Archive for December, 2013

postheadericon Thompson adds major title to resume

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a story that appears in the December 2013 edition of Women’s Pro Rodeo News, the official publication of the WPRA. It is from the WPRA World Finals.

Hope Thompson trains horses and helps teach roping schools, so to say roping is her business is a bit of an understatement.

After a powerful performance during the WPRA World Finals at Waco, Texas, in October, she added a major claim to her business: the 2013 Women’s Professional Rodeo Association World Champion Breakaway Roper.

“Lari Dee (Guy) and I travel all over doing schools and stuff, and now I am the WPRA world champion; it’s a big deal, not only for me, but for those people who go to our schools,” said Thompson, who works with Guy in Abilene, Texas. “I didn’t have it won going into the finals, so it was special that I won the world title there.”

Thompson placed in three of four go-rounds inside the Extracto Event Center, earning $1,257; that was just enough to stay ahead of Jackie Hobbs of Stephenville, Texas – Thompson won the world title by $93.

Hope Thompson ropes during the 2013 WPRA World Finals. She is the breakaway roping world champion. (WPRA PHOTO)

Hope Thompson ropes during the 2013 WPRA World Finals. She is the breakaway roping world champion. (WPRA PHOTO)

“In the first round, I two-looped my calf,” she said, explaining that her first throw just skimmed the top of the calf’s head and did not land, but the second did, securing a 22.7-second run. “I split the win in the second round and laced in the next two, so that put me up there.

“I was worried about passing all the people in front of me and not really worried about people behind me, but Jackie was behind me heading to the finals. She had a really good finals, and I had no idea that it was her coming in hot right behind me.”

Hobbs was in the hunt. In fact, the multiple-time world champion placed in three rounds, including the third-round victory. She also finished second in the average race, roping four calves in a cumulative time of 10.3 seconds – WPRA rookie Whitney DeSalvo won the average title in 9.9.

“I was sitting at the table behind Jackie, and they called her name out as the reserve,” Thompson said. “She smiled and looked at me and said, ‘I was coming for you.’

“It came down to the last round. I had to place in the round, and I knew that. I didn’t know if I had to win it or if I had to win third, but I knew I had to win something in the round to even have a chance.”

So Thompson backed into the roping box atop 8 Track, a 12-year-old gelding. In 2.5 seconds, she stopped the clock and collected the third-place check. It was just enough.

“He won a lot of top horse or Horse of the Year this year,” she said of 8 Track. “He won horse of the roping at the Ross Churman Roping and won top horse at the TRCA Finals this year. He also won it at the UPRA Finals and at the CPRA Finals.”

The horse isn’t the only winner in the tandem, which is a pretty good indication of talent Thompson owns. Thompson’s success is an indication of the work she puts into her roping, especially since she doesn’t come from a rodeo family.

“My parents had horses just as pets and for fun,” she said, noting that she grew up in the east Texas community of Atlanta. “They took me to a play day when I was about 2 or three years old, and remember saying that I wanted to do that. We met some people that had a horse for sale, and I was at it from then on.”

She’s picked it up pretty well, but so has DeSalvo, 18, a freshman at Cossatot Community College in DeQueen, Ark. She finished the year fifth in the world standings with $3,465, most of which she earned in Waco. She won the opening round and shared the third-round victory with Hobbs. In all, she pocketed $2,693 during the WPRA World Finals.

“It was my first time to go there, but it was fun,” said DeSalvo, who, in July, was competing at the International Youth Finals Rodeo and the National High School Finals Rodeo. “From all the really good, handy ropers that were in there, it means a lot to be able to do that with all the people I roped against.

“It was pretty tough. Jackie Hobbs didn’t make it very easy on me.”

It’s not supposed to be easy, but DeSalvo has figured that out already at her young age, and she had help from a good horse, which she trained.

“She’d never had a calf roped on her. I roped six times on her before I went to the IFYR and the high school finals,” she said of Tootsie Roll, and 11-year-old sorrel mare.

Now the two are chasing WPRA glory.

“I don’t see myself doing anything else,” DeSalvo said. “I played other sports, but I would miss basketball games and softball games to rodeo. That’s something I’ve always loved to do.”

postheadericon Reflecting on a great year

After two marvelous weeks in Las Vegas for ProRodeo’s grand finale, I returned home a week ago.

