LAS VEGAS – Steer wrestler Ethen Thouvenell and tie-down roper Justin Maass stood atop the world for the final seven months of ProRodeo’s regular season.
After two nights at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, they both now have some catching up to do.
Two-time World Steer Wrestling Champion Dean Gorsuch moved to the top spot on the second of 10 nights at the Thomas & Mack Center before Reigning World Champion Tuf Cooper moved to first place in the tie-down roping, giving the world’s richest and most prestigious rodeo three lead changes over the first two nights.
Gorsuch, from Gering, Neb., moved to the top of the heap by finishing second for the second consecutive night. Thouvenell suffered a no-time, which could prove especially costly in the lucrative average race, which is commonly a major factor in determining the bulldogging world champion.
Cooper, who took a big step in catching Maass by winning the first round, tied for second behind his brother, Clif, and has made $31,919 in the first two nights of the rodeo. He leads Maass by $11,340 entering Round 3.
The saddle bronc riding race also got much more interesting when world leader Jesse Wright was bucked off in the second round. He still holds a lead of more than $17,000, but his closest pursuers are all 2-for-2, including second-place bronc rider Wade Sundell. Sundell, Jake Wright – Jesse’s twin brother – and Cort Scheer shared the second-round victory with 84.5-point rides.
“I hadn’t been on in a long time, and to come here after these first two horses back, I feel good and I’m ready to rock and roll,” said Sundell, who had been out since early September due to a knee injury. “The knee feels awesome and I think it’s where I need it to be.”
“I’m loving this and I can’t wait for tomorrow,” said Jake Wright, after earning checks in each of the first two nights of his first NFR appearance. “I’ve always wanted to come here and do really good and it’s come true.”
A couple of ProRodeo’s world leaders bucked Friday’s trend by adding to their leads.
The second round has quickly become one of the favorites of bareback rider Kaycee Feild.
The reigning world champion has qualified for the NFR five times, and on Friday won at least a share of the second-round title for the fourth time. In fact, it was his fourth in a row as he scored 86.5 points on Carr Pro Rodeo’s Riverboat Annie, matching three-time World Champion Will Lowe’s effort on Classic Pro Rodeo’s Bi Polar.
“I was a little rusty last night,” Feild said of his first-round ride on Thursday. “I disappointed myself; I rode like a pansy. It’s almost like you’re trying too hard and beating yourself up before you even get on. I redeemed myself tonight. I loosened up and had fun. This feels good.”
Despite his frustrations, Feild, from Payson, Utah, finished fourth in the first round, and after two nights leads the average with a total of 171 points on two rides.
Lowe, the world champion in 2003, 2005 and 2006, sits behind Feild in both the average and world standings race – about $22,200 behind.
“Everyone wants to be the rankest person out there,” the Canyon, Texas, cowboy said. “Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.”
It’s worked out well for bull rider J.W. Harris over the first two nights. After snagging the world lead on the first night of the NFR, he rode Frontier Rodeo’s Cowboy Compactor for 88 points and second place on Friday.
He and his buddy, Cody Whitney, share the distinction of having earned the most money of any ProRodeo cowboys over the rodeo’s first two nights. They each have a first- and a second-place finish, earning them $32,686. Whitney won the second round with 89 points on Wild Card Rodeo’s The Grinch.
“I know what my abilities are, and I don’t want to sound arrogant but I would match my skills against anybody in the world – J.W. Harris or anybody else,” Whitney said. “I’m focused on riding bulls and in 10 days they’ll tell us who wins what, that’s just the way I’m looking at it.”
However, the early leader in the race for the Ram Top Gun Award – given to the top earner at the NFR – is 53-year-old NFR rookie barrel racer Mary Walker, who won for the second consecutive night. With $36,514 in earnings, she’s pulled within striking distance of world leader Brittany Pozzi.
While it was Gorsuch taking the lead in the steer wrestling world standings, it was Billy Bugenig who shook off a first-round no-time to win the second round, tackling his steer in 3.6 seconds.
“[Thursday] night didn’t start good, but we have an opportunity to go 10 nights, so I just told myself to treat every night like a one-header and see how much money I can win,” the Ferndale, Calif., cowboy said. “It’s a good start.”
Clif Cooper needed a last-minute dash to secure his spot at the NFR and entered in 15th place, but moved up five places, into the top 10, thanks to his $18,257 windfall for winning the second round.
“I put a lot of work and effort coming into this year’s NFR, and feel better than ever that I’m ready for this week,” said Cooper, from Decatur, Texas.
In a wide-open team roping race, Texans Luke Brown and Martin Lucero grabbed the second-round title with a 4.0-second effort, the fastest run of the rodeo thus far.
