Archive for March, 2011

postheadericon Graves posts 3.3-second to take steer wrestling lead at DNCFR

Stockton Graves is an Oklahoma cowboy who is proud of the state’s rodeo heritage.

He’s also excited to be competing in his capital city for one of the most coveted championships in his sport during the Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo at Jim Norick Arena on the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds. On Thursday night during the first of five performances, Graves posted a 3.3-second run to take the lead in steer wrestling.

“I think it’s great being able to compete in Oklahoma City for the national championship,” said Graves, 32, of Newkirk, Okla. “I think they’ve done a great job trying to put this rodeo on and bringing it back to where the NFR was for so many years. It’s a rodeo state.”

That it is. The State Fair Arena was home of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo from 1965-78, though Oklahoma City hosted at the then-called Myriad Arena through 1984, when Las Vegas became the host. So returning this type of championship to central Oklahoma is important for the region and the competitors who are in town competing.

Graves has qualified for the Wrangler NFR six times, while this is his fourth trip to the national circuit finals. He won the national championship in 2006, and his hot start gives him an advantage – half of the 24 contestants in each event competed Thursday, and the other half will compete at 7:30 p.m. Friday. The second round will take place Saturday, with performances scheduled for 1 and 7:30 p.m. The final performance, set for 1 p.m. Sunday, will feature the top eight cowboys and cowgirls from each event and will be pared down to the eventual champions.

“It’s very good to have a good run to start,” Graves said. “It takes some pressure off on the next run. If you don’t place, then you still have a good chance to make it back in the top eight. I always like to do good on my first one, and hopefully it just keeps rolling.”

That’s what helps champions earn the buckles they crave and the titles for which they battle.

“This is the first time I’ve ever ridden that horse,” he said of Maximus, owned by fellow steer wrestler Todd Suhn of Weatherford, Texas. “Horses like Maximus make our jobs easy. You’ve got to ride the best to beat the best.”

He wasn’t the only one who was best Thursday night. Other winners were tie-down roper Brett Flemming of Warden, Mont., 8.2 seconds; bareback rider Kaycee Feild, Payson, Utah, 84 points on J Bar J’s Freckled Doll; saddle bronc rider J.J. Elshere, Quinn, S.D., 85 points on Andrews Rodeo’s Firelane; team ropers Charly Crawford, Prineville, Ore./Russell Cardoza, Terrebonne, Ore., 5.5 seconds; barrel racer Lisa Lockhart, Oelrichs, S.D., 15.24 seconds; and bull rider Ryan Shanklin, Rocksprings, Texas, 86 points on MoBetta Rodeo’s Carter Hou.

Bareback Riding
1.         Kaycee Feild, Payson, Utah, 84 points on J Bar J’s Freckled Doll
2.         (tie) Dave Worsfold, Queensland, AU, 80
Brian Bain, Culver, Ore., 80
4.         Wes Stevenson, Lubbock, Texas, 76
5.         (tie) Bo Casper, Fort Scott, Kan., 75
Clint Lear, Anderson, Calif., 75
Steer Wrestling

1.         Stockton Graves, Newkirk, Okla., 3.3 seconds
2.         Ty Erickson, Helena, Mont., 3.9
3.         John Franzen, Riverton, Wyo., 4.1
4.         Casey McMillen, Redmond, Ore., 4.4
5.         Damian Padilla, Rio Rico, Ariz., 4.5
6.         Matt Reeves, Cross Plains, Texas, 4.9
Tie-Down Roping

1.         Brett Fleming, Worden, Mont., 8.2 seconds
2.         Tyson Durfey, Colbert, Wash., 9.1
3.         Grady Lockhart, Oelrichs, S.D., 9.5
4.         Wes Arcement, Raceland, La., 10.2
5.         Justin Maass, Giddings, Texas, 10.4
6.         Carmine Nastri, Ballston, N.Y., 11.2
Saddle Bronc Riding