Home is where my family is, which is why it’s such a big deal to me to be here. I’m gone from my girls enough throughout the year, so I cherish the time spent with them – and, yes, that means cherishing the little things that come up in any given moment when encountering a pre-teen and a pre-K.

But just because I’m “hanging” with the girls doesn’t mean I haven’t been busy. I spent two days finishing the story on Sherry Cervi’s fourth world title for Women’s Pro Rodeo News, the official publication of the WPRA. I’ve also completed some of the other work I had to conclude from my contracts during the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

Ted Harbin TwisTED Rodeo

Ted Harbin
TwisTED Rodeo

I was blessed to have worked with 15 NFR contestants and the livestock firms of Carr Pro Rodeo and Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo. It made for some very hectic moments in the Nevada desert, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m thankful for the opportunities provided me by Pete Carr, Jared Smith, Casey Colletti, Caleb Bennett, Jule Hazen, Bray Armes, Hunter Cure, Jim Ross Cooper, Cole Elshere, Chet Johnson, Cort Scheer, Tyler Corrington, Tyson Durfey, Ryan Jarrett, Jean Winters and Tyler Willis.

For some, the 10 rounds inside the Thomas & Mack Center turned out to be the longest week and a half of their competitive lives. They were disappointed and discouraged, but they had earned the right to be there. They should take pride in being one of the top 119 contestants in ProRodeo for the 2013 season.

Others, though, were ecstatic. For the second time in three years, I worked with an eventual world champion in Cure, who had a sensational NFR to clinch the steer wrestling gold buckle – another friend, heeler Jhett Johnson, earned the title in his discipline two seasons ago. Armes won the bulldogging average championship, which is pretty magical, too.

Scheer was one of two cowboys to have ridden all 10 broncs, and he finished second in the average race. Colletti scored three round victories and placed in another round; not a bad finish for a cowboy who limped through most of the NFR with a torn and sprained MCL in his right knee and who suffered four no-scores. Bennett placed in six rounds and was the last cowboy ever to ride Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo’s Wise guy inside the Thomas & Mack.

As I prepare to celebrate Christmas with my family, I reflect on an amazing 2013. I hope you have enjoyed all that we have produced for you over the last 12 months, and I hope you look as forward as I do to what’s before us in 2014.

Merry Christmas to you. May you have a safe and incredible holiday and that God’s blessings for you and your family are bountiful.

postheadericon Durfey puts a wrap to 2013 season

LAS VEGAS – After the greatest regular season of his career, tie-down roper Tyson Durfey had grand plans for the 2013 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

He had a gold buckle on his mind, and he was battling every round as if it were his last shot at rodeo’s most elusive, yet most sought after, championship.

Tyson Durfey

Tyson Durfey

Sometimes, though, the best plans don’t quite work as well as one would like, and such was the case of Durfey’s trip to Las Vegas for ProRodeo’s championship event, which took place Dec. 5-14 at the Thomas & Mack Center.

In fact, the Missouri-born cowboy who calls Colbert, Wash., home didn’t collect a paycheck at the sport’s most lucrative rodeo until the fourth go-round, when his 8.5-second run earned him a fifth-place check valued at $4,808. With more than $240,000 on the line in tie-down roping alone, Durfey finished the 10-night NFR with nearly $27,000.

He placed in just four go-rounds, with his biggest paycheck coming on the eighth night, when he stopped the clock in 6.9 seconds to finish in a two-way tie for second place in the round; for that, the cowboy who spends much of his season in Weatherford, Texas, earned $12,921. He also placed fifth in the sixth round and finished in a three-way tie for third on the final night, earning $7,913.

Nonetheless, that’s the way it goes in the world of competition. Tie-down roping takes great horsemanship, a roper with marksman-like skills and all the other variables to come into place at the same time. Durfey knows that as well as anyone.

He left Las Vegas shortly after the finale for Bora Bora, where he spent his honeymoon with bride Shea Fisher, an Australian-born recording artist.

