OKLAHOMA CITY – Over the last six years, Taos Muncy is one of the more accomplished saddle bronc riders going.
He owns two Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association world championships and a National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association title. He’s qualified for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo five times, missing the sport’s grand finale just one time because of an injury.
He has yet to win ProRodeo’s National Championship, but Muncy hopes to change that this weekend. On Thursday afternoon, he matched moves with Carr Pro Rodeo’s Mike & Ike for 85 points to take the first-round lead at the 2013 Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo at historic State Fair Arena.
“You want to get off to a good start and build your confidence,” said Muncy, a five-time RNCFR qualifier from Corona, N.M. “I had a week off, so I was a little nervous getting on today. I’m glad to get the first one out of the way and hopefully everything keeps going good the rest of the week.”
The RNCFR features 24 contestants/teams in each event, cowboys and cowgirls who earned the right to compete by doing well in their home circuit – there are 12 geographic regions in ProRodeo’s circuit system. Each contestant will compete in two go-rounds; half the field competed Thursday afternoon, and the other half is scheduled to compete Thursday night to complete the opening round.
They will follow a similar schedule at 7:30 p.m. Friday and 1 p.m. Saturday to conduct the second go-round. The top eight in the two-round aggregate qualify for the final performance, set for 7:30 p.m. Saturday. That’s why it’s so important for the contenders get on a roll quickly.
“It takes a lot of weight off my shoulders,” said bareback rider Caleb Bennett of Morgan, Utah, who rode Bar T Rodeo’s Beatrice for 84 points to lead the round. “Get a good start here takes a little pressure off me and allows me to focus a little bit more the next couple rounds to take care of business and ride bucking horses.”
This is Bennett’s first RNCFR qualification, just three months removed from his first trip to the NFR. It’s further proof of the elite contestants who are part of Oklahoma City’s championship event.
“I had a really good year,” Bennett said. “I set some goals last year to make it to both of those, and I ended up completing both of those goals; now I’m trying to win a pickup.”
The total purse is nearly $480,000, so there’s a lot of money up for grabs, but the top prize in each event is a $20,000 voucher for a new Ram truck. That’s something each of the contestants hopes to win.
“I’ve been second here two or three times and third once, so this is one that’s on the list,” Muncy said. “It would mean a lot to win it.”
Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo
April 4-6, Oklahoma City
First round leaders
Bareback riding: 1. Caleb Bennett, Morgan, Utah, 84 points on Bar T Rodeo’s Beatrice; 2. Joe Gunderson, Agar, S.D., 82; 3. (tie) George Gillespie IV, Placerville, Calif., and Zach Curran, Pavillion, Wyo., 81; 5. Jared Green, Socoro, N.M., 80; 6. (tie) Chase Erickson, Helena, Mont., and Clint Cannon, Waller, Texas, 78.
Steer wrestling: 1. Clayton Hass, Terrell, Texas, 3.7 seconds; 2. Stockton Graves, Alva, Okla., 3.9; 3. Seth Brockman, Wheatland, Wyo., 4.7; 4. Luke Branquinho, Los Alamos, Calif., 5.1; 5. Nik Hamm, Rapid City, S.D., 7.5; 6. Nolan Conway, Browning, Mont., 8.3.
Tie-down roping: 1. Jared Ferguson, Cottonwood, Calif., 8.2 seconds; 2. Dane Kissack, Spearfish, S.D., 9.3; 3. Jake Hannum, Plain City, Utah, 10.2; 4. Jody Green, Shakopee, Minn., 10.3; 5. Adam Gray, Seymour, Texas, 10.7; 6. Hunter Herrin, Apache, Okla., 10.9.
Saddle bronc riding: 1. Taos Muncy, Corona, N.M., 85 points on Pete Carr’s Classic ProRodeo’s Gold Coast; 2. Jacobs Crawley, College Station, Texas, 83; 3. Cole Elshere, Faith, S.D., 79; 4. Jake Wright, Milford, Utah, 78; 5. Mert Bradshaw, Eagle Point, Ore., 77; 6. (tie) Lyle Welling, Crawford, Neb., and Cole Bilbro Pelahatchie, Miss., 72.
Team roping: 1. Troy Kitchener, Liberty, Mo./Chad Mathes, Lawson, Mo., 5.3 seconds; 2. Derrick Begay, Seba Dalkai, Ariz./Cesar de la Cruz, Tucson, Ariz., 5.5; 3. Miles Kobold, Billings, Mont./Matt Robertson, Augusta, , 5.9; 4. Marcus Battaglia, Ramona, Calif./Kyle Lockett, Visalia, Calif., 6.0; 5. Robby Farias, Kilauea, Hawaii/Rhen Richard, Roosevelt, Utah, 6.2; 6. Spencer Mitchell, Colusa, Calif./Russell Cardoza, Terrebonne, Ore., 6.8.
Barrel racing: 1. Theresa Walter, Billings, Mont., 15.59 seconds; 2. Brittany Pozzi, Victoria, Texas, 15.61; 3. Pamela Capper, Cheney, Wash., 15.67; 4. Natalie Foutch, Eldora, Iowa, 15.77; 5. Nancy Hunter, Neola, Utah, 15.81; 6. (tie) Joyce Stoltzfus, Peach Bottom, Pa., and Sally Young, Micanopy, Fla., 16.16.
Bull riding: 1. John Young, Orient, Iowa, 83 points on Burns Rodeo’s Smoke Signal; 2. Bryce Brown, Greenview, Calif., 78; no other qualified rides.