1.         JJ Elshere, Quinn, S.D., 85 points on Andrews Rodeo’s Firelane
2.         Jesse Kruse, Great Falls, Mont., 81
3.         Jesse Wright, Milford, Utah, 80
4.         Jacobs Crawley, College Station, Texas, 78
5.         Curtis Garton, New Zealand, NZ, 75
6.         Travis Sheets, Hyannis, Neb., 73
Team Roping

1.         Charly Crawford, Prineville, Ore./Russell Cardoza, Terrebonne, Ore., 5.5 seconds
2.         Luke Brown, Stephenville, Texas/Martin Lucero, Stephenville, Texas, 5.7
3.         Tom Richards, Humboldt, Ariz./Tyler Getzwiller, Scottsdale, Ariz., 6.8
4.         Ross Lowry, Summerville, Ga./Stephen Britnell, Maryville, Tenn., 7.1
5.         Ryan Siemsen, Worden, Mont./Ross Carson, Killdeer, N.D., 8.2
6.         Jason Arndt, Fort Scott, Kan./Gabe Gwaltney, Carthage, Mo., 8.4
Barrel Racing

1.         Lisa Lockhart, Oelrichs, S.D., 15.24 seconds
2.         Linda Vick, Hesperia, Calif., 15.50
3.         Sherry Cervi, Marana, Ariz., 15.51
4.         Jessi Eagleberger, Stringtown, Okla., 15.52
5.         Shali Lord, Lamar, Colo., 15.56
6.         (tie) Theresa Walter, Billings, Mont., 15.60
Brenda Mays, Terrebonne, Ore., 15.60
Bull Riding

1.         Ryan Shanklin, Rocksprings, Texas, 86 points on MoBetta Rodeo’s Carter Hou
2.         Shawn Proctor, Tooele, Utah, 85

postheadericon Technical difficulties

Unfortunately I won’t be able to post repeated updates tonight from the Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo, but I plan to have these technical difficulties fixed by Friday’s second performance.

 

postheadericon Keeping tabs on the DNCFR

The first performance of the Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo begins at 7:30 tonight, and I’m excited about being part of this national championship.

This is your place for updates and information throughout the weekend, so check back. Not only do I plan to provide regular updates from the competition, but I hope to give you other tidbits along the way.

postheadericon The best are in Oklahoma City

From Wayne Brooks, the reigning Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association announcer of the year, to the 33 world champions to the dozens of qualifiers to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, the Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo features a who’s who list of the top names in ProRodeo.

Added in that is the Justin Sportsmedicine Team, which will be represented at the Jim Norick Arena over the next four days by Program Director Rick Foster, therapists/trainers Lisa Herring and Larry Gardner, and Dr. Tandy Freeman.

Together they’ve all helped keep the contestants competing at a high level for many years. They’ll do so again this weekend in Oklahoma City.

postheadericon Elite contestants to fight for national titles

Bobby Mote is a World Champion Bareback Rider who has put together a hall-of-fame career on the backs of bucking beasts.

Bobby Mote

Bobby Mote

He’s hoping to add a few lines to his resume at the 2011 Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo, set for March 31-April 3 at Jim Norick Arena at the State Fairgrounds in Oklahoma City, where the top cowboys and cowgirls from the 12 regional ProRodeo circuits will compete for national championships and big money.

“It’s always a good rodeo, and it’s a chance to win all that money and a chance at a Dodge truck,” said Mote of Culver, Ore. “Any time I get to compete against the top guys on the top horses, I get excited about it.

“Plus it’s something I haven’t won yet. I’d obviously like to win it.”

Through his career, Mote has qualified for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo 10 times and walked away from the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas with four gold buckles given to World Champions, including the last two. But he’s also a regional cowboy, competing at rodeos close to home in the Columbia River Circuit.

“I think the circuit system is really important for rodeo,” said Mote, one of many NFR qualifiers scheduled to compete for the national championships. “The circuit system gives guys the chance to come up through the ranks and get the experience they need, plus the National Circuit Finals gives the guys that are outstanding in their circuit the opportunity to go in front of a national stage and compete against the best.”

