Covering an event like the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo can be a tough task, especially with the flurry of activity that goes on every waking moment in always-electric Las Vegas.
I’ve been busy writing about big-picture and very specific topics so far, and there have been some interesting notes and tidbits that have fallen through the cracks. That’s bound to happen when you’re one person writing about a massive event like the Wrangler NFR, so I’m taking this opportunity to catch you rodeo fans up with all of the odds and ends from the $6.25 million rodeo so far.
On Thursday night, Caleb Bennett won Round 1 of the bareback riding on Carr Pro Rodeo’s Wise Guy on what was the final trip for the 2009 reserve Bareback Horse of the Year. Cowboys won $228,543 on the bay gelding in the horse’s 16 trips to the Finals and won eight rounds on him.
Naturally, Bennett was highly complimentary when talking about the talented bucker.
“I was excited to see what we could do together,” he said after the ride. “I knew if I did my part, he’d do his. I was hoping they’d retire him tonight and I’d be the last one to get on him. This was an opportunity and a blessing.”
Two-time World Champion Barrel Racer Brittany Pozzi hasn’t been able to ride her horse, Duke, at this year’s Wrangler NFR because of an injured foot. She has been riding a variety of mounts this year, including Sammi Bessert’s horse, Tommy, which carried Bessert to 21st place in the world standings this season.
Saturday was Wrangler NFR General Manager Shawn Davis’ 73rd birthday, making the Hall of Famer just 1 year old when the Pearl Harbor bombing occurred on Dec. 7, 1941.
Randall Carlisle set a Round 2 tie-down roping record with his winning 6.8-second run. It broke the previous mark shared by Scott Kormos (2009) and Cody Ohl (2011).
The next night, Ohl’s 6.7-second run to win Round 3 was the fastest third-round run in Wrangler NFR history in his event. It bested the previous record of 6.9 seconds the six-time world champion shared with Tuf Cooper.
Steer wrestler Bray Armes joined a handful of other contestants in wearing Gold for Childhood cancer awareness patches on Saturday night in honor of a boy named Taylor Tornado, who is fighting neuroblastoma.
Two-time World Champion Saddle Bronc Rider Cody Wright may have been bucked off in Round 3, but his son, Rusty, had a big day in Las Vegas. Rusty won the Livestock Futurity at the Benny Binion’s World Famous Wrangler NFR Bucking Horse and Bull Sale at the South Point Hotel, Casino & Spa.
Actor Josh Lucas, best known for his roles in movies like “Sweet Home Alabama” and “The Lincoln Lawyer,” participated in ProRodeo Hall of Fame announcer Bob Tallman’s charity bowling tournament on Saturday and attended the Wrangler NFR later that night.
Also on Saturday, bull rider Sage Steele Kimzey of Strong City, Okla., won the PRCA Permit Challenge at the South Point. Taylor Broussard of Wharton, Texas, was the bareback riding champion and the saddle bronc riding went to CoBurn Bradshaw of Beaver, Utah. The cowboys each received a Barstow Rodeo gift certificate, a Montana Silversmiths buckle presented by Ram Rodeo, Wrangler apparel and a 2013 Wrangler NFR South Point vest.
Part of Sunday night’s festivities included the presentation of the PRCA’s annual Linderman Award, an honor named after ProRodeo Hall of Famer Bill Linderman that recognizes overall excellence in the arena. Trell Etbauer, the son of two-time World Champion Saddle Bronc Rider Robert Etbauer, was the 2008 PRCA All-Around Rookie of the Year and also won the Linderman Award from 2008-10 in addition to this year, when he once again finished as the cowboy to earn the most money in three separate events.
The 28-year-old Goodwell, Okla., cowboy was all smiles after accepting his commemorative buckle.
“It’s neater than heck to be here in front of all of these people and to be on the floor of the Thomas & Mack,” Etbauer said. “I’ve had dreams to qualify for the Finals, but haven’t made it yet. Hopefully, this next year I’ll stay healthy, be able to go hard and be competing here.”
Linderman is a legend Etbauer looks up to with a great deal of admiration.
“I’ve read a lot about him, and it’s an honor to win something that was named after him,” he said.
Sunday night was also Memorial Night at the Wrangler NFR, when the dearly departed who have been part of the 55-year-old rodeo are recognized for their achievements. From bull rider John Quintana and stock contractor Bob Barnes, to secretary and timer Mildred Farris and steer wrestler John W. Jones, Sr. – the final three being ProRodeo Hall of Fame members – their photos and accomplishments were displayed on the big screen above the arena during the performance’s opening ceremony.
Finally, if you want to see an awesome video featuring time-lapsed photography of the Thomas & Mack Center’s transformation from a college basketball court to a rodeo arena, click here. The footage is truly amazing.