“That steer ran hard and went to the right when we were breaking them in a few days ago, so I wanted to take a real aggressive start at him,” Brown said. “The first shot at him was probably going to be the best. … I wasn’t pumped up enough last night, and I wasn’t as aggressive as I should have been, but tonight it all worked out perfect.”
“He had it on him so fast I kind of panicked and just tried to get my horse inside the turn and get a swing over his back,” Lucero said. “We came tight really fast after I caught him, and I think that’s what let us win the round.”
The first two nights have gone rather injury-free, though bull rider Ardie Maier remains questionable with a lacerated riding hand (he rode through the injury Friday but was bucked off) and bull rider Seth Glause is listed as probable after suffering a fractured and lacerated nose following an 86.5-point ride Friday night.
The rodeo continues with the third of 10 performances at 6:45 p.m. Saturday.
54th annual Wrangler National Finals Rodeo
Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas
Second round, Dec. 7, 2012
Bareback riding: 1. (tie) Kaycee Feild, Payson, Utah, on Carr Pro Rodeo’s Riverboat Annie, and Will Lowe, Canyon, Texas, on Classic Pro Rodeo’s Bi Polar, 86.5 points, $16,343 each; 3. J.R. Vezain, Cowley, Wyo., 85.5, $10,895; 4. Brian Bain, Culver, Ore., 83.5, $7,656; 5. Jessy Davis, Power, Mont., 83, $4,712; 6. Justin McDaniel, Porum, Okla., 81.5, $2,945; 7. Winn Ratliff, Leesville, La., 78.5; 8. Wes Stevenson, Lubbock, Texas, 77.5; 9. (tie) Steven Peebles, Redmond, Ore., and Jared Keylon, Uniontown, Kan., 77 each; 11. Bobby Mote, Stephenville, Texas, 76.5; 12. Matt Bright, Azle, Texas, 76; 13. Caleb Bennett, Morgan, Utah, 74; 14. Steven Dent, Mullen, Neb., 73; 15. Casey Colletti, Pueblo, Colo., NS.
Steer wrestling: 1. Billy Bugenig, Ferndale, Calif., 3.6 seconds, $18,257; 2. Dean Gorsuch, Gering, Neb., 3.9, $14,429; 3. Casey Martin, Sulphur, La., 4.0, $10,895; 4. Trevor Knowles, Mount Vernon, Ore., 4.1, $7,656; 5. (tie) Luke Branquinho, Los Alamos, Calif., and Tom Lewis, Lehi, Utah, 4.2, $3,828 each; 7. Les Shepperson, Midwest, Wyo., 4.3; 8. Todd Suhn, Hermosa, S.D., 4.4; 9. Wade Sumpter, Fowler, Colo., 4.6; 10. K.C. Jones, Decatur, Texas, 4.8; 11. Gabe Ledoux, Kaplan, La., 5.1; 12. Matt Reeves, Cross Plains, Texas, 5.2; 13. Beau Clark, Belgrade, Mont., 7.5; 14. Bray Armes, Gruver, Texas, 16.0; 15. Ethen Thouvenell, Napa, Calif., NT.
Team roping: 1. Luke Brown, Stephenville, Texas/Martin Lucero, Stephenville, Texas, 4.0 seconds, $18,257 each; 2. Derrick Begay, Seba Dalkai, Ariz./Cesar de la Cruz, Tucson, Ariz., 4.6, $14,429; 3. Dustin Bird, Cut Bank, Mont./Paul Eaves, Millsap, Texas, 5.2, $10,895; 4. Travis Tryan, Billings, Mont./Jake Long, Coffeyville, Kan., 5.3, $7,656; 5. Charly Crawford, Prineville, Ore./Jim Ross Cooper, Monument, N.M., 5.4, $4,712; 6. Keven Daniel, Franklin, Tenn./Chase Tryan, Helena, Mont., 9.5, $2,945; 7. Chad Masters, Cedar Hill, Tenn./Clay O’Brien Cooper, Gardnerville, Nev., 9.6; 8. Erich Rogers, Round Rock, Ariz./Kory Koontz, Sudan, Texas, 10.7; 9. Brock Hanson, Casa Grande, Ariz./Ryan Motes, Weatherford, Texas, 12.8; 10. Colby Lovell, Madisonville, Texas/Russell Cardoza, Terrebonne, Ore., 14.0; 11. (tie) Trevor Brazile, Decatur, Texas/Patrick Smith, Lipan, Texas; Kaleb Driggers, Albany, Ga./Jade Corkill, Fallon, Nev.; Clay Tryan, Billings, Mont./Travis Graves, Jay, Okla.; Spencer Mitchell, Colusa, Calif./Dakota Kirchenschlager, Stephenville, Texas, and Turtle Powell, Stephenville, Texas/Dugan Kelly, Paso Robles, Calif., NT.