Mote is one of many world champions who have qualified to compete at the DNCFR, which takes the year-end and finals champions in each event from each circuit. That means 24 bareback riders, 24 tie-down ropers and 24 teams of team ropers will do battle over four days inside State Fair Arena, which housed the NFR when it first moved to Oklahoma City in the 1960s.

“Qualifying has always meant a lot to me,” said Stockton Graves of Newkirk, Okla., a six-time NFR qualifier who won the DNCFR steer wrestling title in 2006. “It’s a great deal with Dodge being involved, and it’s always been important to me to make the circuit finals and try to win the circuit and qualify for the Dodge National Circuit Finals.

“It’s a great rodeo with a lot of money, and this year was even more important to me since it’s in Oklahoma and just an hour and a half from the house.”

That’s a benefit to the Prairie Circuit qualifiers. But many contestants like the central location.

Heith DeMoss

Heith DeMoss

“I think it’s pretty historic to get to go back to Oklahoma City for the National Circuit Finals the first year it moves there,” said Heith DeMoss of Heflin, La., a three-time NFR qualifier in saddle bronc riding who also is competing at the DNCFR for the third time. “It’s closer for me, but it’s also a good rodeo town. I think it’ll be beneficial for all the stock contractors and fans, too.”

But where does this rank among his list of accomplishments?

“The DNCFR is the next step under the NFR,” said DeMoss, who competes in the Southeastern Circuit. “This is darn sure a big deal, and I’m excited to make it.

“Usually it doesn’t pay off for me to go to the circuit rodeos, because every bit of money I’ve won there is already spent just trying to get to those rodeos. All the chips are in trying to cash in here at the finals. It’s quite a gamble, but I believe in having good horses and riding at the finals. I believe in myself and think I’ve got what it takes to do well there.”

When you’re looking at a who’s who of ProRodeo, you know the competition will be fierce. Not only does the DNCFR host the top regional players who choose to stay close to home to compete, but it’s also home of the elite players in the game, those who are regular fixtures at the NFR:

Bareback riders Mote, Ryan Gray, Scott Montague, Kelly Timberman, Wes Stevenson and Kaycee Field; steer wrestlers Graves, Trevor Knowles, Wade Sumpter and Todd Suhn; team ropers Daniel Green, Russell Cordoza, Charly Crawford, Jhett Johnson, Matt Sherwood and Randon Adams; saddle bronc riders DeMoss, J.J. Elshere, Jesse Kruse, Taos Muncy and Cody Wright; tie-down ropers Tyson Durfey, Hunter Herrin, Ryan Jarrett, Houston Hutto, Matt Shiozawa and Clint Robinson; barrel racers Sherry Cervi, Lisa Lockhart, Brenda Mays, Kelly Yates, Shali Lord and Annesa Self; and bull riders Seth Glause, Clayton Savage, Shawn Proctor and Wesley Silcox.

Sherry Cervi

Sherry Cervi

“It’s always been a really good rodeo and one that you want to qualify for,” said Cervi of Marana, Ariz., a three-time and reigning Women’s Professional Rodeo Association barrel racing champion who has claimed the DNCFR title in her storied career. “It’s a really good bonus program.

“What I think is neat about it is the team deal, where you were trying to get the team title. It made it to where you stayed and watched the other events, which made it fun for us.”

That’s a lot of team pride, but the team concept is built through the rigors of the circuit season. Contestants build camaraderie at all the rodeos in which they compete in order to win the circuit crowns. As a Turquoise Circuit competitor, she’ll probably bee rooting for another Arizona world champion, team roping-header Matt Sherwood of Pima, Ariz.

“I love competing at that rodeo, and it’s something I work at every year in order to make it there,” said Sherwood, a two-time world champion who has qualified for the DNCFR eight times. “To me, it’s a great opportunity to compete against 24 guys for a lot of money.

