Team Ropers Summers/Long stay hot, make it two consecutive round wins
LAS VEGAS – Make it two-for-two in record-breaking fashion for team ropers Clint Summers/Jake Long before 17,693 fans Saturday night at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Summers/Long won again with Round 2-record tying run of 3.8 seconds. The duo won Round 1 with a 4.2-second run.
“(Saturday night) I felt like we had a great steer, even better than last night. I got the start that I really wanted to get, roped the horns, and Jake did what he does best,” Summers said.
Long acknowledged he and Summers put in the work and it has so far paid off in Vegas.
“Like we said last night, our practices have been really good, and we’ve had great steers to get us prepared,” Long said. “I just feel like we are in a good rhythm right now. I don’t think either one of us are trying too hard. I think sometimes when you get out of your way the muscle memory takes over and you are faster.”
Summers said there’s nothing like competing in front of the electric packed house in the Thomas & Mack Center.
“Man, I wouldn’t say that you are nervous, but it definitely gets your blood pumping. Since I was a little kid, this is what you dream of,” he said. “I think when that feeling goes away is when it’s time to hang it up. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of roping in this building.”
Superstar Stetson Wright to miss remainder of NFR with hamstring injury
Rodeo superstar Stetson Wright’s 2023 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo is over.
Wright, a seven-time world champion – all-around (2019-22), bull riding (2020, 2022) and saddle bronc riding (2021), will miss the remainder of the NFR because of a right hamstring strain.
The Wrangler NFR completed Round 2 Saturday night at the Thomas & Mack Center. Wright was competing in saddle bronc riding and bull riding.
“He said he’s out for the remainder of the rodeo,” said Justin Sportsmedicine Medical Director Dr. Tandy Freeman to the ProRodeo Sports News. “We filled out a doctor’s release for the remaining eight rounds. He’s not going to try and come back in two rounds or five rounds, he’s through.”
Calls by the ProRodeo Sports News to Stetson Wright late Saturday night went unanswered.
During Round 2 Saturday night, Wright was bucked off Big Rafter’s Wild Valley in saddle bronc riding. Wright, who was emotional after that ride, didn’t attempt to get on Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Bloomer’s Midnight Rider, the bull he drew in Round 2.
Wright is on the verge of clinching his fifth all-around world title. He has $479,621 and Nelson Wyatt is second with $182,612. Wyatt, a team roping header, is competing at the NFR with heeler Jonathan Torres. Wyatt still has a very slim mathematical chance to overtake Wright atop the all-around standings.
Wright remains first in the bull riding PRCA | RAM World Standings with $378,630. Ky Hamilton is second with $321,780. Wright is third in the saddle bronc riding standings with $261,626.
The dynamic Wright failed to make a qualified ride in saddle bronc riding or bull riding at this NFR.
Bareback rider Rocker Steiner goes two-for-two
Rocker Steiner is perfect so far at the 2023 Wrangler NFR – two rounds down and two wins.
Steiner made it two in a row with his 88.5 point-ride on Sankey Pro Rodeo & Phenom Genetics’ Mustard on Saturday night.
A day earlier in Round 1, Steiner won with an 87-point ride on Stace Smith Pro Rodeos’ Risky Business.
And he was thrilled to be celebrating again in Round 2.
“Yes, I won Fallon (Nev.) on that horse last year and then I got beat up on that horse in Filer (Idaho),” Steiner said. “The first time was super easy, and the second time was really hard, and I just didn’t know what to expect, so I prepared myself for hard. It wasn’t as easy as the first time and wasn’t as hard as the second. He just felt really good.
“I felt like I was in the top row in the bleachers. I felt so high up there. It was great.”
Steiner felt on top of the world after earning $61,412 in 16 seconds of work. He entered the NFR in seventh place in the world standings and is now second with $214,536.
“I’m just kind of tired of hearing people question who the best bareback rider is, so I’m just trying to take that thought out of their mind and let them know. You literally can’t get a better atmosphere. There’s 17,000 people cheering your name and they are right on top of you. It feels like 50,000 on top of you and it is even better when your family is just a couple rows behind you watching you.”
Reigning world champion tie-down roper Caleb Smidt takes Round 2
After a disappointing Round 1 effort, star tie-down roper Caleb Smidt didn’t stay down for long.
The Texas cowboy and four-time PRCA World Champion was back in top form, winning Round 2 with a 7.3-second run. A day after he had an un-Smidt like 16.6-second run in Round 1.
“I was mad. I was terrible last night after feeling rushed, impatient, and it forced me to make silly mistakes,” Smidt said. “Tonight, I just prayed for patience, and everything was a little smoother.”