Saddle bronc riding: 1. (tie) Wade Sundell, Boxholm, Iowa, on Calgary Stampede’s Mad Money; Jake Wright, Milford, Utah, on Mo Betta Rodeo’s Shasta, and Cort Scheer, Elsmere, Neb., on Three Hills Rodeo’s Big Jet, 84.5 points, $14,527 each; 4. Cole Elshere, Faith, S.D., 83.5, $7,656; 5. (tie) Taos Muncy, Corona, N.M., and Tyrell Smith, Cascade, Mont., 82.5, $3,828 each; 7. Cody Wright, Milford, Utah, 82; 8. Isaac Diaz, Davie, Fla., 80.5; 9. Chad Ferley, Oelrichs, S.D., 77; 10. (tie) Cody Taton, Corona, N.M., and Bradley Harter, Weatherford, Texas, 75 each; 12. Cody DeMoss, Heflin, La., 71; 13. (tie) Jesse Wright, Milford, Utah; Jacobs Crawley, College Station, Texas, and Sterling Crawley, College Station, Texas, NS.
Tie-down roping: 1. Clif Cooper, Decatur, Texas, 7.3 seconds, $18,257; 2. (tie) Tuf Cooper, Decatur, Texas, and Monty Lewis, Hereford, Texas, 7.5, $12,662 each; 4. Adam Gray, Seymour, Texas, 7.7, $7,656; 5. Hunter Herrin, Apache, Okla., 7.8, $4,712; 6. Fred Whitfield, Hockley, Texas, 8.0, $2,945; 7. Ryan Jarrett, Comanche, Okla., 8.1; 8. Cory Solomon, Prairie View, Texas, 8.2; 9. Houston Hutto, Tomball, Texas, 8.7; 10. Bradley Bynum, Sterling City, Texas, 8.8; 11. Justin Maass, Giddings, Texas, 9.5; 12. Shane Hanchey, Sulphur, La., 9.6; 13. Cody Ohl, Hico, Texas, 15.4; 14. (tie) Clint Robinson, Spanish Fork, Utah, and Matt Shiozawa, Chubbuck, Idaho, NT.
Barrel racing: 1. Mary Walker, Ennis, Texas, 13.80 seconds, $18,257; 2. Benette Barrington-Little, Ardmore, Okla., 13.82, $14,429; 3. (tie) Lindsay Sears, Nanton, Alberta, and Lee Ann Rust, Stephenville, Texas, 13.91, $9,276 each; 5. Brittany Pozzi, Victoria, Texas, 14.00, $4,712; 6. Nikki Steffes, Vale, S.D., 14.09, $2,945; 7. Kaley Bass, Kissimmee, Fla., 14.12; 8. Brenda Mays, Terrebonne, Ore., 14.27; 9. Trula Churchill, Valentine, Neb., 14.28; 10. Christy Loflin, Franktown, Colo., 14.39; 11. Sherry Cervi, Marana, Ariz., 14.41; 12. Christina Richman, Glendora, Calif., 14.98; 13. Kelli Tolbert, Hooper, Utah, 18.92; 14. Lisa Lockhart, Oelrichs, S.D., 19.01; 15. Carlee Pierce, Stephenville, Texas, 19.02.
Bull riding: 1. Cody Whitney, Sayre, Okla., 89 points on Wild Card Rodeo’s The Grinch, $18,257; 2. J.W. Harris, Mullin, Texas, 88, $14,429; 3. Beau Schroeder, China, Texas, 87, $10,895; 4. Seth Glause, Cheyenne, Wyo., 86.5, $7,656; 5. Trevor Kastner, Ardmore, Okla., 83.5, $4,712; 6. Clayton Savage, Casper, Wyo., 80.5, $2,945; 7. Cody Teel, Kountze, Texas, 60; 8. (tie) Trey Benton III, Rock Island, Texas; Ardie Maier, Timber Lake, S.D.; Tate Stratton, Kellyville, Okla.; Cody Samora, Cortez, Colo.; Shane Proctor, Grand Coulee, Wash.; Kanin Asay, Powell, Wyo., Tag Elliott, Thatcher, Utah, and Brett Stall, Detroit Lakes, Minn., NS.
Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association
101 ProRodeo Drive
Colorado Springs, CO 80919
Contact: Eric Schmoldt, 307.315.2614
December 7, 2012