,630 each night for 10 rounds, cowboys can make a significant move in the standings each day. Hazen is $42,677 behind world standings leader Casey Martin; if everything goes exactly right, Hazen can catch Martin in three rounds.
Thatâ€™s what heâ€™ll be trying to do in the final six nights of the 2013 championship.
LAS VEGAS â€“ Even in great riding shape, the aches and pains of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo have hit bareback rider Caleb Bennett.
â€śFor the most part, I feel like Iâ€™m holding up pretty good,â€ť Bennett said Monday afternoon, just hours after earning his third paycheck in four nights of competition in the City of Lights. â€śI was a little sore, but I think that has a lot to do with last night and the night before.â€ť
Wedging oneâ€™s hand into a rigging thatâ€™s strapped tightly to the nastiest bucking beasts in the game will do that.
â€śIâ€™ve been utilizing the Justin Sportsmedicine team, and that helps an awful lot,â€ť said Bennett, a two-time NFR qualifier from Morgan, Utah. â€śThere are a lot of advantages being down here compared to the regular rodeo season.â€ť
Yes, there are. Through the toughest schedule over the summer, cowboys will get on at least one bucking horse a day, then travel overnight to get to the next rodeo. While competing on the best animals over 10 nights in December can be tough, there are the comforts of home that canâ€™t be found while sleeping in the back of a moving vehicle.
â€śYou can choose to have a full nightâ€™s rest, and you can choose to use the spa and a hot tub,â€ť he said. â€śYou can utilize it the right way, and you can benefit the way you get through the finals.â€ť
So far, heâ€™s doing quite well. On Sunday night, Bennett posted an 81-point ride on Bar T Rodeoâ€™s Double Vision to finish in a fifth-place tie in the fourth round. He pocketed $3,906 and pushed his NFR earnings to a little more than $24,000. He also has moved from 15th to ninth in the world standings.
â€śI didnâ€™t know a lot about that horse,â€ť Bennett said. â€śI watched a couple guys get on him, even (fellow NFR cowboy) Steven Dent. Some of the guys said he was pretty strong, but Steven said he was just alright. I wasnâ€™t sure what to expect, but I shouldâ€™ve prepared more for the stronger version.
â€śI didnâ€™t necessarily ride as well as I should have. I had a chance to finish in the top 3, and it was my fault I was lower.â€ť
Heâ€™s also ready to compete in Fridayâ€™s fifth go-round, which feature the greatest bareback horses in the world. Bennett is matched against Scarletâ€™s Web of the Pete Carrâ€™s Classic Pro Rodeo string, a horse that carried Casey Colletti to the fifth-round victory a year ago.
â€śOverall, Iâ€™m pretty happy and satisfied with how things are going,â€ť Bennett said. â€śI know Iâ€™ve got a really good one, one that they finish first or second in the round on every year.
â€śThis pen of horses features the ones that really get your motor running and get you excited for the right reasons to ride bucking horses.â€ť
The Utah cowboy has plenty of reasons to be excited.
LAS VEGAS â€“ Steer wrestler Bray Armes has a way of turning a negative into a positive.
He made it pay off Sunday night with a 3.5-second run to finish runner-up in the fourth go-round at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo â€“ the run was worth $14,724 and pushed the Ponder, Texas, cowboy up to 12th in the world standings.
â€śI got a great start, and Ote put me right up his back,â€ť Armes said, referring to the horse he rides. â€śI had a good steer, and I was just lucky to get him on his side.â€ť
It was fortunate, and it was a reversal of fortunes. In the third round, Armes made a beautiful run, but as he went to put the finishing touches to stop the clock in one of the fastest times of the NFR, his left arm just missed the steerâ€™s nose. The result was a 4.0-second run, just one-tenth out of the money.
â€śI had a little anger with myself built up,â€ť said Armes, who was raised in Gruver, Texas. â€śI was not going to miss the nose on that steer.
â€śI typically have a 15-minute rule to think about a run, and I exceeded that one and went a little over it. I was just angry with myself that I let one slip away. Weâ€™re not perfect. We only can control what we can. God is going to take care of the rest. Weâ€™ve just always got to remember Heâ€™s got it already laid out, so weâ€™ve just got to worry about our job.â€ť
Human nature doesnâ€™t always work that way, but Armes is a man of strong faith. He also has faith in himself and the rest of his team, Ote and his hazer, Riley Duvall.
â€śI feel good,â€ť Armes said. â€śThere are definitely things I wish Iâ€™d done a little better at. The main thing the first two rounds was that I wasnâ€™t getting my start, and the start sets everything up. Iâ€™ve got Ote locked in. Heâ€™s doing great and getting me where I need to be.
â€śRileyâ€™s getting everything lined out great. Iâ€™m just going to be backing in every night trying to win first, so weâ€™ll see what happens.â€ť
In addition to his earnings, Armes has a four-round cumulative time of 17.6 seconds, which puts him No. 3 in the aggregate standings. Should he remain in that spot through the conclusion of the NFR, he would add $30,649 â€“ the average champion will win nearly $48,000.
â€śThat average is a great check, but for what Iâ€™m here to do, I need go-rounds,â€ť said Armes, who finished fourth in the NFR average a year ago. â€śIâ€™ll just go for go-rounds, and hopefully the average will take care of itself again.â€ť
LAS VEGAS â€“ What is it about saddle bronc riding thatâ€™s so interesting to Tyler Corrington of Hastings, Minn.?
