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LAS VEGAS â Tyler Corrington rides saddle broncs for a living.
He loves his job, and heâs showing it this week in his second qualification to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
Corrington, 27, of Hastings, Minn., has placed in each of the last four go-rounds, including a sixth-place finish Tuesday night that was worth $3,005. He rode Barnes PRCA Rodeoâs Cat Power for 80 points, and that move propelled his NFR earnings to $32,752.
So far this season, Corrington has earned $130,679 riding bucking horses. He is sixth in the world standings but just about $17,000 behind the world standings leader, two-time world champion Cody Wright.
Go-round winners earn $18,630 each of the 10 December nights of ProRodeoâs grand finale, so if things go well, the Minnesota cowboy could move into the top spot on the money list. Thatâs easier said than done, though, because the NFR features the 15 greatest bronc busters from the 2013 season.
Still, Las Vegas is the place for cowboys to find their riches. Whatâs most valuable, though, is that the contestants in each event who finish the NFR with the most money will walk away from the Thomas & Mack Center with the most coveted prizes in the sport, a world championâs gold buckle. Thatâs one of the things for which Corrington is riding.
But he also is having a blast. You see, each night the top 15 bucking horse riders are matched against the greatest broncs in rodeo. That makes it fun for the cowboys and exciting for the more than 17,000 fans who pack the Thomas & Mack every night.
On Wednesday night, the bronc riders will face their biggest tests of the NFR, being matched against the âeliminatorâ pen of bucking horses, the nastiest, hardest-to-ride animals in the game. Corringtonâs blind draw has him matched against Killer Bee of Oklahoma-based Beutler & Son Rodeo. Last Friday, Killer Bee bucked off five-time NFR qualifier Heith DeMoss.
Corrington knows the challenges he faces over the remaining four rounds, but heâs ready for them. He likely will handle his business with a smile on his face.
LAS VEGAS â Every year at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, several contestants make powerful statements with their performances during the 10-day championship.
Steer wrestler Hunter Cure of Holliday, Texas, is one of them.
Through six go-rounds inside the Thomas & Mack Center, Cure has placed four times, including a Round 5 victory. He has earned $44,571 of Vegas money and has moved up to fourth in the world standings race â his 2013 earnings are inches close from $110,000.
On Tuesday night during the NFRâs sixth go-round, Cure grappled his steer to the ground in 3.9 seconds to finish in a three-way tie for fourth place. He pocketed $5,208 for his run.
To compare this yearâs championship to the only other time he has competed at the NFR, he already has placed in more go-rounds than he did in 2009. Oh, and there are still four rounds to go, so the possibilities of increased success stand out quite well in the Nevada desert.
Cure also has the seventh fastest cumulative time, downing six steers in 34.2 seconds. The top eight in that aggregate at the conclusion of the NFR will earn bonus checks, with the average champion earning nearly $48,000. Should the Howard College (Texas) and Texas Tech University graduate remain in seventh, he will add another $8,100 to his paycheck in the City of Lights.
LAS VEGAS â When steer wrestler Bray Armes walked into the Thomas & Mack Center late Tuesday afternoon, it was a different stride, a more confident walk.
âThis evening when I got here, I just decided to back off and have fun,â Armes said, explaining that he felt as though heâd been pressing some through the first few rounds of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. âI backed in the (timed-event) box and was relaxed and got a great start.â
Yes, he did; then Armes put his faith in his trusty steed and his own ability.
âOte slid me right up the steerâs back,â he said of the palomino horse. âI did all I could do and got the steer on his side, then I was just lucky enough to place.â
The Ponder, Texas, cowboy stopped the clock in 3.9 seconds to finish in a three-way tie for fourth place in the sixth round. He added $5,208 to his NFR earnings, which are nearly $23,000. It was a nice rebound from a tough run the night before.
âI just donât know what I did last night,â said Armes, who sits third in the all-important average race with a six-run cumulative time of 27.6 seconds. âI guess I was just trying too hard.â
So he changed his attitude and his game plan.
âWhen you slow down, you do things right,â Amres said. âWhen you try to go fast, you usually screw up. Iâm just going to back in the box and try to blow the barrier out every night and try to make a smooth run. I think smooth will win.â
In timed events, contestants must give the livestock on which they compete a head start. A barrier line is pulled tightly in front of a steer wrestler and is released once the steer has received the adequate distance. Blowing the barrier out means Armes will try to time his run to hit the barrier just as it is release â not behind it, because then heâs late; not before it, because heâll suffer a 10-second penalty.
And when youâre as good as Armes, itâs a little frustrating when something happens like the fifth-round run, which stopped the clock in 6.1 seconds and was well off the pace to earn money. But the cowboy who grew up near Gruver, Texas, has a supportive, yet rodeo-educated, family: wife Neelley, daughter Breely and son Drake, who had a few words for Dad after his struggles Monday.
âWhen I picked him up, he said, âDaddy, you bulldogged like a girl,â â Armes said. âI said, âYeah, bubba, I did.â â
Bray Armes is a big, burly man with a long stride and a winning demeanor. Thatâs what he hopes to bring to the NFR party each round for the final four nights.