No matter how things went over the final 10 days of his 2013 season, Tyson Durfey has his priorities in place. He knows the work it takes to earn the coveted gold buckle, and he’ll put the greatest effort into claiming it very soon.

postheadericon Elshere finds plusses from his NFR

LAS VEGAS – Cole Elshere’s second straight qualification to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo didn’t quite go as the South Dakota cowboy had hoped.

Over 10 nights in the Nevada desert, Elshere, 24, a saddle bronc rider from Faith, S.D., placed in just two go-rounds, earning just $14,123 in the process. Still, playing on ProRodeo’s championship stage is an amazing way to put the wraps to a fantastic 2013 campaign.

Cole Elshere

Cole Elshere

In all, the ranch-raised cowboy finished with $94,821in annual earnings, good enough to put him in the No. 11 spot in the final world standings; in rodeo, dollars equal points, and the cowboys with the most money won in each event were crowned world champions.

In saddle bronc riding, that title was awarded to fellow South Dakotan Chad Ferley of Oelrichs, who also claimed the ProRodeo gold buckle in 2006. Ferley earned more than $100,000 in Las Vegas to push his season payment past $204,000.

Unfortunately, the breaks just didn’t come for Elshere, who earned a third-round check with an 80.5-point ride on Sankey Rodeo’s Tuca’s War Song. That was worth $7,813. Elshere found the pay window again in the sixth round, when he posted a 79.5-point ride on Beutler & Son Rodeo’s Four Aces worth $6,310.

The reality, though, is that the NFR is the toughest test in the sport. Cowboys must try to handle the nastiest bucking horses in the game while still showcasing that classic spur stroke in rhythm with the bronc’s bucking motion. It’s not the easiest of tasks on an easy horse, much less the type the best in the business face each of the 10 nights in Sin City.

But Elshere has proven his place among ProRodeo’s elite bronc riders, and he’ll be back at the NFR for years to come. The only question most have is how long before he brings the world championship gold buckle back to South Dakota.

postheadericon Communication is vital for rodeo’s future

The past five days have featured an overwhelming response to the future location of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. On Sunday evening, I posted my initial thoughts HERE.

Not much has changed in my mind. I think Las Vegas Events’ bid was a low-ball effort and undeserving of a realistic agreement for the city’s marketing partner, which was created to assist in persuading top-quality events to be part of Sin City’s landscape. The NFR has been LVE’s marquee event and will continue to be if things are handled correctly.

On Sunday afternoon, the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s board voted 6-3 to reject LVE’s bid to retain the NFR; the cowboys competing at this year’s NFR not only supported the board’s decision, they urged their representatives to say no to the offer.

Ted Harbin TwisTED Rodeo

Ted Harbin
TwisTED Rodeo

“Las Vegas sent them a contract. They read it. They told us, ‘Don’t approve the contract,’ ” Bret Tonozzi, a team roper and a board member who represents timed-event contestants, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal earlier this week. “There’s not enough money for them. They said they couldn’t survive on that for the next 10 years. They truly want to go back. They can’t afford it. It’s pretty simple.”

Review-Journal stories have quoted LVE president Pat Christenson saying that the rejection was seen by Las Vegas board members as the final word in negotiations; the PRCA has indicated a counter offer is in the works.

Who could blame LVE for questioning the PRCA’s stance? The LVE bid has been on the table for 18 months, far too long of a time when trying to negotiate on good terms. While Las Vegas power players are amazing at playing the waiting game, even a year and a half is a little long. The question is, when did the 104 PRCA cowboys at this year’s NFR first get their hands on the contract? Why did it take the PRCA so long to decide on LVE’s bid?

Had the PRCA board responded to LVE 15 months ago with, “Sorry, that’s not enough; here’s our counter,” then we could well be on our way to keeping rodeo’s marquee event in the city that hosts it best. Instead, any counter offer must be made quickly. Now the rodeo world is in hurry-up mode for no particular reason.

The PRCA suffers with a major communication problem and has for some time. The board doesn’t have to take all this pressure on by itself. It is a democratic board, with representatives serving a constituency. If the association truly is interested in representing all its membership – contestants, contract personnel, stock contractors, committees, etc. – then it has the means to do so if it adjusts its way of doing things.

