OKLAHOMA CITY – Being a steer wrestler takes technique, talent and dogged determination.
Being one of the best in the country takes something just a little more, and 24 men will get to see if they have it during the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo at State Fair Arena in Oklahoma City. Performances are planned for 11 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 4; 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 5; and 1 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 6.
Each cowboy earned the right to compete for ProRodeo’s National Championship by finishing at or near the top of their respective areas through the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s circuit system, made up of 12 geographic regions. To qualify for Oklahoma City, they either won the 2012 year-end or the average championship of their respective circuit finals.
“It’s a pretty exclusive field,” said Stockton Graves, a seven-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier from Newkirk, Okla. “I’m just glad I made it back and glad it’s in Oklahoma City, which is close to my hometown. I have a chance to run at good money and maybe a Ram pickup.”
Winners in each event earn a $20,000 voucher toward the purchase of a Ram truck, a valuable commodity Graves knows something about; he won the title seven years ago. More importantly, he realizes just how elite this group of qualifiers is.
Among the 24 steer wrestlers who will ride into State Fair Arena, there are dozens of NFR qualifications and six gold buckles. These are stalwarts in the game, from world champions like Luke Branquinho, Dean Gorsuch and Jason Miller, to NFR regulars like Todd Suhn and Graves.
“It’ll be like a mini-NFR,” said Graves, who focuses his attention as rodeo coach at his alma mater, Northwestern Oklahoma State University. “I’ve slowed down considerably, because my focus is Northwestern. I’m still going to try to go to all the big rodeos and make it to my circuit finals and try to get back to Oklahoma City every year.
“If things work out in the winter and I have a chance to make the NFR, I’ll still chase it, but my first priority is Northwestern.”
And that’s just another reason why competing at the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo in Oklahoma City is so important to one of ProRodeo’s greatest steer wrestlers. That’s why he’s happy it’s in the Midwest and why he’s excited to be part of this exclusive field.