Six seasons ago, Sherwood and then-partner Rube Woolsey secured the team roping national championship. He knows how important it is to do well in this championship.

“At the time, it was the biggest win of my career,” Sherwood said. “I hadn’t ever made it to the (National) Finals, and I hadn’t won the world. It’s not the world championship, but it’s still a big deal.”

And it’s a big deal to him that it’s in Oklahoma’s capital city, a place he’s played several times in his career.

“I go there every year in October for the U.S. Finals,” he said, referring to the USTRC national championship of team roping. “I love the fairgrounds, and I love roping there. I hope I’m the champ of the very first one in Oklahoma City.”

postheadericon Swingler, Arnold add to the fun at the Guymon rodeo

Mark Swingler got started in the rodeo business as a competitor and went from bull rider to bullfighter to entertainer.

Dave Arnold got started in rodeo because he had some outstanding border collies that worked well with sheep. When a friend recommended Arnold take his animals to the Dodge City, Kan., a mutton busting stock-contracting career began.

Mark Swingler

Mark Swingler

Together they will bring their flavor of fun and frivolity to the Guymon Pioneer Days Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 6; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 7; and 2 p.m. Sunday, May 8, at Henry C. Hitch Pioneer Arena.

“It’s just a great rodeo, and I’m always excited to come to Guymon,” said Arnold, who lives in Ashland, Kan. “The way Guymon does it pre-performance takes away a lot of the stress I might have if I did the mutton busting during the performance. I’d like to see more people come to the rodeo earlier in Guymon so they could see the kids ride. It’s a lot of fun, and I think everybody would enjoy it.”

The 2011 rodeo will mark the ninth straight year Arnold and his herd have made their way to the Oklahoma Panhandle. Arnold said he enjoys the atmosphere and working with the Guymon committee of volunteers. That’s something Swingler will get to see first-hand when he arrives in town the week of the rodeo. He realizes his job as a funnyman/barrelman is to help the rodeo be as entertaining as possible.

“I don’t want anybody to think I’m working,” said Swingler of Austin, Texas. “Humor and laughter is contagious. Nobody wants to see anybody work. They want to have fun. That’s why you have spoofs when the act goes south.

“Plus I like the fresh stuff. I kind of use my wit and my humor with my surroundings. You just look up in the stands, and you’ve got enough material for a long time.”

Swingler has been in the business most of his life. He began as a bull rider, then took a shot at protecting fallen cowboys as a bullfighter. In fact, that’s how Swingler got his start in ProRodeo.

“I started in 1987, and I actually fought bulls until 1992,” he said. “It was kind of old school back then, when you fought bulls and did the comedy. I was mainly fighting bulls, but I found myself enjoying the entertaining part. By 1993, I worked one into the other. By 1994, my bullfighting cleats were hung up.”

In the years since, Swingler has been nominated for the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Clown of the Year and Comedy Act of the Year. He has a nice load of entertaining acts, but his specialty is the “walk-and-talk,” where he observes the goings-on in and out of the arena and maintains the level of excitement for fans.

“I’m not what we call a canned person,” he said. “I don’t have a routine. I have acts, and even when I work Denver and 23 performances they have there, I was rotating seven acts. With the walking and talking, I just go with the flow. I’m one of those guys that says what everybody’s thinking, so I don’t know what’s going to happen. A lot of that depends on the announcers, but it’s a blast.

“I learned a long time ago that if you have a great performance, you usually forget what you did because it was just spontaneous and you just go with the flow. If you try to repeat it, it’s not going to work.”

There is no repeating in mutton busting; wild sheep won’t allow for that. But it’s always entertaining, from the little girl who holds on long after the sheep has spit the bit to the names given to the animals: Baaaaaaad to the Bone, Sheepless in Sheattle, etc.

“Ken Stonecipher comes up with those names in Guymon, and I steal them,” Arnold said of the longtime Pioneer Days Rodeo committeeman who also serves as one of the arena announcers. “When I go to a rodeo, I’ll pick out a list of sheep names and give them to the announcer that’s calling the mutton busting.”