You see, the PRCA is suffering from a paper overload. Most everything that happens has an extensive paper trail. Ballots are sent through traditional mail, even though many contestants aren’t home to receive them – in many instances, it’s for months at a time. When they get home from the rodeo trail, a ballot for end-of-the-year awards for the PRCA is the last thing that will be opened. That’s why the same winners are announced year after year during the annual awards banquet, which takes place the night before the opening go-round of the NFR.

Technology allows for better communication and better service to its membership, so why doesn’t the PRCA pursue it? For instance, all votes can be done online, and all card-holders should be able to help make decisions with the click of a button on their cell phones. If we can select the PRCA’s photo of the year online, why aren’t the members allowed to vote on important topics that affect the association’s business decisions?

Better business decisions that affect the entire gamut of members can be made with a few simple clicks on a phone.

Until that happens, though, we’ve got some big things on the table for rodeo’s future. Las Vegas Events has to figure out a way to bring the money up enough to keep the NFR in the Nevada desert for years to come. The PRCA must do a better job of communicating with LVE, so it has time to find the adequate sponsorships to cover the increased costs while keeping ticket prices in the perfect range for fans.

There is a $90 million-plus non-gaming economic impact to Las Vegas that could be affected by what happens over the next few weeks. Yes, that’s why it’s imperative LVE step up with the finances needed to keep the NFR in town; no other rodeo event will bring that much economic impact to Sin City in early December, no matter how special it is. The reason an average of 150,000 people are in Las Vegas per day during those 10 days is because of the NFR.

Las Vegas will not see that type of economic boon without the NFR. It needs the finals more than LVE is willing to admit. Hopefully all will figure out the way to the solution quickly.

postheadericon Carr animals lead to big pay at NFR

LAS VEGAS – The firms of Carr Pro Rodeo and Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo feature some of the greatest bucking animals in the game.

J.W. Harris

J.W. Harris

That’s why the cowboys that ride them selected 27 horses and bulls from the Carr companies to perform at the 2013 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. It also is why Pete Carr was nominated for stock contractor of the year in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. Those animals paid great dividends to the cowboys who rode them over the course of the 10-day championship that took place Dec. 5-14 in Las Vegas

In fact, the top players in the sport earned a combined $156,000 on the backs of Carr animals. There were three go-round victories, from Wise Guy leading Caleb Bennett to the bareback riding title on opening night to Medicine Show and eventual world champion J.W. Harris scoring big in Round 4 to Scarlett’s Web and bareback rider Casey Colletti taking the top score in the final night of the season.

“Whenever I seen the draw last night, I was pretty excited and couldn’t sleep,” Harris said Sunday, Dec. 8, shortly after posting an 88.5-point ride on Medicine Show. “That’s a bull everybody wants to get on. He’s an old bull. He’s going to do the same thing every time, and you just have to keep up with him.

Casey Colletti

Casey Colletti

“I thought I had the bull on (the rest of the field). The bull was going to go out there and do his thing, and all I had to do was go out there and do what I’m supposed to do and stay on.”

Harris wasn’t the only one to ride Medicine Show at the NFR. Utah cowboy Steve Woolsey scored 82 points to finish third in Round 9. Between the two rides, the two bull riders earned a combined $29,748 on the bull’s back; he wasn’t the only Carr animal to help contestants to the pay window twice.

Bareback horses Kattle Katie, Dirty Jacket and Scarlett’s Web had cowboys place in both rounds in which those broncs bucked, led by Scarlett’s Web, a 12-year-old bay mare led Bennett to an 86 in Round 5 and Colletti to the Round 10 victory with an 86.5.

“I knew I had a pretty good chance to win the round,” said Colletti, who won the fifth round on the same horse in 2012. “She’s just a big bucking horse that’s stout. She has so much heart and try in her, and you can just feel her; she just gets excited in the bucking chute. She just rolls out of there and jumps, and she has a little move out of there that with a hurt knee is a little tough. Then she just leaps high in the air and kicks over her head every jump.

Caleb Bennett

Caleb Bennett

“If I could get on a bareback horse every day, it would be Scarlett’s Web.”