Smidt took a moment to explain how things unfortunately unfolded for him on Friday night.
“It was a flurry of things. My horse didn’t fire out of the box, I was late getting the calf roped, and just panicked. Tonight, we got it figured out,” Smidt said. “I guess, it’s just the frustration that fuels you for the next run. I’m not sure, I’ve been doing this a long time and a lot of it comes down to getting a good start. When you miss a barrier here it feels like you can never catch up. For me and my horse, I focus on the start and tonight it was great. That was the big difference.”
Smidt has no secret plan moving forward.
“Not much changes. Just back in there and try to do what we did tonight eight more times. Take it one run at a time, one calf at a time, and see what happens.”
Tanner Butner captures Round 2 glory in saddle bronc riding
There was nothing flashy about Tanner Butner’s ride aboard Calgary Stampede’s Exotic Warrior, but his strong 87-point ride was good enough for the Round 2 win.
“I just tried to keep everything the same. I need to show up, ride whatever they throw at me, and don’t overthink it,” Butner said.
Butner has moved up from 11th to fifth in the world standings thanks to earning $49,291 so far at this year’s NFR.
“Oh, it’s awesome. You’re still rooting for your buddies but just to know that you are atop the leaderboard against this field is a pretty special feeling,” Butner said. “You just have to go out and ride everything the best you can. You can’t stub your toe because one of these guys will step up and take it from you.”
Butner doesn’t plan on changing his mindset in the upcoming rounds.“It’s the same way I’ve been riding all year. I have quite a few friends back there that keep it light, letting us go out there and just get it done,” he said.
Veteran steer wrestler Stan Branco claims Round 2 victory
Stan Branco never dreamed of getting back to the NFR. The California cowboy’s lone appearance came in 2013.
Branco’s back in Las Vegas this year and making up for lost time as he won Round 2 with a 3.9-second run.
“I got a good start, the steer was good, hit on my feet and got him cleaned up and this win feels good,” Branco said. “I rodeoed there for quite a few years after (2013) and steers were getting a little smaller and I wasn’t handling the body and kind of thought I was done. Circuit rodeoing has allowed me to get back here and I made the (NFR Open) last year, which kind of put me on a path to make a run at rodeos.”
Branco entered the NFR 12th in the world standings and moved up to seventh with his $30,706 win on Saturday. He has earned $40,706 at this year’s NFR.
Now, that Branco’s back on the winning track, he doesn’t plan on slowing down.
“I hope not. It’s hard. I love rodeo but I want to take care of my family as well,” Branco said.
Bull rider Jared Parsonage gets first career NFR round win
Canadian bull rider Jared Parsonage, who has competed in the Wrangler NFR in 2022 and now in 2023 collected his first-round win at the Thomas & Mack Center Saturday night.
Parsonage took home the title with his 87.5-point ride on Barnes PRCA Rodeo’s Umm
“It’s kind of fun sometimes being the first one out. There’s no pressure and really nothing to lose,” Parsonage said. “You go out, ride your bull, and let the cards fall where they may. All you can do is ride them.”
Parsonage acknowledged he didn’t have much intel on his Round 2 bull.
“I didn’t really know about the bull but a couple guys in the locker room that knew him well said I would like him and get along well,” he said. “Turns out that they were right. The bull kicked out of the gate to the left and kept spinning. It was everything you could ask for.”
Parsonage did relish in taking a coveted NFR victory lap.
“It’s always fun. I think I can speak for everyone but when we come here, we all want a chance to take the victory lap,” he said. “It was great to get one under the belt and hopefully we can keep adding to it.
“It’s just the start of the week. There’s plenty of rodeo left and with this momentum I want to keep it going. It’s nothing to get too excited about right now with a lot of good bulls left. I just need to stay focused and hopefully it turns out good at the end of the week.”
Barrel racer Stevi Hillman tops field in Round 2
In a lightning-fast Round 2 of barrel racing, Stevi Hillman snared top honors with a 13.62-second run.
“Being later in the round, I kept hearing the girls’ times and it’s so fun to hear it, see that, and get to compete against this field of barrel racers,” Hillman said. “It was so tough tonight. The ground was tight and held all the horses and that sure makes a difference for us. We’re super grateful for that.”
Hillman explained what changed for her from Round 1 to Round 2.
“First runs in this type of arena are always tough. The ground was a little bit looser than what we were expecting, so it added to the challenge. Tonight, it was just my job to ride square and let the horse take care of business.
“I feel like I’ve been competing against this group all-year long. I think it takes this type of run at every rodeo to beat this competition, which makes it great for the industry and fun to watch. So, I’m just thankful to be a part of it here.”