I don’t know about you, rodeo fans, but I’m spent!
We had quite a finish to the 55th Wrangler National Finals Rodeo tonight, as gold buckles and huge checks were awarded. Some champions were already determined coming into today and others were near locks, but there were also some surprises on Saturday night.
A record crowd of 18,242 packed the Thomas & Mack Center for Round 10, and they were not disappointed. From Kaycee Feild securing his third consecutive bareback riding world championship, to steer wrestler Hunter Cure winning his first, the results ran the complete spectrum on this final night of rodeo in Las Vegas.
The Wrangler NFR press room was alive with activity and buzzing all night. I arrived three hours before the performance started to get some writing done, and there were already more than a dozen people in the room.
Here’s what transpired on the final night, in notebook form:
Trevor Brazile secured his 11th all-around and 19th overall gold buckle earlier this week, and Saturday, he just kept making history. The Decatur, Texas, cowboy won $16,677 in the team roping, $8,113 in the team roping average and $38,762 in the tie-down roping average to become the first PRCA contestant to surpass $5 million in career earnings. He will have $5,029,313 heading into 2014. His $426,011 in 2013 season earnings is the second-highest single-season total in the history of ProRodeo (he also has the highest total, naturally) and marked the fourth time in his career he surpassed $400,000 in season earnings.
Feild won the average en route to his third straight gold buckle to become the first bareback rider to win three in a row since Hall of Famer Joe Alexander won five consecutive from 1971-75. Feild finished the season with $239,465, $41,279 more than second-place Steven Peebles, who finished second in the average. It’s clear that Feild will some day join his father, Lewis, in the ProRodeo Hall of Fame, and as long as he stays healthy, there’s no reason to think he can’t surpass Alexander’s record for gold buckles for his event.
J.W. Harris wrapped up gold buckle No. 4 in Round 9, and the future Hall of Famer is just $29,994 away from having won six in a row. Just like Feild, as long as Harris can stay healthy, there’s no reason to think he can’t win as many titles as he wants. Harris’ 4-for-6 stretch is the most dominant bull riding span since record-holder Don Gay won seven in eight years from 1974-81.
Sherry Cervi and her mare Stingray were stellar in winning Cervi’s fourth world title – her second on the horse, along with 2010 – this year. They won three rounds and placed in all 10 en route to $155,899 in Wrangler NFR earnings, more than any other contestant. Cervi takes home the Ram Truck Top Gun Award for being the Finals’ top earner, won her third career Wrangler NFR average title and $303,317 in season earnings. Mary Walker, the 2012 champion, was a distant second with $229,363.
First taste of glory
In perhaps the most shocking development of the night, two-time World Champion Dean Gorsuch missed his steer and had a no-time in Round 10. He fell to seventh in the average, leaving the door open for Hunter Cure to claim his first gold buckle in just his second Wrangler NFR. Cure went from seventh place to first after finishing third in the average, pocketing a total of $173,355 for the season. Cure outdistanced Matt Reeves by nearly $15,000 for the gold buckle and was still in shock while speaking with media after winning the crown.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet…maybe tomorrow,” said Cure, of Holliday, Texas. “I believe this is the dream of any little kid who picks up a rope or practices wrestling a little steer head dummy. I’m so very, very blessed to be here at this moment.”
Bray Armes deserves congratulations as well for winning the steer wrestling average (44.8 seconds on 10 head). He catapulted from 14th to third in the world standings after earning more than $100,000 in Las Vegas.
Tie-down roper Shane Hanchey’s average title was just enough to give the Sulphur, La., cowboy his first world championship. He finished the season with $207,672, a mere $4,105 ahead of six-time World Champion Cody Ohl. Ohl made things interesting by winning the final round in 6.6 seconds – just one-tenth of a second off his own Wrangler NFR record – but ultimately came up short because of a calf that stopped short on him and took 29.5 seconds to rope and tie in Round 9.
Hanchey’s 10-head time of 80.1 seconds broke the Wrangler NFR average record of 84.0 set by Hall of Famer Fred Whitfield in 1997. Brazile also broke Whitfield’s record by roping and tying 10 in 83.2 seconds to finish second in the average and third in the world.
The 24-year-old Hanchey, who had a final-round time of 8.4 seconds, was ecstatic about his first gold buckle that came after he started the 10-day event in 10th place in the standings.
“It hasn’t set in yet, and neither has the earnings record, and then they tell me I’m the world champion,” said the four-time Wrangler NFR qualifier. “It’s all really surreal right now.
“Once I won the first round, I knew it could be a special week, and I knew that if everything fell right, I could compete for the average win. To break the average record is truly remarkable.”
Hanchey’s $134,766 in earnings also set a Wrangler NFR record for saddle bronc riders, eclipsing Ohl’s previous mark from 2006.
Saddle bronc rider Jacobs Crawley rode 10 broncs for 778.5 points to win the first Wrangler NFR average of his career. The three-time Finals qualifier from Stephenville, Texas, finished fourth in the world with $179,446.
Twice as nice
A number of cowboys won their second career gold buckles on Saturday night. Team ropers Clay Tryan and Jade Corkill and saddle bronc rider Chad Ferley hoisted gold buckle No. 2 at the Thomas & Mack Center. Tryan edged Luke Brown by $8,529 with $179,688 in earnings in one of the year’s closest races, while Corkill’s $178,057 was $11,766 more than Kollin VonAhn. This year’s championship was the first for Tryan and Corkill as partners, as Tryan won his 2005 title with Patrick Smith and Corkill’s victory last year was with Kaleb Driggers as his header.
A third-place finish in Round 10 helped Ferley finish third in the average, which was enough to keep him more than $10,000 clear of Jake Wright for the gold buckle. Ferley finished the season with $204,432 after pocketing more than $100,000 in Las Vegas.
Ferley, the 2006 world champ, had to wait seven years for another gold buckle, and it was well worth it.
“I think the second one’s sweeter, because a lot of guys think it could be a fluke to win one,” Ferley said. “But, I think if you win a second one and have to wait that long, I can prove that it wasn’t a fluke and that I can ride broncs well. I’m just happy.
“I’m ready to go out, have a good time and am ready to get on the open road and away from a big city.”
Cody Teel can add a Wrangler NFR average crown to his 2012 world title. The Kountze, Texas, bull rider covered his final-round bull to finish with an eight-head total of 651.5 points for the 10-day rodeo. He rode two more bulls than the second-place average finisher, Harris, and won an event-best $131,010 in Las Vegas.
Casey Colletti’s third round victory of this year’s Finals likely got lost in the shuffle Saturday night. The bareback rider spurred Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo’s Scarlett’s Web for 86.5 points and earned $59,145 at the Thomas & Mack Center despite suffering a strained MCL in Round 3.
Bareback rider Austin Foss missed the final two rounds of the Wrangler NFR with nerve damage to his fee arm. That’s a shame for the Terrebonne, Ore., cowboy, who placed in Rounds 2-4, but had to settle for 12th place in the final world standings.
My heart goes out to steer wrestler Straws Milan and barrel racer Jean Winters, who were the only two contestants to leave this year’s Finals without a paycheck. Bareback rider Jared Smith was nearly skunked, splitting sixth place three ways in Round 9 for a check for $1,002.
Well, I suppose that’s a wrap for this year. It’s been a pleasure to once again regale you with tales from “Sin City,” and I hope I have been entertaining and interesting enough to keep you from falling asleep. Speaking of sleep, I’ll soon be headed there.
Until next time, cheers!