The highlight reel, though, might have come on the NFR’s opening night, when Bennett posted an 85.5-point ride on Wise Guy, a 23-year-old bay gelding that bucked at ProRodeo’s grand finale for the 16th and last time. Wise Guy was retired at the NFR later in the week and walked into the Thomas & Mack for the final time before a crowd of more than 17,000 fans.

“I was hoping they’d retire him tonight and I’d be the last one to get on him,” Bennett told the PRCA. “He’s been a great horse.

“He is actually one of the horses to have in this round based off everybody else’s talk. I knew if I did my part, he’d dang sure take me to the pay window.”

postheadericon Scheer wraps strong ’13 with strong NFR

LAS VEGAS – Cort Scheer arrived in the City of Lights ready to gamble.

It wasn’t so much at the gaming tables for which Las Vegas is best known. Instead, Scheer was placing all his bets on the gold buckle that is awarded to world champions each season at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, the sport’s grand champion.

In all, the three-time NFR qualifier from Elsmere, Neb., posted 10 scores for a cumulative total of 773.5 points and finished second in the all-important saddle bronc riding average race – only one of two cowboys ride 10 broncs at this year’s NFR, joining average champion Jacobs Crawley.

Cort Scheer

Cort Scheer

In all, Scheer pocketed nearly $39,000 in average money and left Las Vegas with $75,721 in NFR earnings. It boosted his season earnings to $165,452, finishing fifth in the final world standings.

“It was a great NFR,” said Scheer, who actually rode more horses over the course of the NFR with 15, but five were the result of re-rides because those animals didn’t quite hold up their end of the bargain and didn’t give the Nebraska bronc buster an opportunity to win. “I had a blast. I feel like I rode good at times. I felt like I could’ve ridden better at times, but I’m dang sure happy.

“For all the horses I got on, I’m happy the judges gave me the opportunity.”

His last re-ride happened Saturday during the 10th round, the final night of the 2013 season. Scheer’s first horse stumbled and came down on his front knees during the ride – an automatic re-ride opportunity. Scheer had a decision to make: Take the 75.5-point score and a sure second-place spot in the average or risk it all on another horse for a shot at the world championship.

In order finish the season with the most money won, Scheer needed to place high in the final round and win the average title – that $9,000 difference from first to second in the average and a big round payday gave him the best opportunity at the elusive gold buckle. You see, in rodeo, dollars equal points, and the contestants in each event with the most money won are crowned world champions.

“You don’t come to the NFR worrying about the average,” he said. “What’s bad about finishing second at one of the best rodeos of the year? You should never be scared to get bucked off. There’s no point worrying about it. The guys at the top don’t worry about getting bucked off.”

No, the best in the world worry about riding well. The only time in the last four years he didn’t qualify for the NFR was in 2011 after suffering a torn knee ligament during the season. In addition to his top-rated work in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, Scheer has won some of the greatest titles in the sport. In 2011, he won the bronc riding title at RodeoHouston, which paid its winners $50,000; this past year, he won the Calgary (Alberta) Stampede championship, which paid its winners $100,000, then claimed the year-end title in the upstart Professional Roughstock Series.

“This year blows all my other years away,” Scheer said. “The year I won Houston, I blew out my knee early, so I didn’t really get to finish what I’d started. It’s been the best year.”

The Nebraska bronc buster – who attended Montana State University, Garden City (Kan.) Community College and Oklahoma Panhandle State University on rodeo scholarships, placed in three rounds in Las Vegas the last two weeks, and he plans to return in 2014.

“The best thing about the NFR is it’s a great rodeo, and I got to have a blast with all my buddies,” Scheer said.

postheadericon Las Vegas could lose a great thing

LAS VEGAS – Las Vegas Events submitted an offer to keep the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo beyond the 2014 championship.

The Professional Cowboys Rodeo Association rejected it.

Why?

The cowboys deserve better, and LVE wanted to do what it does best: It placed the NFR on the table and is about to lose a 10-day, $90 million economic impact for its community. That’s like placing a $15 bet and handing $90 to the dealer instead.

Ted Harbin TwisTED Rodeo

Ted Harbin
TwisTED Rodeo

In this case, the house loses. Osceola County, Fla., has a bid on the table for an additional $4 million over the one established by LVE, according to the LVE news release issued Sunday.