Arnold said he contracted 50 performances in the 2010 rodeo season, while turning out 1,030 sheep in the fun competition at rodeos. So how did he become a rodeo stock contractor?

“A friend of mine, a guy I’d sold a dog to, was on the Round-Up committee in Dodge City,” Arnold said of the large western Kansas rodeo that takes place each August. “They’d had mutton busting at Round-Up before, and apparently it was a wreck. I guess they couldn’t get the sheep out of the arena, and someone suggested they needed someone with a good dog.

“They were putting on the PBR event in 1995, so my friend contacted me. That first year went very well, and everybody seemed to like it.”

Rodeo isn’t Arnold’s primary business, but it’s something he has loved since he was a youngster competing in the sport.

“I make my living with cows,” he said. “I have 400 head of momma cows. I got into border collies about 1987, and we started out with a few sheep to train the dogs on.”

The rest has led him around the region hauling sheep and watching his dogs work.

“I enjoy the atmosphere around rodeo,” Arnold said. “I get to go to a bunch of rodeos in the summer, and I always draw a check, which is something I didn’t do when I tried to calf rope in high school.”

Plus he gets to put smiles on thousands of fans each year. That’s a wonderful benefit he shares with Swingler.

“I just enjoy entertaining people, seeing them enjoy themselves,” Swingler said. “If I can get people to forget about their worldly troubles or what’s going on at work for just two and a half hours, then I feel like I’m successful.”

postheadericon Cowboys have plenty of motivation in race for $1 million

If the $1 million prize for winning “The Amazing Race: Unfinished Business” weren’t enough, Jet and Cord McCoy have plenty of motivation for taking part in the CBS-TV reality series.

Jet and Cord McCoy Photo: Monty Brinton/CBS

Jet and Cord McCoy

“My family’s making as big a sacrifice for me to be here as I’m making for me to be here,” Jet said during the sixth leg of the race, which aired Sunday night. “My wife … she’s staying home taking care of my 2-year-old girl, taking care of the ranch, same as Cord’s wife. So that’s a little added incentive. We really don’t want to go home empty-handed.”

The cowboys were the first team to leave from their starting spot in Kunming, China, after winning the fifth leg of the race, but they were just two minutes ahead of the father-daughter- team of Gary and Mallory Ervin. The teams began the trip by taking parting in a traditional tea tasting at the Jin Fu Yi Zhan Tea Shop before leaving Kunming for Kolkata, India. All the teams were on the same flight, which landed in the bustling commercial capital of eastern India.

As the teams ran out of the airport to take separate taxis to Town Hall, they were surrounded by what seemed like thousands of people. They also realized there was a high level of traffic in Kolkata even in the early-morning hours.

“We’ve got us a good cab driver,” Jet said as he and Cord zipped passed other teams. “He’s fixin’ to pass another one.”

As the brothers passed the Ervins and the Globetrotters, Herb Lang and Nate Loften, they paid tribute to their driver.

“This guy’s got some nerves,” Jet said.

“Nerves of steel,” Cord followed.

Once the groups arrived at Town Hall, they realized it didn’t open until 10 a.m., so all eight teams waited together. The Globetrotters even snuck in a quick prank, revealing the camaraderie among the remaining racers. When the gates to Town Hall opened, the teams learned of their first “road block,” where one team member had to search through hundreds of cups of tea to find the exact match to the flavor they sipped in Kunming the day before. Jet handled the task, and he finished second.

The teams were directed to the Jorashanko area to find the Tiwari Tea Stall, where they were to find their next clue. The McCoys, who were raised on a ranch near Tupelo, Okla., seemed to struggle finding the stall, eventually arriving in fifth place. But their trip around Kolkata was incredible, nonetheless.

“My goodness,” Jet said. “This place is amazing.”

