LAS VEGAS – The Wrangler National Finals Rodeo features the most pressure-packed competition in the sport every year.
Sometimes the best way to handle all that is to just relax and enjoy. Bray Armes did that Saturday night in the third go-round of ProRodeo’s grand championship, and it paid off with a 3.8-second run, which put him in a tie for second place in the round worth $12,662.
“It was great to finally get that money off the back and get rolling,” said Armes, a first-time NFR qualifier from Gruver, Texas. “I think the first two nights, I’d been trying too hard. I just needed to let it happen.”
It did. Five-time NFR qualifier Wade Sumpter won the round with a 3.6, and Armes shared second place with Les Shepperson, who is competing in Las Vegas for the second time in his career.
“I had just a good, solid, honest steer that didn’t have any tricks to him,” Armes said. “We just set a game plan to relax and just bulldog. It felt a lot more natural.”
That’s easier said than done, especially in a setting like this. Among the bright lights and excitement of Las Vegas is ProRodeo’s largest purse of the season, with first-place checks worth $18,257 being paid each night.
“I’m a little in awe, I guess,” said Armes, who enlists the help of Skip, a steer wrestling horse owned by two-time world champion Dean Gorsuch. “I’ve bulldogged with these guys for a long time. I think anyone of us can win it any given night. It’s great to have Dean in my corner, because he’s been through it all. He knows the ropes, and he can keep me calm and relaxed.” It’s been a wonderful blessing and a gift from God.”
What advice does Gorsuch provide?
“We went back to the trailer and talked,” Armes said. “He said, ‘You bulldog as good as anybody. Don’t back off, but quit trying to make it happen.’ We’ll just try to keep doing that.”