LVE stated it is disappointed “the PRCA has chosen to pursue a completely speculative offer vs. Las Vegas’ proven 29-year track record. … Adding an additional $4 million to the budget would require a 40 percent increase in ticket prices. That is not sustainable.”

That’s bull. If scalpers can make a mint over the 10 nights of the championship, why shouldn’t Vegas?

In addition, LVE’s release states it does not generate a profit from the NFR. What it fails to mention is that LVE is a non-profit organization. This from the LVE’s website: “Founded in 1983, LVE has grown with Las Vegas since it became one of the world’s premier resort destinations. LVE is a non-profit organization which serves as the exclusive major special events agency for the city. LVE has had the opportunity of promoting and organizing some of the world’s most successful ongoing events, including the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, NASCAR Winston Cup (now Sprint Cup), FEI World Cup Finals and the annual Las Vegas Bowl.”

So a non-profit organization is complaining about its lack of profit?

That’s bull.

You’ll note that the No. 1 successful event listed is the NFR. That, in and of itself, is proof the NFR’s value far supersedes LVE’s bid. Understand this: Since 2004, the payout to go-round winners has increased just $4,000. In fact, the $18,630 paid to the best each night is up just about $400 from a year ago. That’s not enough of an increase.

Las Vegas has been a marvelous home to the NFR for 29 years, and I’m expecting 2014 to be a grand way to celebrate 30 years in the City of Lights. But the reality is, these are the top 15 contestants in each event, the elite of the elite, and they deserve to be paid accordingly. Next December, go-round winners should be earning $25,000, and the prize purse should be raised accordingly every year.

Instead, LVE prefers to remain with the status quo. It is willing to forego more than 100,000 extra visitors per day to their fair city – for which they were organized to serve for 30 years – in exchange for a few million dollars. This is an amazing place to conduct rodeo’s world championship, and the people of Las Vegas surely enjoy their $90 million windfall during what was a typically stale time of year. Every hostess, waitress, cabby and blackjack dealer will tell you that.

But the reality is, the cowboys deserve better, and it’s unfortunate LVE isn’t willing to cash in while it’s still ahead.

postheadericon Armes grasps NFR average title

LAS VEGAS – The average championship at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo is the second most coveted award in the sport, trailing only the world title.

Bray Armes now owns the trophy buckle rewarding the 2013 steer wrestling average winner after grappling 10 steers to the ground in a cumulative time of 44.8 seconds. He also owns the $47,776 paycheck that comes with it, which helped propel the Ponder, Texas, cowboy to $100,358 in NFR earnings and a third-place finish in the final world standings.

Bray Armes

Bray Armes

“It’s awesome,” he said. “When I look at the goals I had written down on paper from years ago, in the order of how important they were to me, the average was next to the top. It’s pretty amazing, and I’m pretty blessed.”

He also is pretty talented. Armes placed in five go-rounds in the Nevada desert, including three runner-up finishes. When he made his final run on Saturday night, he finished the championship by nearly tripling his regular-season earnings, finishing the year with $157,254. Only reserve champion Matt Reeves ($158,575) and world champ Hunter Cure ($173,355) earned more in 2013.

“Before I backed into the (timed-event) box I was a little nervous, full of emotion,” said Armes, who grew up in Gruver, Texas, and attended Howard College in Big Spring, Texas, and Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas. “I just tried to relax and said to myself, ‘With God, all things are possible,’ the same thing I say every time in the box.”

Everything was possible. Armes, Reeves and Cure joined two-time world champion Dean Gorsuch as the four bulldoggers who had a chance to claim the gold buckle on the final night of the season. Gorsuch, though, suffered a no-time when the steer freed itself from the big Nebraskan’s hands.

“Being in that position before the 10th round was pretty awesome,” Armes said. “When I saw the steer I had drawn, I knew that I didn’t have one I felt real good about placing in the round. I just knew I needed to make a solid run and let the chips fall where they may.

“I felt horrible for a great friend like Dean, that something that crazy could happen and take him out. On the other friend, another great friend in Hunter won the world. Still, it’s pretty awesome to come in the 14th position and be in the running for the gold buckle. Now I’m one more goal closer to the big one.”