The clue at the tea stall directed them to the “detour,” where teams had to decide whether they wanted to tour Hindu art or Bengali literature. The brothers chose the book route, so they were directed to a bookstore. There they had to take eight stacks of children’s books, then squeeze themselves and their stacks of schoolbooks in the back of a rickshaw bus. They directed the driver through the congested streets of Kolkata to a school, where they delivered the books to the headmistress.

The McCoys seemed to have trouble finding the publishing company, but once they did, they went to work.

“This is a heck of a school bus right here,” Jet said. “I’m guessing he can’t go any faster.”

Jet stuck his right leg out the back of the vehicle and helped push the bicycle-peddaling driver along.

“Push, push,” Cord said, urging his brother and the rickshaw driver. “Get down on it.”

As they read the clue that took the teams to the “pit stop,” the champion cowboys were surrounded by the schoolchildren – both were five-time world champions in the International Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, and Cord is a fan favorite on the Professional Bull Riders tour. They tipped their hats to the kids and found the cab to take them to the Fountain of Joy. Most of the teams seemed to complain about the gridlocked traffic, but not the McCoys.

“Sweet,” said Cord, revealing one of his trademark comments. “Look at that sign to the left. It says, ‘India is great.’ ”

“India IS great,” Jet responded.

The Ervins finished the leg in first place in what seemed like a big lead ahead of the rest of the teams. In a tight race to the finish, the brothers crossed the street racing for the finish line.

“They’re right behind us, Jet,” Cord said.

They jumped on the mat in second place, and Cord shook hands with host Phil Keoghan. The brothers were then joined by the father-daughter team of Ron and Christina Hsu, best friends Zev Glassenberg and Justin Kanew and the Goth couple, Kent Kaliber and Vyxsin Fiala.

“Come on in here with us,” Cord said, greeting his combatants in a matter that is understood by rodeo and bull riding folks but not many other competitors.

The mother-son team of Margie and Luke Adams finished last and were eliminated. The show takes next weekend off because of the Academy of Country Music Awards, but “The Amazing Race: Unfinished Business” is scheduled to return April 10.

postheadericon Luck of the draw

Bareback rider Matt Bright made his big return to the arena Thursday night at RodeoAustin.

Matt Bright

Matt Bright

It was the first time since he suffered a broken back at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo three and a half months ago. Bright, a Tennessean who now lives in Azle, Texas, scored 73 points on the first of two rides in the Texas capital city.

It wasn’t the glorious comeback he’d envisioned; Bright had hoped the blind draw that matches the cowboy with the bucking stock would’ve teamed him with one of the many outstanding horses in the pen.

But Bright still has a great sense of humor about it.

“Guess I should have taken an art class in my time off to learn to draw better,” he wrote on Facebook.

postheadericon He’s a real Swingler

Mark Swingler

Mark Swingler

Like many bullfighters, Mark Swingler got his start in the business after converting himself from being a bull rider.

But for the last 17 years, the Texan has focused on entertainment, transitioning yet again. It was quite natural for the greasepaint-wearing bullfighter to transfer his abilities to being a rodeo clown, the barrelman/funnyman. It’s the way he’s made a living since 1994.

Oh, and did I mention that he’s one of the best, having been nominated as PRCA Comedy Act of the Year and Clown of the Year. He also carries that act all across the country. This weekend, he’s working in Nacogdoches, Texas. The first weekend in May, he will be working the Guymon (Okla.) Pioneer Days Rodeo, and that’s where I’ll get to see him perform for the first time in several years.

I’m looking forward to it, because Mark takes an outstanding approach to his duties. He’s a pro, and he’ll help produce a great show.

postheadericon Sharing my passion

I visited with third-graders today, and I got to share my passion for rodeo and the stories that come with it.

I loved seeing the wide-eyed looks they gave as I shared the stories from the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo and the various pieces I’ve done on the McCoy family. I even showed them how you can take similar information and write different stories for different publications.

I hope a few of these youngsters will share a passion for writing, and I wish them the blessing of writing about something they love.