â€śItâ€™s mostly about the fact that the horse is trying to kick your butt, and youâ€™re trying to kick his butt,â€ť Corrington said, referring to the heavyweight bout that takes place in any eight-second ride.
Heâ€™s right. Itâ€™s a slugfest, especially at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, where the top cowboys in the game test their skills on the greatest bucking beasts. On Sunday night, Corrington matched moves with J Bar J Rodeoâ€™s Tipped Off for 82.5 points, which earned him a third-place finish and a check worth $11,118.
â€śThat was a really good horse,â€ť he said. â€śI got on him as a reride at San Antonio, so Iâ€™d been on him before. It felt good to have him.â€ť
Having a good horse is just half the equation. Corrington still needs to have a solid performance each night if he plans to do well. Heâ€™s holding up his end of the bargain, having collected $25,841 through four nights of ProRodeoâ€™s grand finale. Most importantly, he has moved up one spot to third in the world standings and trails leader Cody Wright by $11,245. Finishing first or second in a go-round can move the Minnesota cowboy into the No. 1 spot on the money list.
â€śIâ€™m feeling good, and my riding feels good,â€ť he said. â€śIâ€™ve been drawing good horses and have been having fun. I try not to worry about anything; Iâ€™m just showing up at the arena and having fun.â€ť
Heâ€™ll try to maintain his momentum in Mondayâ€™s fifth round, where heâ€™s matched with Big Bend Rodeoâ€™s Kool Toddy. He loves the idea of competing on those type horses for 10 December nights.
â€śThese are the best bucking horses in the world,â€ť Corrington said. â€śYouâ€™ve got a pretty good chance every night, and theyâ€™re going to try to buck you off. Youâ€™ve just got to do your job, have fun and try to go with it.
â€śThe fifth and 10 rounds feature the best pen of bucking horses there is. These are the horses that when you see your name by then all year long, you get a smile on your face when you show up to that rodeo.â€ť
Corrington definitely is smiling.
LAS VEGAS â€“ Tie-down roper Ryan Jarrettâ€™s philosophy at the 2013 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo is quite simple: Heâ€™s on a money-making mission.
â€śI came here with nothing to lose,â€ť said Jarrett, an eight-time NFR qualifier from Comanche, Okla. â€śItâ€™s just time to get at it and try to get what money you can and go home.â€ť
The Georgia-raised cowboy came to ProRodeoâ€™s championship event No. 13 in the world standings. Through four go-rounds inside the Thomas & Mack Center, Jarrett has placed three times and earned $37,410. Thatâ€™s a pretty powerful indication of his work in the Nevada desert, planted with an exclamation mark Sunday night when he posted a 6.9-second run to share the go-round title with six-time world champion Cody Ohl. Each cowboy pocketed $16,677. He has pushed his earnings past the $100,000 mark and has moved to seventh in the world standing.
â€śI broke the barrier in the second round; Iâ€™ll try not to run into that problem again,â€ť he said, explaining that he suffered a 10-second penalty for not allowing his calf the appropriate head start on the second night of the 10-round competition. â€śI had a good calf (Sunday), got him turned around, kept him on his feet and put a wrap and a hooey on him.â€ť
In trying to be as fast as they can, tie down ropers want things a certain way. Getting to the animal while itâ€™s facing them and on its feet can help shave off precious tenths of a second, and tying the legs together with one and a half wraps instead of two and a half could be the difference between first and second place.
Having the right calf can make a difference, too. There are three sets of calves available to rope, and they are put together based on how similar they are. Each pen is separated by a degree of difficulty, and the fourth-round calves were the perfect set for fast times.
â€śAll three pens are pretty even,â€ť Jarrett said, noting that the group from Sunday night â€śmight be some of the better ones that weâ€™ve roped.
â€śSterling Smith won fourth on that calf the first night (in 7.8 seconds). I went and watched (video of) him before tonight and refreshed my memory of him. I knew exactly what I had.â€ť
He also knew he had a little more assistance in the form of Hippie, a horse owned by Justin Brinkerhoff of Utah. Like Jarrett, Hippie is an NFR veteran.
â€śHeâ€™s no stranger to the Thomas & Mack,â€ť Jarrett said, pointing, though, that bad weather cancelled his trip to Utah prior to Thanksgiving, where he was going to ride the horse and gain a little more familiarity with it before arriving in Vegas. â€śI wasnâ€™t sure the first couple of rounds. (Saturday) night felt good, and (Sunday) felt better.â€ť
Of course, with more than $37,000 padding his pocket, everything feels a little better.
1. J.W. Harris on Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo’s Medicine Show, 88.5, $18,630; 2. (tie) Chandler Bownds and Trevor Kastner, 87.5, $ each; 4. (tie) Steve Woolsley and Tyler Smith, 86, $6,310 each; 6. Cody Campbell, 85, $3,005.
1. Taylor Jacob, 13.49 seconds, $18,630; 2. Kayley Bass, 13.77, $14,724; 3. Sherry Cervi, 13.81, $11,118; 4. Brittany Pozzi, 13.82, $7,813; 5. Sabrina Ketcham, 13.86, $4,808; 6. Shada Brazile, 13.88, $3,005.