DUNCAN, Okla. – How big is the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo?
Many of the biggest names in the sport have worked hard all season to earn the right to compete at the regional championship, set for Oct. 17-19 at the Stephens County Fair and Expo Center in Duncan. They’ve circled dates on the calendar and traveled all over Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska to focus on Destination Duncan and a chance to compete for the coveted circuit championships.
On the line are year-end titles in virtually every event, while others will try to secure average championships during the three days of competition in southern Oklahoma.
Most importantly, the list of potential contestants reads like a who’s who in ProRodeo: world champions and numerous qualifiers to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, the sport’s super bowl.
“If you rodeo for a living and you live in the Prairie Circuit, it’s where you want to be,” said Stockton Graves, a seven-time steer wrestling NFR qualifier from Newkirk, Okla.
That’s true. Graves not only leads the steer wrestling standings, he’s the No. 1 man in the all-around race, just $78 ahead of three-time circuit all-around champ Trell Etbauer, a three-time Linderman Award winner for excelling in both timed events and rough stock riding – he earns his keep in steer wrestling, tie-down roping, steer roping and saddle bronc riding. Etbauer also is the son of two-time world champion bronc rider Robert and the nephew of five-time titlist Billy.
Those are just two of the big names who have earned the right to compete in Duncan; they’ll be joined by several who own ProRodeo gold buckles: 2008 bareback riding world champion Justin McDaniel of Porum, Okla.; three-time world champion steer roper Rocky Patterson of Pratt, Kan.; two-time steer wrestling world champion Dean Gorsuch of Gearing, Neb.; 2009 heading world champion Nick Sartain of Dover, Okla.; 2009 heeling titlist Kollin VonAhn of Blanchard, Okla.; and 2005 all-around world champ Ryan Jarrett of Comanche, Okla.
The field should also include several National Finals qualifiers: steer wrestlers Jule Hazen of Ashland, Kan.; saddle bronc rider Wade Sundell of Boxholm, Iowa; and Ty Atchison of Jackson, Mo.; tie-down ropers Jerome Schneeberger of Ponca City, Okla., Hunter Herrin of Apache, Okla., and Garrett Nokes of McCook, Neb.; barrel racer Tana Poppino of Big Cabin, Okla.; steer ropers J.P. Wickett of Sallisaw, Okla., Mike Chase of McAlester, Okla., Ralph Williams of Skiatook, Okla., and Rod Hartness and Chet Herren, both of Pawhuska, Okla.; and bull riders Tate Stratton of Kellyville, Okla., and Trevor Kastner of Ardmore, Okla.
But those may not be the brightest story in the Prairie Circuit this season. That honor should belong to newcomer Sage Kimzey of Strong City, Okla., who has already clinched the year-end bull riding championship. He has earned $47,726 this season, setting a single-season record by earnings from a permit-holder in any event. Of that, $36,347 came from rodeos in the region.
But there will be plenty of year-end titles up for grabs. In addition to the all-around, the team roping, saddle bronc riding and tie-down roping will come down to the wire.
That’s why they play the game.