The big one is rodeo’s gold, and Armes has moved up the ranks each of the past two seasons. He qualified for the NFR for the first time in 2012, finishing sixth in the world standings. He’s already planning to make another run at the world title in 2014. After riding Reeves’ great palomino gelding, Ote, through the final stages of this season and at the NFR, Armes purchased the horse. It was a solid move for the Texas bulldogger, who lost another great horse this past summer to a freak accident.

“I always wondered when I lost Ricky Bobby why I would lose a great horse for that, but God’s got a bigger plan,” he said. “When I got on Ote, I knew he fit me the very first steer I ran on him. I begged Matt, and he finally priced him. I was fortunate enough to buy him. I’m just very happy.”

Ote carried both Reeves and Armes all 10 nights of the NFR, then helped Casey Martin to a third-place finish on the final night. Riley Duvall, a young NFR hazer who comes from a storied bulldogging family, helped cowboys to more than $285,000 in Las Vegas.

“I couldn’t have done it without Riley Duvall,” Armes said of the Oklahoma cowboy, whose great uncle Roy (a three-time world champion), father Sam, uncle Spud and cousin Tom have all competed at the NFR. “For a rookie hazer at the finals, he did an amazing job. When I backed into the box on that first night, it was his first NFR haze. I’m honored to have a Duvall haze for me. He comes from a family of champions.”

Now Armes can add his name to a list of great average winners. It’s the perfect culmination to a strong year and a fantastic finale. It’s a wonderful payoff for all those years traveling the rodeo trail while his wife and children stay home in north Texas.

“I have to thank the Lord most of all and my wonderful wife for always being the backbone of all this,” he said. “My mom and dad, all the friends and family have stood behind me and have always told me I could do this.”

postheadericon Colletti closes NFR with round win

LAS VEGAS – The hills, dips and valleys that are ProRodeo mold men into champions.

From experiencing the highest of highs to wading in the gutter, a rodeo cowboy faces it all in the course of a season. It all can be compounded during the rugged 10 nights of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, the sport’s year-end championship that concluded Saturday in Las Vegas.

Casey Colletti

Casey Colletti

“It’s been the roller coaster of my life,” said Casey Colletti, a bareback rider from Pueblo, Colo., who has ridden bucking horses inside the Thomas & Mack Center each of the past three seasons.

Colletti, who attended Garden City (Kan.) Community College on a rodeo scholarship, suffered a torn medial collateral ligament in the early stages of the NFR, and that hampered his ability to ride strong on the best bucking horses in the world. He was bucked off four times and experienced all the pain his knee exposed each time.

Those were the lowest of times, but the Colorado cowboy gritted through the pain to win three go-rounds – he shared the fifth-round victory with four-time world champion Bobby Mote with an 87.5-point ride, then won the sixth and 10th rounds.

“I couldn’t be riding here without the (Justin) Sportsmedicine guys,” Colletti said of the athletic training program funded by the boot company. “It’s amazing how they know the right thing to do at the right place to get me through.”

He concluded his NFR run with a little more than $59,000, placing the exclamation point on the final night of the 2013 ProRodeo season by riding Scarlett’s Web of Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo for 86.5 points. That was worth a final paycheck of $18,630.

“I knew I had a pretty good chance to win the round,” said Colletti, who won the fifth round on the same horse in 2012. “She’s just a big bucking horse that’s stout. She has so much heart and try in her, and you can just feel her; she just gets excited in the bucking chute. She just rolls out of there and jumps, and she has a little move out of there that with a hurt knee is a little tough. Then she just leaps high in the air and kicks over her head every jump.

“If I could get on a bareback horse every day, it would be Scarlett’s Web.”

With three over the final six nights, he pushed his round victories to five – he won go-rounds once each in his first two trips to Las Vegas. The round buckles he owns as a trophy for those rides will give Colletti plenty of solace as he takes about six weeks to recuperate from the knee injury.

“Any money is good money,” he said. “I’ve been here three times and have only won money in the average once. I just go for money in the rounds. It’s not the gold buckle and it’s not the average buckle, but the go-round buckles mean a lot to me.”

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